Publication Date August 10, 2016

Endangered California Condors Threatened by Soberanes Fire

United States
America's largest land bird has been moving back from the edge of extinction. Photo: Santa Monica Observor

A fire that began on August 31 with an illegal campfire is within eight miles of 3 nests with young California condor hatchlings. The months-old young are not yet able to fly and could not escape the flames on their own.

The Soberanes fire has roared through nearly 70,000 acres of wildland, destroying 57 residences and 11 outbuildings.

Biologists report that none of the condors living in the area has yet been killed by the fire, but one of the feeding stations where they leave dead animals for the birds has been destroyed.

The fire is moving south across coastal Monterey County toward the remote sections of the Los Padres National Forest where the condors nest. This is also the location of a "condor sanctuary" site with pens, trailers and a cabin that scientists use when they release condors that have been hatched in zoos.

Biologists have spent 30 years painstakingly nurturing the California condor back from the brink of extinction. They are America's largest land bird, with a wing span reaching up to 9 feet. Due to habitat loss, hunting and lead poisoning, the majestic birds' population had dropped to just 22 nationwide by 1982. In a desperate gamble to save the birds, federal biologists captured all the remaining wild condors in 1987 and began a breeding program in zoos. The birds' young have been gradually released back into the wild.

There are now 82 condors living free in the Big Sur area