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Oregon Zoo relocates 44 condors due to fire threat

Carolina Granthon and Chelsea Haitz, Peregrine Fund propagation experts, prepare a young California Condor for tagging. Photo courtesy of The Peregrine Fund

The Oregon Zoo has relocated 44 endangered California Condors from its Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation breeding facility in Clackamas County, Oregon, due to wildfires. The facility is now in a Level 3 evacuation zone due to the fires that have been devastating the region.

Staff members took 26 condors to The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, which is part of the decades-long condor breeding program. The remaining 18 birds were taken to the zoo’s site in Portland. Two will be on exhibit, while the other 16 will be housed at the zoo’s veterinary medical center.

The Peregrine Fund’s facility now has 45 condors, making it the largest captive breeding flock. Of the 26 birds moved from Oregon, 13 are adults, 6 are younger birds ready for release, and 7 are hatch-year birds.

The center’s condor propagation experts will provide round-the-clock care to the older birds and will carefully finish rearing two nestlings that hatched in Oregon this spring but had not yet fledged their nests when evacuation became necessary. The team has also tagged the hatch-year birds in order to keep track of them as they acclimatize into their new living quarters.

The center’s staff began preparing for the likelihood that birds would be evacuated to Boise on

Thursday afternoon. Preparation required a quick cleaning and maintenance check of the facilities the birds would be moved into and arranging permits to move the endangered birds from Oregon to Idaho. Staff from throughout the organization joined in the effort to help.

“Our whole team is just very relieved and happy that we can help,” said Chelsea Haitz, one of the team’s propagation specialists. “It has been difficult to watch and not know what we could do to contribute. We were so worried for the Oregon team and their birds. We’re grateful that we can provide a safe space for them so that the Oregon team can focus on other things.”

condors
California Condors evacuated from the Oregon Zoo acclimate to their new home at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. Video still courtesy of The Peregrine Fund

A dangerous summer

The California Condor recovery programs throughout the United States have been dealing with fire danger all summer. Earlier this year, The Peregrine Fund’s condor biologists in northern Arizona and Southern Utah held their breath as they watched fires make their way through condor habitat where birds were nesting. Fortunately, all of those birds and their young survived.

The Ventana Wildlife Society’s Big Sur sanctuary in California, however, experienced tragedy last month when fire destroyed its facilities. Two nestling condors died, and biologists there are still searching for some of the wild condors they monitor.

The historical California Condor population declined to just 22 individuals in the 1980s when the greater California Condor Recovery Program was initiated to save the species from extinction. Today, the total world population of endangered California Condors numbers more than 500 individuals. More than half are free flying in the skies of Arizona, Utah, California, and Mexico.

Thanks to The Peregrine Fund for providing this news.

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