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Condors return to Big Sur area after Dolan Fire

BIG SUR, Calif. (KION) California condors are returning, after the Dolan Fire burned through the Big Sur Sanctuary last fall. Though most were able to flee the flames, nine birds unfortunately perished in the fire. Along with a tenth bird that died later from burn injuries. Despite the hardships, the giant birds are once again calling Big Sur home.

These giant winged birds take to the sky over the Big Sur Coast and Pinnacles National Park. If you've seen one, consider yourself lucky. There are less then 100 in Central California.

That's why the Ventana Wildlife Society team is excited to see the condor's returning, and even nesting once again. Nine to ten birds might sound like small number, but for an already endangered population, that's roughly twenty percent of Central California's flock. Since the Dolan Fire, the population has rebounded, slightly.

But Kelly Sorenson, Executive Director of the Ventana Wildlife Society states, there's a larger threat that still lingers. "The real underlining problem is lead poisoning which comes form injected lead fragments from spent lead ammunition"

The combination of fire and the ongoing lead poisoning made 2020 the first year on record where the wild population actually went backwards. To reduce the lead threat, the Ventana Wildlife Society began to provide free copper ammunition to hunters and ranchers.

Sorenson adds, "We use GPS transmitters to figure out where birds are feeding. Once we know where they are feeding we contact the land manager and ask them if they want copper ammunition."

Since 2012, the Ventana Wildlife Society has given 10,000 boxes, worth $250,000. It's an ongoing effort to help maintain a healthy, growing, condor population. Something they are already seeing. A condor the team recently spotted happened to be one of the oldest in the flock, and she has a new mate. Both fire survivors. These two birds along with a few other breeding pairs are currently attending eggs.

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Erika Bratten

Erika Bratten is a weather forecaster for KION News Channel 5/46.

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