Dead Condor Found in Tehachapis Had Rare Upbringing

Condor 630 in happier days | Photo: Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge/Flickr/Creative Commons License

There's an update on the condor that was found dead in a water tank in the Tehachapi Mountains last Wednesday, and it's sad news: the victim was one of very few adult condors that were hatched and reared entirely in the wild.

Condor 630, a female who hatched in June 2011, was found dead by first responder crews practicing during an earthquake readiness drill near Bear Valley Springs in the Tehachapis. She was floating in a "dip tank," a water tank used to supply firefighting helicopters.

Of the 424 California condors known to exist worldwide at the end of August, only 30 adults were hatched and reared in the wild without direct human intervention. Condors are not reproducing well in the wild, and without the continual release of captive-reared birds to boost the population the species would be in even bigger trouble than it is at present.

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Previous reports (including ours) misidentified the bird as bearing the tag "30," likely because the "6" was obscured as in the photo above.

According to Tehachapi News reporter Gregory D. Cook, information on the condor's cause of death is still sparse; it might take as long as a month for forensic results to come from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service's lab in Ashland, Oregon. From all appearances the condor might have been in the tank for as long as a month.

Wildlife biologist Joseph Brandt from the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex told Cook that USFWS might well have discovered Condor 630 significantly earlier were it not for the federal government shutdown.

Brandt told Cook that 630 was the second condor found dead in a dip tank in as many months. The other was found recovered near Stallion Springs, a few miles south of Bear Valley Springs.

One dead condor in a dip tank is a tragedy, two might be a coincidence. We've got a call into USFWS to see if the agency is planning anything to prevent that next condor-in-a-dip-tank incident that would officially make this a trend. We'll keep you posted when they answer.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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