A Rare Opportunity to Tour Hopper Mountain, Home to California Condors

A California condor flies over the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge | Photo courtesy USFWS
There are only 399 known endangered California Condors in existence today. 198 are in the wild; the rest are in captivity at various places such as the Los Angeles and San Diego zoos. To see them in the wild is rare, but with the aid of experts, your chances increase greatly.

Enter Friends of California Condors Wild and Free, a nonprofit that advocates for the bird. Occasionally the group offers a free tour of the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, a closed-to-the-public chunk of nearly 2,500 acres of land north of Fillmore in Ventura County.

The next tour, limited to 25 people who will be passengers in high clearance vehicles, is on Saturday, September 24th from 8 a.m. through the early afternoon.

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"We have the opportunity this year to drive up within view of the nest," explained Vince Gerwe, president of the nonprofit. The vantage point will be about 500 meters away as to not bother the chick and its parents. "The chick is starting to move around a bit. They'll probably get to see a chick bouncing around a bit and flapping its wings."

The tour will also offer overlooks of the Sespe Gorge and the Topatopa mountains before heading down to the original Hopper Ranch, which is currently used as the refuge's headquarters.

As of Wednesday, there were about 10 to 15 spots available. To reserve one, RSVP via e-mail to Carol Langford at berry50@yahoo.com.

If you can't make this event, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will open up the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge to the public the morning of October 15th in celebration of National Refuge Week. More details about that event to come in a future post.

On-Air Note: On Sunday, September 4th at 8 p.m., KCET will air In Search of the Cailfornia Condor.

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