California condors return to Sequoia National Park for the 1st time in decades

For the first time in at least three decades, California condors were spotted in Sequoia National Park, an area that was historically part of the endangered bird’s range.

At least six of the majestic scavengers visited the park in late May, including four seen flying near the famed Giant Forest and at least two near Moro Rock, a geologic dome and popular hiking spot, the National Park and U.S. Fish and Wildlife services said in a joint statement.

The biggest land bird in North America, California condors once inhabited the length of the Pacific Coast from Canada into Baja California. The birds disappeared from the wild by 1987 due to poaching, lead poisoning and habitat destruction, but a captive-breeding and release program has helped them resurge in their native habitat in recent years.

Before their near extinction, the birds were known to nest in the cavities of giant sequoias throughout the Sierra Nevada. Wildlife biologists at the Santa Barbara Zoo now use GPS devices to track their movements, and were able to confirm condors had returned to the towering trees and cliffs within the national park.

The birds have recovered to a wild population of around 340 from just 23 in 1982, at which point survivors were brought into captivity to preserve the gene pool through captive breeding at the Los Angeles Zoo and San Diego Wild Animal Park. They were first released back into the wild in 1992 in the mountains of the Los Padres National Forest.

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