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Second California condor found to have been shot; reward offered for information

April 9, 2009 |  5:56 pm

An X-ray of the injured male California condor shows the pellets (visible as white spots at the lower right of the image)

Last month, the Ventana Wildlife Society captured an ailing California condor in California's central coast.  The bird, an adult male, was found to be suffering from lead poisoning and brought to the L.A. Zoo for treatment.  Once there, an X-ray revealed that the condor, identified by his studbook number 286, had also been shot.  (The shotgun pellets found embedded in the bird's body were not believed to be the cause of the lead poisoning; since condors are scavengers, it's believed he was exposed to lead as a result of eating the carcasses of animals killed with lead ammunition.)

Now a second California condor, captured in Big Sur, has been found to have been shot and also brought to the L.A. Zoo for treatment.  The second bird, a juvenile female identified as #375, had three lead pellets embedded in her body, according to the Salinas Californian.  Our colleague Kelly Burgess has the details on the Times' outdoors blog, Outposts:

"We were alarmed when one condor was found shot," said Ventana Wildlife Society Director Kelly Sorenson. "Now with two birds in such a short time, we are deeply concerned."

Although both birds are still alive, it remains unclear whether either will be able to return to the wild. ...

The male is in critical condition and remains alive only because veterinarians have been sustaining him with a feeding tube, as the bird has a disabled digestive tract due to the lead poisoning.

The female has a better prognosis, though one pellet damaged a bone in her left wing and it is uncertain if she will regain the ability to fly.

The group Defenders of Wildlife has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible.  The Center for Biological Diversity followed suit, establishing an additional $30,000 reward for information on the shootings. 

"It's disturbingly looking like a trend, with two birds in three weeks," the Center's urban wildlands program director, Adam Keats, told the San Jose Mercury News.  From the Mercury News:

The California Department of Fish and Game is investigating the shootings, but has no information on leads, suspects or motives, said spokeswoman Jordan Traverso.

Incidents like this are extremely rare, and any theories on whether the shootings were accidental or purposeful would be purely speculation, Keats said.

"Almost all of them are very savvy people," he said of hunters in the area. "They know the difference between a condor and a bird they're allowed to be shooting at."

Keats said the last time a condor was shot was in 2003, and publicity surrounding the incident led to a tip-off identifying the responsible person. He hopes the $30,000 reward will cause history to repeat itself.

The Wendy P. McCaw Foundation of Santa Barbara pledged $25,000 of the reward, and the Center for Biological Diversity is providing the rest. The reward is posted for information leading to the arrest of the person, or people, responsible.

"I don't want to think about it being anything other than an isolated person," Keats said.

Anyone with information on the condor shootings is encouraged to call either the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 916-414-6660 or the California Department of Fish and Game's CalTIP Program at 1-888-dfg-caltip.

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: An X-ray of the injured male condor shows the pellets (visible as white spots at the lower right of the image) 

Credit: Associated Press

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