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California is now home to 100 wild California condors

October 7, 2010 |  8:22 pm

California Condor

Big news in the world of endangered species conservation: There are now 100 wild California condors in the state, more than there have been in half a century. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which announced the population count Wednesday, credits a captive breeding program begun in 1982 with helping the species rebound. The Times' environmental blog Greenspace has the details:

Young condors born in captivity are released into the wild every fall at Pinnacles National Monument in Central California and Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge on the southwest side of the San Joaquin Valley. The flock will get another bump over the next few months with the release of 11 juveniles.

The big birds are also reproducing on their own in the wild, adding 16 young to the California population since 2004.

At the time pioneers arrived in the western U.S., California condors' range extended from British Columbia to Baja California. But the birds have been imperiled by habitat loss and population declines in the species they prey on, as well as lead poisoning from ingesting lead fishing tackle and meat from animals shot with lead ammunition.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently denied a petition from conservation groups to ban lead shot, saying it did not have the authority to regulate ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The EPA said it would consider a request to ban lead fishing tackle separately, because "there are no similar jurisdictional issues relating to the agency's authority over fishing sinkers."

Recently hatched California condor chick, parent treated for lead poisoning
Lead poisoning blamed for deaths of three California condors in Arizona

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A 2-year-old male California condor soars in the Ventana Wilderness Sanctuary near Big Sur, Calif., in 2001. Credit: Ben Margot / Associated Press

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