Once virtually extinct condor species spotted by hiker on Zion’s Angels Landing hiking trail

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SION NATIONAL PARK – The California condor once had only 22 of its species in the world, so when a hiker navigated the Angels Landing trail in Zion National Park and spotted a recent hatch, it was a joyous sighting for more than cameraman Shane Wayment.

To see a bird in the wild – when in 1982 all remaining wild birds were captured and held in captivity for safekeeping and a successful breeding program – is a victory for the birds but also for the many government agencies that have contributed to the return. The bird, named and tagged #1111 to help measure the population, was the second wild bird in Zion National Park to mature enough to grow the feathers necessary for flight.

Wayment spotted #1111 while hiking the strenuous 8-mile round-trip trail that leads to a shocking glimpse of the park called Observation Point. Seeing a rarely spotted bird standing around posing for pictures was a bonus.

“It’s not every day that you see a critically endangered species up close in the wild,” the Utah Division of Natural Resources said of Wayment’s experience. He managed to capture the bird both in profile and from the front as it perched on snow with the red rock canyons behind it.

It was last September when little hatchling #1111 passed the survival milestone to the nascent stage to help its species move forward.

“This 1,111th condor is the product of the combined efforts of citizens, biologists, government and non-government agencies to make these magnificent birds fly free,” the National Park Service said of the mature bird in 2021.

“We are incredibly excited to see a second nest at Zion National Park,” said Russ Norvell, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Bird Conservation Program Coordinator. “Recovering this endangered species takes many strong partnerships and hard work from so many, and we are thrilled to see some of these efforts paying off. We look forward to the continued recovery of these unique birds. »

According to NPS, condors once fed on mammoths and giant ground sloths 40,000 years ago and are thought to have been found across much of North America. Now the growing but still critically endangered species have a small range in Utah, Arizona, northern Mexico and, of course, California.

They usually nest in caves or crevices where the female lays an egg. Both parents share an incubation that lasts about 57 days. Both parents feed meat regurgitated by both parents with lead poisoning as the leading cause of death in birds. It remains an obstacle to the recovery of the population. Hunters and others can help reduce the amount of lead in the environment and thus improve the condors’ chances of survival.

Scientists follow the population closely and know that the mother of 1111 was 409 years old, hatched at the San Diego Zoo and released at Vermillion Cliffs National Monument in 2008. The father was 523 years old, hatched in 2009 in Boise, Idaho , at the World Bird Center of The Peregrine Fund. Prey. In September, NPS said 1111 would be dependent on his parents for another 12-14 months.

Raising a condor is apparently hard work for adults who typically produce an egg every two years. The current population numbers more than 500 birds, half of which fly freely in the wild. The population of Utah/Arizona was 103 in September. The climbing routes on the east face of Angels Landing are closed until further notice for condor activity.

To learn more about the California condor, visit: peregrinefund.org/projects/california-condor

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