Wildfire threatens condor refuge, 8 birds evacuated

Wildfire threatens condor refuge, 8 birdsevacuated

24 June 2008

published by www.sfgate.com

CA, USA — Eight captive California condors were evacuated by helicopter fromthe hills above Big Sur in Monterey County this weekend when a wildfirethreatened their sanctuary, officials said Monday.

The unusual rescue Sunday was coordinated by an air crew from the U.S. CoastGuard in San Francisco after the not-for-profit Ventana Wildlife Society pleadedfor help in saving the endangered birds. Lightning struck a canyon Saturday andstarted a wildfire in Monterey County that was burning in the Los PadresNational Forest.

The Ventana Wildlife Society, which works on species recovery, habitatconservation, and research, runs a condor release site in the Los Padres forest,where it prepares captive-bred condors for life in the wild. The group says thatonly 315 California condors exist, half in the wild.

The eight condors that were at the site included seven juveniles and an adultcondor used to teach the younger birds survival skills, according to theWildlife Society.

Their rescue required two flights into the smoky area near their refuge: thefirst flight carried five condors and two Wildlife Society members and thesecond flight evacuated three condors and the one remaining wildlife worker.

By Monday night, the fire had grown to more than 7,000 acres and the fate ofthe condor release site was unknown.

The evacuated birds were taken to another condor site at the PinnaclesNational Monument, where they will be released later this year. The group saysit hopes three condor chicks that had been released earlier in Big Sur survivethe fires.

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