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Condor Release Scheduled for 15 March 2008 in Arizona; Lead Still a Problem for Condors
20 February 2008
Four California Condors will be released to the wild in the Vermilion Cliffs Monument in northern Arizona at 11 a.m., Saturday, 15 March. The public may observe the release from a viewing area where spotting scopes will be set up and experts will be available to answer questions.
The young birds were bred and hatched in captivity at the Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. The Peregrine Fund is a conservation organization that recovers endangered birds of prey around the world.
"It's always a thrill to add more individuals to this growing flock, but these birds will face many challenges growing up, especially the danger of lead poisoning, their leading cause of death," said Chris Parish, The Peregrine Fund biologist leading the recovery effort.
Condors are scavengers that sometimes feed on hunter-killed game animals, which frequently contain tiny fragments of lead that the birds ingest. The Peregrine Fund and Arizona Game and Fish Department have worked together the last three years to educate hunters about this potential danger and urge them to switch to non-lead bullets while hunting in condor territory.
In the fall 2007 hunting season, 80 percent of hunters helped reduce lead exposure in condors by using copper bullets or not leaving gut piles in the field, according to Arizona Game and Fish. That's up from a 60 percent compliance rate in 2006.
No condors died of lead poisoning last year, compared with four deaths in the 2006 season. "We applaud hunters' efforts in helping us recover the condor," Parish said.
The doors to the pen where the young condors will be released to the wild will be opened at 11 a.m.
Driving directions: Take Highway 89A from Kanab or Page to the Vermilion Cliffs (from Flagstaff take Highway 89 to Highway 89A). Turn north onto BLM Road 1065 (a dirt road next to the small house just east of the Kaibab Plateau) and continue about two miles. There is a shade structure on the right side of the road.
Driving times: From Flagstaff, 2.75 hours; Fredonia, 1 hour; Page, 1.75 hours; Phoenix, 5 hours.
Bring: binoculars, sunscreen, water, snack
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