BLM Employees, Partners and Volunteers Brave Storms; Experience Annual NPLD Condor Release
On Saturday, September 27, the BLM, The Peregrine Fund and partners released three California condors in the BLM-managed Vermillion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona. The condors were hatched and raised as part of The Peregrine Fund’s captive breeding program at the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho.
Managing public lands for healthy ecosystems, including diverse plant communities and viable wildlife populations, is an important part of BLM’s work related to the Endangered Species Act. The California condor recovery program is an important part of BLM’s mission. As a wildlife biologist, father and grandfather, I would like my children and grandchildren to always have this unique vulture species abundant and soaring in the skies over the Arizona Strip.
—Tim Hughes, BLM Arizona State Office Threatened and Endangered Species Specialist
Recovery efforts have successfully helped the species come back from the brink of extinction when numbers fell to just 22 condors worldwide in the 1980s. Success is due to the efforts of contributing partners, including the BLM Arizona, The Peregrine Fund, Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Kaibab National Forest and Grand Canyon National Park.
Read BLM Public Affairs Officer Rachel Tueller’s personal account of Saturday’s release, an annual National Public Lands Day event.
“Despite the looming storm and black thunder heads that eventually rolled in, Saturday’s event was a spectacular gathering of condor enthusiasts and supporters from across America and all walks of life. They came from as far away as Troy, Michigan to Denver, Colorado and as near as Flagstaff, Arizona and Paria, Utah. As I spoke to people among the crowd, it was amazing to learn how far so many had traveled to “honor” these birds with their attendance.
Aliecia and Joshua Allen braved Saturday’s storm with their family to support their brother David Allen, a Webelo scout, who presented the colors prior to the release with troop 911.
The sky cleared long enough for us to learn about the recovery of this species from Chris Parish, biologist and Condor Reintroduction Project Director for the Peregrine Fund. Chris and Condor Program Field Manager Eddie Feltes spend their lives tending to the welfare and recovery of these birds. As we waited for the big moment, Eddie shared, “I live and breathe condors—they don’t take days off—so if there’s an issue, I have to be there for them. We’re saving the species because their decline is primarily human caused so if we can save the species—if we can help—it’s our obligation.”
Eddie Feltes, Condor Program Field Manager, Peregrine Fund.
Just after the countdown and the opening of the gate, at 11:03 a.m. Arizona time, Eddie peered through his high powered telescope and announced to the crowd that all 3 of the condors had left the release pen across from the viewing site.
Within minutes, a wave of excitement washed across the group as those watching through binoculars and telescopes saw all three condors rising on thermals high above the cliff ledge.
Condors soared above Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.
Among the group was a male condor known to biologists as #114, the oldest condor among those released. Eddie shared a quick story of #114 with me, noting that the 18 year old male was among the first group of condors released along the Vermilion Cliffs and has produced 4 offspring during his wild and free lifespan. It was somehow encouraging to see this old patriarch of the group there, among the newest fledglings, and then soaring with them as they spread their wings into the wild for the first time.
It seemed the weather held just long enough for a successful release. Within 20 minutes of the release, after everyone had the chance to watching the condor soar high above the site, the rain splattered the view site and quickly turned to a hard pelting rain with harsh, gusty winds that drove a happy, satisfied crowd of enthusiasts homeward.”
Check out the following social media accounts to see and learn more.
- Condor photo album on Flickr
- Condor video playlist on YouTube
- Condor educational materials on Pinterest
And event and condor information via #CondorsOnTheRise on BLM Arizona Facebook, My Public Lands Tumblr, My Public Lands Instagram and @BLMNational Twitter.