Oregon Zoo relocates 44 condors due to fire hazard

The Oregon Zoo has moved 44 endangered California condors from its breeding facility at the Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation in Clackamas County, Oregon, due to forest fires. The facility is now in a level 3 evacuation zone due to the fires that devastated the region.

Staff brought 26 condors to the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, part of the decade-long condor breeding program. The remaining 18 birds were taken to the Portland Zoo. Two will be on display, the other 16 will be housed in the zoo’s veterinary center.

The Peregrine Fund facility now has 45 condors, making it the largest captive breeding herd. Of the 26 birds evicted from Oregon, 13 are adults, 6 are younger birds ready for release, and 7 are birds in the breeding year.

The center’s condor breeding experts will look after the older birds around the clock and carefully finish rearing two nestlings that hatched in Oregon this spring but had not yet fled their nests when the evacuation became necessary. The team has also tagged the breeding season birds to keep track of as they acclimate to their new living quarters.

Center staff prepared for the likelihood of birds being evacuated to Boise

Thursday afternoon. The preparation required rapid cleaning and maintenance of the facilities where the birds were to be placed and authorization to move the endangered birds from Oregon to Idaho. Staff from across the organization sought help.

“Our entire team is just very relieved and happy that we can help,” said Chelsea Haitz, one of the team’s propagation specialists. “It was difficult to observe and not know what we could do to contribute. We were so concerned about the Oregon team and their birds. We’re grateful that we can give them a safe space so the Oregon team can focus on other things. “

California condors evacuated from the Oregon Zoo are getting used to their new home at the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. Video still courtesy of The Peregrine Fund

A dangerous summer

California Condor’s recovery programs in the United States have been addressing the fire hazard all summer. Earlier this year, condor biologists at the Peregrine Fund in northern Arizona and southern Utah held their breath as they watched fire penetrate the condor habitat, where birds nest. Fortunately, all of these birds and their young survived.

However, the Ventana Wildlife Society’s Big Sur Sanctuary in California suffered tragedy last month when a fire destroyed its facilities. Two nestling condors have died, and biologists are still searching for some of the wild condors they are monitoring.

The historic California Condor population declined to just 22 individuals in the 1980s when the larger California Condor restoration program was launched to save the species from extinction. Today the world population of endangered California condors number more than 500 people. More than half flies freely in the skies of Arizona, Utah, California, and Mexico.

Thank you to The Peregrine Fund for providing this news.

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