Severe forest fires devastate California Condor

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The Dolan fire ended up consuming 124,924 acres from the Los Padres National Forest and killed 11 condors, 10 percent of Big Sur’s herd. (Eventually, the Ventana team released 17 condors this year in California.) Ventana biologists later discovered birds with hot gas burns on their feet, as if the skin had melted when the fire passed under them. belly. The fire also destroyed the Ventana condor research facility and the infrastructure at the liberation site. The enclosures where the birds are sometimes kept have become mutilated ruins of chain link fences. The wildlife biologist lab has been razed to the ground. Live-streaming cameras melted and burnt trees fell, blocking the only road to the facility.

“It got us into crisis management the last few months,” Emmons says of the Big Sur wildfire season. “With the Dolan fire and all the birds dying from the fire or burning heavily and then having to grab these birds and handle them, see the damage and extreme burns they suffered – it has been difficult for all of us. “

Photograph: Stephanie Herrera / Ventana Wildlife Society

And that doesn’t just happen in California. Earlier in the summer, 700 miles from Big Sur near the Grand Canyon, the condor program director at the Peregrine Fund, Tim Hauck, also left to check on a chick that had been caught in the Hollow pine fire. The fire had passed over the cave where the chick resided. Hauck walked for hours, off the beaten track through a harsh, scorched desert in 106-degree heat, before spotting the three-month-old, alive and being fed by his parents. “The chick has probably retreated to the bottom of the cave where she would be the safest. Hauck said. “And although it was probably very hot when the fire was going on, the chick was able to survive and the parents returned.

While the Arizona wildfires resulted in no condor deaths, the Pine Hollow Fire and the Mango fire threatened the birds. As the fires intensified, staff at the Peregrine Fund had to remove the free-flying birds and bring them into captivity for protection. They also temporarily lost track of another six-week-old chick and feared it might have perished in the blaze. But a few days later, a biologist was able to confirm that the brood was healthy and active.

According to Victoria Bakker, quantitative conservation biologist at Montana State University, the 11 condors who died in the Dolan fire were the only ones lost to the wildfires this year, but before 2020 there were seven condor deaths. suspected linked to the fires since rehabilitation efforts began in 1992. Prior to this year, the highest number of suspected condors lost in a single fire was only two. “It’s an extra year of mortality in an event,” Bakker says of the Dolan fire.

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