In the last three weeks, biologists from the California Department of Fish & Game have discovered two endangered California condors, – known as No. 286 and No. 375, respectively – with shotgun pellets lodged in their wings and bodies. The California condor is listed as an endangered species and is protected by both federal and state laws. Although both birds remain alive, their survival is uncertain.
In hopes of indentifying those responsible for injuring the highly protected condors, San Francisco-based Center for Biological Diversity is offering a $30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible. Of that $30,000, Santa Barbara’s Wendy P. McCaw Foundation, run by the owner of the Santa Barbara News-Press contributed $25,000 after hearing of the second shooting.
This is not the first time McCaw’s foundation has donated funds for the protection and preservation of the endangered California condor. According to Adam Keats, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Urban Wildlands Program, the McCaw Foundation was instrumental in bringing to justice the man responsible for shooting and killing California condor AC-8 in 2003. The sizable reward offered by McCaw and her foundation in that incident, Keats asserted, motivated people to track down the condor’s killer. Keats went on to say the McCaw Foundation was also extremely influential during the successful 2008 effort to ban hunters from using lead-containing ammunition within condor populated areas – condors would eat animals that had been killed or wounded with lead ammo and subsequently become ill or die from lead poisoning. “The McCaw Foundation was one of the single-most important factors in getting the lead out of California,” Keats explained.
However, when it comes to explaining the reasons or motivations behind the recent shooting of the two birds, both of which were part of a Big Sur flock, Keats is at a loss. “I simply can’t fathom how or why a person could do something like this. You have to be really sick to be able to shoot one of these birds. I just don’t get it.” He went on, “Shooting these birds hurts us all – from the folks who have worked so hard to bring the condor back from the brink of extinction to everybody who has ever seen one of these giant birds soaring in the California sky.” There isn’t any new information in the search for the shooter, but Keats seems optimistic that the reward money will speed the investigation, “We are hopeful that the establishment of this reward will help investigators find those responsible.”
Anyone with information regarding the shooting is encouraged to call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at (916) 414-6660 or the California Department of Fish and Game’s CalTIP Program at 1-888-DFG-CALTIP. More information on the California condor is available at savethecondors.org.