California condor
Paul Wellman (file)

With hundreds of thousands of acres in the rest of the Sespe Wilderness for camping, hiking, and playing outdoors, the U.S. Forest Service will be enforcing rules to keep people out of the Condor Sanctuary on the Sespe’s southern edge, and also the nearby Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. Forest rangers have been warning hikers for many months now that the sanctuary has always been off limits to the public in order to prevent human food scraps and trash from diverting the condors from their natural foraging habit. But with the renewal of the closure order and the popularity of some parts of the sanctuary, rangers are stepping up enforcement, which can amount to a $5,000 fine and/or a six-month jail sentence.

A reliance on human food decreases the California condors’ natural foraging habit and endangers their survival, still a tenuous thing since the giant bird came back from extinction in the wild in 1987. Only a handful of sanctuaries exist for the birds, which once soared across much of North America, and Hopper Mountain acts as a buffer for the one in Sespe. Trails across the sanctuary remain open to give hikers access to other parts of the Sespe Wilderness, but the Forest Service asks hikers to keep human interaction with the condors to a minimum and stay on the trail to protect the condor habitat.


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