Wildlife Biologists Don't Consider Wildfires Significant Threat to Endangered California Condor

Dec 18, 2017

There are only about 200 California Condors in the wild, living in Arizona, California, and Utah.  The recent wildfires in California could be a danger to the endangered species but as Maya Springhawk Robnett of the Arizona Science Desk reports, wildlife biologists aren’t too concerned…

When biologists first began to breed and release California Condors into the wild, fires were considered a significant threat because there were so few condors in existence—in the 1980s, there were only 23 in the world.

In the 1980s, there were only 23 California Condors in the world.

But with more than 200 condors in the wild today, natural threats such as wildfires are no longer considered as dangerous to the overall population.  Only 7 condors have died from wildfires since 1992.

However, a condor typically produces only one egg every other year and the eastern flank of the California Thomas Fire, fourth-largest wildfire in California history, is about a mile away from an active nest.  Joseph Brandt is the supervisory wildlife biologist at the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex for the California Condor Recovery Program:

“If the fire did burn over the nest, there’s still a fairly decent chance that the chick could survive,” Brandt explained. “That’s happened six other times in the past where fires have burned over nests and left the nests within the footprint of the fire.  And of those six times, we’ve only lost one chick as a result.  The other five chicks actually survived.”

Brandt says human life is the priority; due to the fires, he has evacuated a team of biologists from one wildlife refuge where they monitor the condors.

Correction: An earlier version of this piece stated 6 condors had died due to wildfires since 1992; in fact, 7 have died of wildfires.