SOUTHERN UTAH – Hopes wildlife biologists had for Utah’s first wild-hatched California condor chick were dashed earlier this month as evidence mounted that the chick may not have survived.
According to a Dec. 17 news release from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, biologists for The Peregrine Fund and Zion National Park began noticing a lack of visual observations related to the chick’s well-being.
The official announcement that a wild California condor chick had been born in Southern Utah was made in July. Before then, biologists strongly suspected an egg had been hatched due to the nesting behavior of two adult condors. The nesting pair had claimed a rock cavity some 1,000 feet above a remote canyon in Zion National Park.
Biologists learned about the nest location through radio and Global Positioning System transmitters mounted on the two condors.
According to wildlife officials, a California condor takes six months to fledge, or develop wings large enough for flight.
Observations of the condor parents visiting the Utah nest cave suggested the chick was doing well during the six months leading up to fledging, but by late November – a month after the predicted fledge date – biologists noted something was wrong. The chick quit coming out to the cave opening and, soon after, the parents decreased their visitation to the cave.
“The loss of Utah’s first chick is a hard reminder that critters have a tough go of it in the wild,” said Chris Parish, condor program director for The Peregrine Fund, which manages the wild Arizona-Utah flock.
Though the loss of the Utah chick is a disappointment for biologists, they are nonetheless encouraged by the continuing success of two other condor chicks born in northern Arizona. Those chicks survived their fledging and appear to be doing well.
Condors, like other wild animals, are most vulnerable in their first few months, according to the press release. That is why condor parents tend to their young for a year after fledging.
There are now 73 condors in the wild in Arizona and Utah, including the two new Arizona fledglings. A total of 25 chicks have hatched in the wild since condors were first reintroduced in Arizona in 1996.
The giant birds were listed as an endangered species in 1967.
The recovery effort is a cooperative program conducted by federal, state and private partners, including The Peregrine Fund, Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Strip Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management, Grand Canyon and Zion national parks, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and Kaibab and Dixie national forests.
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