Although there are no California Condors- Gymnogyps californianus, living at the dam site, there have been recorded 400 over-flights a day in the area. This has become an issue at the site because Condors are attracted to shiny objects, such as broken glass. We have been plagued with people coming out to the deserted dam site to drink beer, and then target practice using the bottles as targets. This endangers this critically endangered species even more. In addition, bullets lodge in the heritage dam pieces. This causes them to crack, and further degrade.
Condors have no natural enemies in the eco-system. Ancient condor fossils have been found across the USA and from Canada to Mexico. Currently, their range is throughout most of California, parts of Arizona, and a little corner of Utah. Currently, their only enemy is man. Electrical wires/high tension wires electrocute the birds. Lead bullets left behind in gutted animals by hunters can be eaten by the condors resulting in lead poisoning. Condors, like kids, can’t resist shiny objects. They can spot shiny objects as far as two miles away. Items such as glass, metal nails, nuts, bolts, can result in abdominal tearing or blockages which can kill them as well.
Condors can be easily identified in many ways. All condors have a numbered tag on their wings and a transponder. If you see this, you are witnessing the miracle that is a condor. Many people mistake Turkey Vultures for condors. Turkey Vultures have no transponders or numbered tags. The turkey vulture heads are red with a white beak. A young condor will have a black/grey head and a black beak. An adult condor will have a multi-colored head which could include orange, pink, purple, yellow and a whitish-grey beak. A Turkey Vulture can have a wingspan of up to 8 ½ feet, while the condor can be 10 feet across. There are also some subtle differences in the underside of the wings.
The condor population was down to 22 individuals by the time biologists decided to try to save the species. By the time they were caught, the breed-able population was only 10. DNA tests were conducted, and amazingly, there were 3 different clans represented in those 10 individuals, and a breeding program was started. There are now 488 condors. Of those, 312 are flying free. The captive condors in breeding programs number 176.