This Extremely Rare Bird Was Just Shot Dead

There are only about 270 left in the wild — and people are offering a $15,000 reward to find who killed her.

There are only about 270 California condors left in the wild — and one of them was just shot dead.

A wild condor who hatched in California's Los Padres National Forest back in 2009 was found dead just outside of Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in July. A gunshot wound was determined to be the cause of this bird's death.

Now investigators are asking for the public's help in finding the person who killed her. 

Before her death, the condor, known as #526, was observed over the years traveling extensively through her California habitat.

"She spent much of her time in the Sespe Wilderness and Sespe Condor Sanctuary, as well as Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge, and the Tehachapi Mountains," the Los Padres Forest Watch (LPFW) wrote in a tribute to the bird. "She even took occasional jaunts as far north as Sequoia and Sierra National Forests. She was also one of the 28 condors who have been roosting in and near the site of a proposed commercial logging project on Tecuya Ridge for years." 

In 1982, there were just 22 California condors left in the wild. Since then, tremendous effort over several decades has gone into trying to save the critically endangered California condor from extinction. Through captive breeding and release programs and habitat protections, the population managed to increase to about 270 of these birds who survive in the wild today — but they are by no means out of danger. 

In her lifetime, condor #526 had to be treated several times for elevated levels of lead in her blood, the leading cause of death of California condors. Lead poisoning happens when the birds ingest carcasses that have been shot dead with lead ammunition — a totally preventable but extremely prevalent problem for many kinds of wild birds, including iconic bald eagles

Condor #526's father, #21, was essential in the recovery of the species. He was a "key bird in the captive breeding program before his release back into the wild in 2002," according to LPFW. Both condor #526's father and her mother, #192, have been lost: #192 was found dead in 2015 due to lead poisoning, and #21 has also gone missing and is presumed dead of the same thing.

"The tragedy that has afflicted this family of condors demonstrates just how tough it is for endangered condors to survive in the wild," LPFW wrote.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who shot and killed #526.

“California condors have teetered on the brink of extinction for decades. The last thing these magnificent birds need are idiots shooting them,” Ileene Anderson, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which has tripled the reward offered by the USFWS to $15,000, said in a release. “We hope this additional reward prompts anyone with knowledge to come forward so this crime can be fully prosecuted.”

You can help protect the homes of condors like #526 by making a donation to LPFW