Just as the pending Klamath dam removal will allow salmon to return home to their historic spawning grounds, a bold plan is also being put into action by the Yurok Tribe, National Park Service, and US Fish and Wildlife Service that aims to bring California condors back home to the Klamath Basin.
Large numbers of condors once roamed western skies from British Columbia south to Mexico. With a nine to ten-foot wingspan, the birds command attention and awe. However, by the early twentieth century, California condors were largely eradicated. The raptors would inadvertently consume poisoned carcasses that were left out by ranchers in an effort to reduce wolf and coyote populations. Additionally, condors were susceptible to lead poisoning from the remains of game animals brought down by lead bullets. By 1982, only 22 condors remained in the wild.
Then, by 1987, agencies began a recovery effort based on captive breeding—building up animal populations in captivity in order to reintroduce them into the wild. Today, several hundred condors roam freely over western skies, mostly in Southern California, Utah, Arizona, and Baja, Mexico. The Yurok Tribe plans to add the Klamath Basin to that list.
“Condors play a big role in our creation stories,” says Yurok Vice-Chair Frankie Myers. “They carry our prayers up through the heavens to the creator. We are very excited to have them back home.”
It may be another year or two before we’ll see condors riding the winds above the Klamath River, but it’s another step towards both fowl and fish making their way home to the Klamath.