Condors, once plentiful in the Rogue and Umpqua basins, could be seen here again within a decade if all goes well with recovery efforts on Yurok tribe lands along the Klamath River and Humboldt County, Calif., coast.
Those are the hopes of wildlife biologists who will present ScienceWorks' first Science Pub, an "evening of learning and libations" at 5 p.m. Monday, April 15, at Standing Stone Brewery in Ashland.
What: ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum presents Science Pub
Topic: Condor Restoration in the Pacific NorthWest
When: 5 p.m. Monday, April 15
Where: Standing Stone Brewery, 101 Oak St., Ashland
The talk, with PowerPoint visuals, is free to all dining patrons and is appropriate for all ages.
David Moen of the Ventana Wildlife Society in Big Sur, Calif., is working with Tiana Williams of the Yurok Tribe Wildlife Program in Klamath, Calif., on an assessment of condor nesting habitat. The two will speak at the Science Pub about condor recovery and plans to re-introduce the giant carrion-eaters in Humboldt County.
The California condor was almost extinct in 1987 when the 22 remaining birds were taken for captive breeding. More than 400 are living now, including about 225 in the wild in California and Arizona.
A key to their recovery, said Williams, is a proactive program to switch hunters to nonlead bullets, such as copper or tungsten alloy.
"We're emphasizing a voluntary change, not a ban," Williams notes. "There was a lead ban in Southern California. It didn't get a positive response from hunters. We're engaging them as what they are, people who want to preserve wildlife."
Among their plans are shooting events where hunters can experience shooting the new ammo — and exchange lead for nonlead ammo.
Lead bullets fragment in the bodies of deer, sheep, bear and other large animals, which are the condors' favorite carrion, says Moen, adding that smaller scavenger birds can't "break open" big mammals for dinner. He reports losing about two condors a year from Ventana because of lead poisoning.
The Yurok are working on a condor management plan, and when all the pieces are in place, says Williams, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will arrange for them to receive some condors — preferably "wildlife savvy birds," instead of those in captivity — for release.
Condors like to nest in cliffs and big trees, and they generally fly 150 miles a day, says David Shepherdson, deputy conservationist with the Portland Zoo. "So they will appear in Oregon soon after the Yurok release them. They are based in Klamath, Calif., and that's not far from the Rogue Valley."
The vultures, he adds, "are a natural part of the ecosystem there, and they won't have a radical impact on it."
Thousands of condors used to spread their graceful wings, up to 10-feet wide, in southwest Oregon, but the last one was recorded in the state in 1904 near Drain, north of Roseburg.
In addition to lead, causes of decline were poaching for museums, DDT, power lines and hunting — in the mistaken belief they killed farm animals, says the Ventana website.
"It's the hope of a lot of people," says Moen, "that they will expand to the Rogue Valley in five to 10 years."
As a graduate student at Portland State University, Moen talked to leaders of Oregon tribes — the Coquille, Siletz, Warm Springs, Yakima and Grand Ronde — and says they were all supportive of working on condor reintroduction.
ScienceWorks is introducing Science Pub here as a way to reach all ages and cultures, says Executive Director Chip Lindsey, "to help us get past the image that ScienceWorks is only about kids. We're seeking new audiences and want to meet them where they are."
The advantage of venues such as Standing Stone, Lindsey says, is that "it's a good environment for food, beverages and young adults without children, who normally would think, 'I don't have kids, so why would I go there?'
"This presentation is interesting and fun. It's an easy and laid-back place. You'll have a chance to think about science and have a beer."
The Science Pub idea was "perfected" by Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and has become successful at venues in many cities, he says.
If the condor presentation clicks, he adds, ScienceWorks will plan more.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.