In northern Arizona, three California condors have died from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), while officials are investigating the cause of death for five more birds. The National Park Service announced the news on Friday and has since been working to prevent the spread of the virus to other wildlife in the area.
The Peregrine Fund, which manages the Arizona-Utah flock of condors, has taken precautionary measures by capturing five birds that appeared ill and sending them to a wildlife rescue in Phoenix. Unfortunately, one of the birds has since died, while the other four remain in quarantine. Wildlife officials expect exposure to the virus to increase during the condors’ northward spring migration.
Avian flu is primarily found in birds, including domestic chickens, but it has also been found in other animals, both wild and domestic, in all U.S. states except Hawaii. While humans are considered to be at low risk from HPAI, there have been reported infections.
The California condor is one of the world’s largest birds, with a wingspan of up to 10 feet. The species was once patrolling the skies from Mexico to British Columbia before its population declined drastically in the 1970s due to hunting, habitat destruction, and lead poisoning from animals eating shot with lead bullets.
In the 1980s, wildlife officials captured the remaining 22 condors and took them to the San Diego and Los Angeles zoos for protection and breeding in captivity. The birds were then released into sanctuaries and national parks where they could be monitored. The California condors have been protected as an endangered species by federal law since 1967 and by California state law since 1971. The total wild population now numbers more than 300 birds.
According to the National Park Service, the birds are part of a population that moves throughout northern Arizona and southern Utah, including Grand Canyon National Park. Officials are investigating the cause of death for the five remaining birds to prevent the spread of the virus.
The investigation will involve testing the birds for lead poisoning, which is a common problem for California condors. The birds often feed on carcasses of animals that have been shot with lead bullets, leading to lead poisoning. Officials will also look into whether other factors, such as habitat destruction or hunting, have contributed to the deaths.
The Peregrine Fund has been working to protect the Arizona-Utah flock of California condors since 1996. The organization’s efforts have been successful, and the population has been steadily increasing. However, the recent deaths of the birds have been a setback for the organization, which is now working to prevent the spread of the virus.
The National Park Service is urging people to report any sick or dead wildlife they come across to help prevent the spread of avian flu. People should avoid handling or coming into contact with sick or dead wildlife and should report any sightings to the appropriate authorities.
As the investigation continues, officials are working to prevent the spread of the virus to other wildlife in the area. The California condors are a vital part of the ecosystem, and their loss would be devastating. Officials are doing everything they can to prevent further deaths and protect the remaining population.