Shadow of the Condor: Act 4

A pair of Condors




Act 4: Condor Recovery Efforts 

Addressing lead in the environment remains one of the largest barriers to condor recovery. That, coupled with lead impacts to other wildlife was the genesis for the creation of the North American Non-Lead Partnership -- a coalition that strives to educate the hunting community on non lead ammunition alternatives and create cohesion not just in Oregon, but across the country. They have discovered a particularly effective way to get their point across with shooting range tests. 

“You know, research doesn't just immediately get into the public consciousness. There are these presentations where I share that information but then there also are these kinds of field opportunities where we’ll go to a shooting range and let people test ammunition in their own rifle.”

- Leland Brown from the Oregon Zoo and co-founder of the North American Non-Lead Partnership. 

“Since 2018, the partnership was formed with the intent to continue the long history of conservation within the hunting community and bring this new research and science around lead exposure through hunting ammunition (through rifle ammunition in particular) to our fellow hunters within the community. And to create a coalition and kind of consistency in those discussions.”

Fragmentation of lead vs. non lead bullets

Discussions, which are starting to turn into action.

So we’re seeing this continuous growth of people choosing voluntarily to use non lead. That's now informed what we’re doing statewide. So, we've got a grant through ODFW, through the partnership, to do some broader work statewide and expand that program and now we’re rolling out some incentive programs statewide.”

These demonstrations show that non lead bullets are just as effective for hunters, and much safer for the environment, wildlife and human populations as well. 

The use of non lead allows a continuation of hunting and all the benefits that come with that, while also reducing any of those unintended consequences. So, the remains of hunted animals are really important in the fall for migrating eagles and predatory birds. It’s a really great source of food for them when they're really needing it. And, making sure that it doesn't carry any lead in it is just another benefit that comes along with hunting.”

- Leland Brown, Co-founder of the North American Non-Lead Partnership 

Which for condor recovery, is essential. 

Jim Akenson, who was the Senior Conservation Director for the Oregon Hunters Association, further explains the role hunters can play.  

The way I see this is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for hunters to express their care and concern about being identified as conservationists. It’s kind of been lost as part of our identity. I think that there’s been pulses of its occurrence over time and here’s another -- opportunity where we, or at least the majority of us, if we can embrace the chance to create a better environment for a recovering species, that in itself is a true statement of conservation.”

And overcoming the many obstacles condors face will be an all team effort. 

I think once people learn about condors and fully understand their role in the ecosystem and their historical significance here we get a lot of support, a lot of enthusiasm, for returning those birds to the landscape here. So that is going to have to be part of our programming going forward because we need good, broad support from landowners, from hunters, from farmers, from people who live in the area, as well as people from all over the country and give us the wherewithal to sustain such a big effort going forward.”

- Angela Sondenaa, Wildlife Program Project Leader for the Nez Perce Tribe

The recovery of condors in the West has the potential to not only repair the ecological and cultural damage that was done as a result of the species’ near- eradication, but also begin to take important steps toward the restoration of Indigenous rights and sovereignty.

“The fact that the Yurok tribe and other tribes with other similar reintroduction efforts can do something on this magnitude is really us taking back our capacity as a sovereign nation, as our traditional role as caretakers, to make real change in the world. So I think that this is real evidence of the healing of the rift that was caused by that initial colonization. It’s real evidence that we are able to take back our role as caretakers and I’m very excited by that as a tribal member.”

- Tiana Williams-Claussen, Wildlife Department Director for the Yurok Tribe

A step which, for the Yurok Tribe, may be sooner than later. As of May 23rd, 2021 the Yurok Tribe had received their final permit and approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to release condors on their ancestral lands. For Oregon specifically --given the close proximity to Yurok territory in Northern California-- that could mean Oregonians may have the opportunity to see free flying condors in the Pacific Northwest in the near future.

Photo courtesy of Chris West: Tiana Williams-Claussen releases a condor during a training in Big Sur

“Condor is such a big thing, it’s hard to even synopsize what it is that you hope to get out of it. One of the really lovely things about condor is, regardless of our personal connection that we have as tribal people with him, he's just the sort of person that reaches out and grabs your heart. There's so many people we’ve talked to that were just so absolutely wow’d when they first saw a condor, they couldn't even put it into words. But, words like magnificent and amazing and life-changing are things that we hear time and time again. Condor restoration in and of itself is just such an amazing story of what can happen when you have a committed group of individuals who have a love for nature and the environment.” 

- Tiana Williams-Claussen, Wildlife Department Director for the Yurok Tribe

Shadow of the Condor is a special audio production by Oregon Wild dedicated to protecting and restoring Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife and waters as an enduring legacy for future generations. 

This program was made possible through grants from the Siletz Tribal Foundation and Mountain Rose Herbs. 

Shadow of the Condor was written and produced by Alijana Fisher, Danielle Moser and Arran Robertson. Special thanks to Jessica Riccardi and all our guests. Keep it wild!

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This project would not have been possible without grants from Mountain Rose Herbs and the Siletz Tribal Foundation. Special thanks to Jessica Riccardi and all our guests.