Chasing the condor's shadow

Could California Condors Soar the Skies of Oregon Again?

David B. Moen is searching for evidence that might indicate that condors once inhabited Hells Canyon.  There is already evidence that they once bred in the Columbia Gorge and even farther north into British Columbia.  Is Oregon and Hells Canyon still suitable habitat for recovery?

Chasing the condor’s shadow –

Note: I was lucky enough to see a pair of California Condors on the Coast of California at Big Sur in 2003.  As we were driving away one flew 50 feet above us.  That is when you realize how immense they are with their 9 1/2 foot wingspan.







  1. Peter Kiermeir Avatar

    Surely an impressive sight, such a Condor in the wild. It is not unrealistic that they make there way into oregon in search of territory and habitat. I very well remember, when a few years ago, I saw a really large bird, I was not able to identify, during a hike in the swiss alps. Not then knowing anything about the project to reintroduce the bearded vulture. Anybody interested? The link to the project is

  2. atlas Avatar

    I was visiting family in big sur and i saw a condor aswell.

  3. kt Avatar

    Cool eye at that link, Peter.

    The Condor article also references the possibility of maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe condors again in Hells Canyon. Can you imagine? Butch Otter and the combined Cattlemen and all 15 or so inter-married Woolgrower families would declare the airspace of the Idaho side off-limits to birds larger than a robin. Shot down on site, or something.

    Like all of these juvenile shenanigans: . Schroeder is just a Hater of nature, like the rest of them.

    But back to a positive vision of the future: Take out some dams, get some salmon back. Add a healthy population of wolves allowed to do their job … Condors might love it.

    Also – didn’t Lewis and Clark as ainifest destiny unfolded, see a condor near Multnomah, or am I remembering wrong?

  4. Layton Avatar

    “Also – didn’t Lewis and Clark as ainifest destiny unfolded, see a condor near Multnomah, or am I remembering wrong?”

    C’mon kt, you aren’t REALLY that old, are you?? 8)

  5. kt Avatar

    Layton: Nope. Just reincarnated. Maybe I used to be a grizzly bear eating salmon on the river shore as condors soared over the Columbia … as mountain quail called from the shrub thickets … as the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit dug burrows on the sagebrush table above …

    ‘Twould do well to recall history, as we in the Western U. S., particularly as it pertains to public lands, remain stuck in the 19th century.

    Those who do not see a link, say, between a frontier mentality and manifest destiny playing out on the western landscape— and the continued 2009 destruction/exploitation of “resources” no matter what the cost to the environment and wildlife – may be living in a real fantasy land. For example, right now a real Frontier Mentality – like we’re seeing with remote sage grouse ridges for the taking by whatever corporate wind farm gets there first – surrounds all this mega-industrial renewable energy and transmission madness. With the spectre of the same old petro and tar sands energy and fluid transport underlying it all …

  6. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I would have to read the Journals again, as I don’t remember mention of them but it has been a few years.

    I think your going to have a tough time getting rid of the dams in the Gorge, maybe the snake, but the gorge is going to be a tough sell

    I would like to see the evidence on they possibly existed, and how old or how long ago they may have existed. Need to do some research with the Native Americans and see if they have historical evidence in their stories as well as their totems.

    It might be that, yes, they once lived there, but how long ago and if the historical data shows they left on their own that perhaps the habitat was not to their liking..

  7. TallTrent Avatar

    Yes, L&C definitely saw condors while traveling through the Columbia Gorge. Lewis even has a drawing of a condor head in his journals.

  8. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I can’t say I am convinced, the image in the journals could be a turkey vulture as well…

    I am not opposed, but I would like to see it is definitive evidence as well as a viable introduction…

  9. Mike Post Avatar
    Mike Post

    The condor is not well equiped to live in the 20th century. Reintroduction to Oregon would only lead to more expensive government support of a species which is now not self-sustaining in the wild. The California condors everyone ohs and ahs about only survive thru captive breeding, feeding stations, nest cleaning and the occasional veterinary treatment. The bird is functionally extinct and has been replaced in all its habitat by the Turkey vulture who shares none of the condor’s adaptation failures. More to the point, the mega-fauna carcasses that it evolved with are no longer there. Some actually speculate that but for the tons of biomass left on the plains in California by the Spanish rancheros in the late 1700’s and earl 1800’s, the condor would have been long gone. In those days cattle in the tens of thousands were slaughtered each year only for hides and tallow, the carcasses being left on the ground.

  10. TallTrent Avatar

    Lewis and Clark definitely documented condors on the Columbia. They even shot some as specimens.

    And from Clark’s journal:
    “Capt. Clark, October 30, 1805: Lewis Shot at one, those Buzzards are much larger than an other of ther Spece or the largest Eagle white under part of their wings”
    If you continue down the page there are several more journal entries containing information on their condor sightings. Lewis’ journals go in to great details on the impressive size of the birds.

    This one I can speak to with some authority, being a former employee of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail during the Bicentennial of the expedition.

  11. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    As a research biologist, I am very skeptical, historical research is an entirely different field that biological research. As with many other historical accounts of wolves and other species, I need to see the science before I accept it as truth.

    As Mike Post said, this particular species is functionally extinct and will not continue to survive without a great amount of human intervention.

    I want to see the science behind the claims that there was a native population of Condors in the Gorge that bred and maintained viable populations.

  12. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    And please don’t take me wrong, I am for re-introductions as long as it can be feasibly done with the goal of no human intervention in the future and the species being re-introduced can be self sustaining…

    California Condors have not been able to do this and for each bird in the wild, you would be amazed at the investment..

  13. JB Avatar

    “…I am for re-introductions as long as it can be feasibly done with the goal of no human intervention in the future”

    I don’t think ANY reintroduction would meet that criteria–especially given the as yet unknown impact of global climate change. Predictions currently suggest a 20-30% loss of species worldwide. It is safe to bet that we will be intervening on behalf of endangered species for a long time to come.

  14. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Well JB,

    You and I have a different opinion on Climate Change!

    If we stick to what the ESA is, it is to benefit the species that require assistance to regain themselves as a self sustaining populations.

    As far as the topic at hand, Global Climate Change is not a factor at this time when talking about CA Condors the question is:

    Did they live there in viable numbers?
    Did they have a viable population that was breeding?
    Can they be re-introduced to restore them a natural viable population?

    Then we have to ask, taking into account the current human factor and influence is this a proper place to restore them?

    The Columbia River Gorge is home to one of the busiest interstate Highways in the Country, in addition it is one of the most important power producing regions of the country.

    As I said, I am for re-introductions, but only when it proves that it will be successful, I at this time, don’t believe we can re-introduce this animal into the type of environment that currently exist in the Columbia River Gorge. I also believe, it will continue to exist for many generations to come, getting rid of a few of these small dams, Like Mill Town and the One of the Sandy, had no negative impact, getting rid of say the Bonneville Dam, you are talking major impact..

  15. chris Avatar

    It is very shortsighted (to be polite) to declare the condor recovery program a failure. There are now more condors in the wild (167) than in captivity (160). Compare that to the 22 in 1982.

    They are breeding and raising chicks successfully in the wild and find plenty of carcasses on their own. The carcasses provided by the biologists are provided because they are lead free. The biggest threat to condors is lead poisoning caused by ingesting tiny fragments from lead bullets in carcasses, which poses a threat to other scavengers and human hunters. Considering their low fecundity (don’t breed until 6-8 years old, one chick a year), and the belated response to the lead threat (lead ammo now banned in CA, successful voluntary effort underway in AZ) the program is doing quite well and their is much to be optimistic about.

    As more condors reach breeding age and the lead issue is addressed the numbers should continue to rise.

  16. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Here is an interesting report I found that was issued in Aug 2008

  17. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    And the link to the LA Times article that this report was cited in:

  18. Mike Post Avatar
    Mike Post

    Chris, I am afraid you are wrong about the lead. It is the single biggest public issue with condors but the real killer of condors is the penchant for eating anything shiny. That includes broken glass, roofing nails, pop tabs, plastic beads, you-name-it. They even pick this stuff up and take it back to their nests for their chicks which is why we have expensive nest cleaning projects. That is a fatal flaw in any bird that must coexist with humans. Almost $50 million dollars later in direct costs..the condor is a non-starter and the poster bird the anyone who wants to gut such programs. Think about where else that money could have spent on numerous endangered species to greater effect. Even some Audubon friends will privately admit it has been a travesty.

  19. ChrisH Avatar

    The condors are a big draw at Grand Canyon N.P. They have also taken some pretty long flights from the Grand Canyon Vermillion Cliffs area. I believe one made it as far as Arches N.P. no doubt they could go farther.

  20. chris Avatar

    I’m only aware of a few wild born chicks that died from their parents feeding them human trash. Out of a current wil population of 160, that is clearly not the main issue nor the “real killer”. Nor does it make the program a “travesty” or waste of money. It terms of mortality and illness, lead poisoining has been and remains the biggest problem.

    Audubon originally didn’t want any condors to be brought into captivity for captive breeding and reintroduction, prefering to let the species go extinct. They fought the recovery program until captive breeding became successful.

    Pointing to the financial cost of recovery programs as a reason to let species go extinct is a slippery slope that will condemn most recovery programs. The ESA has pulled alot of species back from the brink though not yet to recovery. Like alot of endangered species, the condor’s numbers dramatically declined over a long period of time so one cannot reasonably expect them to be recovered already.

    As for the AZ condors, they regularly make it up to Zion NP, and have made it to Arches. One even made a brief journey up to Wyoming and returned to AZ on it’s own.

    I challenge anyone to stand at the rim of the Grand Canyon (as I have many times) while a condor flies overhead, close enough so you can hear the wind blow through their primary feathers and to see the condor turn it’s head to gaze at you, to then say “let these birds go extinct, what a failure, what a waste of money”.

  21. kt Avatar

    So why would someone want to Save Bears, and not Save Condors??? Baffles me … and seems mighty weird to boot.

    We want condors in Hells Canyon! Along with bighorn sheep free of pneumonia and other diseases spread by domestic sheep … And many wolf packs, too.

    How much cool weather do condors tolerate? Do they move around much seasonally?

  22. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I didn’t say don’t save Condors, what I said, is it feasable to introduce them into the Columbia River Gorge? Hells Canyon may indeed be a good place to introduce them, the human population densities in this area as well as other factors are much more positive than the C River Gorge.

    Two entirely different dynamics in these areas. I am all for saving species, heck I am a wildlife biologist, but there are just some areas that are not prudent to introduce or re-introduce species into….

  23. JB Avatar

    “You and I have a different opinion on Climate Change!”

    —A “doubter” eh? That’s too bad.

    “If we stick to what the ESA is, it is to benefit the species that require assistance to regain themselves as a self sustaining populations.”

    The purpose of the ESA is “…to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved…” (16 USC 1531). However, the part of the act that provides for the protection of the ecosystems on which species depend (i.e. designation of critical habitat) has been roundly ignored by recent administrations.

    “As I said, I am for re-introductions, but only when it proves that it will be successful…”

    –Frankly, under this criteria, we would never again reintroduce a species. Requiring “proof” that a species will be successful is a non-starter, scientifically-speaking. Hell, we can’t even convince people that the earth is getting warmer, and that they can see for themselves! 😉

  24. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Stop reading between the lines, I said you and I have a different opinion on climate change, I didn’t say I didn’t believe the climate is changing…

    Now I will ask you a question:

    If and when we introduce or re-introduce a species, shouldn’t it be in the most opportune environment with the best chance of being successful?

    Re-introductions are a big ticket item, why should the money be spent to put a fragile species into an environment that offers lower chance of success?

    I just don’t see the Columbia River Gorge as offering much chance of a successful introduction based on the current environment in that area.

    Hells River Canyon would offer a far better chance of success in my opinion

  25. Mike Post Avatar
    Mike Post

    As I have said many times before, extinction of a species, in and of itself, is not a negative occurrence. No species alive today would be here if others before them had not failed to adapt and improve and thus created an opportunity for success. Species extinction is part of the natural evolutionary process. Spending $50,000,000.00 on the condor has not changed that one bit. Stop all spending today, and watch the condors slowly fall from the sky. The turkey vultures are waiting to scavenge their carcasses and take the last of the condor habitat for their own.

  26. JB Avatar

    “If and when we introduce or re-introduce a species, shouldn’t it be in the most opportune environment with the best chance of being successful?”

    –First, my apologies for “reading between the lines.”

    The answer to your question isn’t that straightforward. First, you need to ask yourself: is our purpose to protect/restore as many endangered species as possible, or only those with the greatest chance of success? The latter sets up a policy whereby you focus your efforts on low-hanging fruits while watching species continue to drop out the bottom. This focus may be cost effective, but it would likely not slow extinctions. In contrast, the former is more costly and time-consuming, but has the potential to protect more habitat and, over the long haul, will likely do a better job of reducing extinctions. Unfortunately, I don’t get to decide how to spend the government’s money! 😉

    I’ll let you guys fight out the Condor issue. I was simply reacting to your characterizations of the ESA, and criteria for reintroductions (above), which I find to be flawed.

  27. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    You might find it flawed, but after working in and with the government agencies as a wildlife biologist for a long time before I left, it is reality, we can’t save them all..and I am sorry, there are certain species that can’t be saved…

    Also we don’t know which ones based on evolution are going extinct by design, the Condor, may be one of those species..

    And really when it comes down to it, we have not yet proven that the condor currently on the endangered list is in fact the one that may have inhabited the areas in question..

    As I said, after working in the field, I think we need to spend our resources where we show the most promise of success, currently the Condor seems to be doing better where is has been introduced, but adding areas to introduce them, that has not been confirmed as their habitat, is not the most prudent thing to do.

  28. JB Avatar

    Save Bears,

    We can certainly agree to disagree, but let me make an analogy to help explain where I’m coming from: were we on board a sinking ship (which some would argue, we are with respect to endangered species), the approach that you are advocating would have us patching the smallest holes first because they are the easiest and most cost effective to deal with. If your goal is to be perceived as the successful patcher of holes, this is a great approach; however, if your goal is to prevent the ship from sinking…

  29. kt Avatar

    What species can’t be saved? And what kind of mis-management/agency management excuses – preceded this irreversible decline? What criteria do you apply?

    This is exactly what we heard agency people, and a Defenders person, claiming at the Columbia Basin Climate Conference in Boise in mid-summer 2008.

    Claims were made that: It’s already too late, because of global warming. We’re moving on to triage.

    The assembled agency managers were many of the same ones who had been denying global warming – up until a couple months before when they suddenly realized that it was very convenient to hide behind global warming as an excuse for doing nothing and make the claim that species were going to go extinct anyway. Any species where real mgmt change was required – was to be written off.

    As was the precautionary principle to be written off …

    I also think it is part of the arrogance of humans wanting, essentially, to feel important by playing God – by saying “This one should go extinct”.

  30. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    See that is where you an I differ, what if it is, the human arrogance that we think we can save everything?

    Seems to me that some of these re-introductions are humans playing God, especially when we don’t know how evolution works?

    By the way, Global Warming is a myth and always has been…Global Climate Change yes, that is a given..

  31. JB Avatar

    “By the way, Global Warming is a myth and always has been…Global Climate Change yes, that is a given..”

    –It appears that I need to retract my apology (above). As I scientist, I find only two acceptable positions with respect to global warming: (1) the data are compelling (thus, we fail to reject the hypotheses), or (2) the data (which are correlational) are compelling, but not conclusive with respect to the degree to which it is human-caused.

    Anyone who takes the position that “global warming is a myth” is rejecting a hypothesis that is supported ~99/100 times. This is not a science-based position, but an ideologically-based position.

  32. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I believe in Global Climate Change, and have said so, The climate world wide is indeed changing and I accept that, what I don’t accept is that it is always getting warmer, we have evidence that in some places it is cooling, some places are maintaining and some places are warming.

    I as a Scientist will stand by my data, whether you want to believe it, getting my Masters in Wildlife Biology, entailed more than just studying animals!

  33. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Of course as someone who does not specialize in climatology, I can’t say with any certainty which action or reaction is causing the climate to change..but I do acknowledge with 100% certainty that the climate is indeed changing..

  34. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Of course,

    Debating Climate Change has nothing to do with re-introductions of Condors, Climate Change is best left to another thread!

  35. JB Avatar

    “…I don’t accept is that it is always getting warmer, we have evidence that in some places it is cooling, some places are maintaining and some places are warming.”

    Save Bears:

    Sure there is/will be local variation; in fact, some places may end up experience significant (short term) cooling trends if certain models pan out; but the overall trend–that is, the overall GLOBAL trend–is toward warming. By suggesting that some places will be cooling and others warming, you’re obscuring this fact; you’re suggesting that warming trends in some places cancel out cooling trends in others (i.e. mean change averaged over the globe = 0). This simply isn’t the case.

    Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive, but I’ve heard too many people call global warming bogus with this and similar claims.

  36. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Again, you are reading between the lines, because I am not suggesting anything, I am saying, I accept Climate Change with no problems at all and I am not saying one is canceling out the other…

    You are being too sensitive, based on what I am reading! Too many people is not me, I am studying the data and have accepted the fact the climate is indeed changing.

    But as I state, this is probably a debate best left to its own to stand on…and has nothing to do at this point of Condor Re-introduction..

  37. JB Avatar

    “…a debate best left to its own to stand on…and has nothing to do at this point of Condor Re-introduction..”

    Agreed. Regarding the latter. Rather than make reintroduction decisions based on what will be the easiest or most cost effective to pull off, I’d rather these decisions be based on which animals are likely to have the most ecological impact. I’m not sure where the Condor would stand on that kind of scale?

  38. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    “I’d rather these decisions be based on which animals are likely to have the most ecological impact.”

    Based on what criteria? This, in itself, is an interesting question, because it cuts to how humans view nature. Are we a part of nature or apart from nature? I take this to mean that you think we should base reintroductions on who has the most *beneficial* ecological impact, but who is to decide what is beneficial, and to whom (or to what) will the impact benefit?

    If we were to base a reintroduction upon the *most* ecological impact, then we should be thinking about reintroducing ebola or dinosaurs, but I don’t think that’s what you meant, JB. 🙂

  39. kt Avatar

    We need to do all we can to save all species that we can. Our understanding of ecology and biology is changing all the time.

    And by what measure is a species important? It’s ecological role? Or the critter/flower/fungus taping into some societal or innate/instinctive human impulse? Or it will cost XXX to save species A, but only X to save species B – so let’s save species B.

    Climate change is the latest thing agencies and industry (and some Big Green groups) are hiding behind to write off one of the fundamentals of species preservation – which is ecosystem protection. THAT is precisely why the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit DPS is now extinct. The Washington State Game agency refused to protect the remaining shrubsteppe at Sagebrush Flat in its entirety. Instead, they allowed grazing to continue under a quasi-“collaborative” CRM group.

    They even intensified cattle use (and thus inflicted long-term habitat damage such as weed invasions and breakage and structural alteration of sagebrush) with new livestock developments. The population shrank, crashed, WDFW rounded up the remaining rabbits, took them into captivity, some died of zoo-type diseases in captivity, they fed them only sagebrush, etc. WDFW (we taxpayers) spent millions of dollars on a captive breeding program, out-crossed them with Idaho rabbits, did all kinds of things – but the bottom line is the agency allowed the ecosystem on which the pygmy rabbit depended to be destroyed by continuing cattle grazing even in the face of overwhelming evidence of the effects of cattle in collapsing burrows, spreading weeds, reducing sagebrush cover complexity and native grasses required by the rabbits.

    Getting rid of the cows in the 1990s – as Dr. Steven Herman tried to tell them – would have protected a slice of the ecosystem on which these rabbits relied. How much cheaper and easier that would have been! But no. The Cattlemen just could not stand to see a publicly owned acre not trashed by cattle.

    And sadly, the current Governor, Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, remains in the thrall of the same Big Hat cattlemen clique that drove the pygmy rabbits to extinction. Now the Cattlemen are going after the remaining sage-grouse in Washington state – by trying to impose grazing use on the ungrazed areas of Whiskey Dick (and on other lands bought supposedly to restore wildlife populations).

    Whiskey Dick is critical connecting habitat for the only two remaining populations of grouse in Washington state.

    ALSO see:

    Judge backs challenge to grazing accord
    Cattle were being run on state wildlife land


    Hmmm – Maybe Gregoire is not so naïve – if the state drives the grouse down to a few dozen birds – with cows and huge industrial wind farms like the ne at Whiskey Dick that is promoting increased cattle grazing – I betcha she can finagle many, many millions in tax dollars –Get an even bigger Extinction Industry going … captive-bred sage-gruse chicks ot be hawk bait immediately upon release in cowed-out degraded habitat . While the fundamental component of species preservation – habitat – crumbles under livestock hoofs, expanded industrial wind farms, etc..

    This, of course, defies ecological science. Just watch, though. Gregoire and WDFW will have their hands out to federal taxpayers to sink many millions of dollars into “saving” grouse – while at the same time continuing the destruction of critical habitat.

    BUT – when I started this rant – what I meant to highlight – was how people’s hearts go out to the pygmy rabbit. You see a picture, and you can’t help it. What if the photo was of a pygmy rattlesnake? What reaction would then be elicited?

  40. kt Avatar

    Speaking of El Condor …Pasa … (mountain images) (political) – Seems kind of timely with the Poor People’s March, and all …

  41. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    My wife and I shot some video of either four or five Andean Condors while we were trekking near the base of Cerro Torre in Patagonia. I’ll see if I can dig that up and post to youtube. It was a remarkable experience…

  42. kt Avatar

    Matt – That would be very interesting to see!

  43. Mike Post Avatar
    Mike Post

    KT, I think that $50,000,000.00 (with no end in sight) is a nice benchmark for when we should give up on a species. In addition, humans have been impacting evolution of all species for thousands of years. That won’t change and the fact that it creats some emotional discomfort to walk away after you have done all you reasonably can is part of life. I imagine that you have never been in an emergency triage situation, where you have to pick one life and lose the other. Being responsible for the earth’s life is not an “everything wins” situation and it never has been. That kind of niave simplicity will kill more than it saves in the long run.

  44. JB Avatar

    “Based on what criteria? This, in itself, is an interesting question, because it cuts to how humans view nature. Are we a part of nature or apart from nature?”

    We are apart from nature. Including humans in nature would mean everything is part of nature. If nature is everything than non-nature is nothing and the term becomes useless for differentiated concepts.

    Your other questions are much harder to answer! I’ll have to give them some more thought…

  45. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    OK, so when did humans become apart form nature? Were Native Americans apart from or a part of nature? And why are humans apart from nature? I tend to believe that we are more a part of nature than apart. But please don’t confuse this with the famous Bushism that the dams on the Snake are a part of the natural environment. I do believe there are lines that must be drawn. And just because I think we are more a part of nature does alleviate the responsibility we have to mitigate our impact upon it. In fact, I think that a stronger human link to nature should provide more reason to protect it. I tend to think that if we view ourselves as a part of nature then perhaps we will do less to despoil it and more to protect it.

    And I don’t think there is a right or a wrong answer to this, I just find these kinds of questions interesting to discuss.

    Found that video, now to figure out how to post it…

  46. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Andean Condors filmed in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares near Cerro Torre, Patagonia, Argentina:

    The quality got degraded for youtube, but you get the idea. We were told we would be super lucky to see one condor, nevermind the four or five there were circling right overhead. That was a great day…

  47. chris Avatar

    As for the often repeated price tag, Chris Severheen said it best about the cost of grizzly recovery versus what we spend overall, “it’s not even a drop in the bucket, it’s mist in the air”. In other words, check out the cost of one F-22 fighter jet before you complain about saving a species that can be saved and is being saved.

    I agree extinction is part of the natural process but not at the current rate or for the current reasons. Can we seriously consider the plights of endangered species “natural” because they can’t grow bullet vests or learn to live in apartments?

  48. Layton Avatar


    Are the condors in the Andes a surviving population or a re-introduced one??

  49. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    That must of been very cool. wonder if there was something dead up there.
    When in Grand canyon a few years ago was lucky enough to see a breading pair and chick on the south rim. was the highlight of the trip. Some family friends used to contract with the Snake River birds of pray site in southwest Idaho to provide rabbits for the California Condor breeding program.
    This is also another species that the livestock industry tried to block the reintroduction of.

  50. kt Avatar

    Matt and Jeff E – Yes, that is very cool – and we need California condors back across large areas of their former range. The article mentioned the potential of Hells Canyon – If any condor experts are reading this – Do you think condors could survive a winter in Hells Canyon? Would they move downstream a bit? What would any re-introduced birds likely do?

  51. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I am going to play devils advocate here, please explain why we need Condors over large areas of there former range?

    And as I have stated, I am not against re-introduction, but I am interested in your reasons, and please don’t read more into it that it is!

  52. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I will add,

    We don’t know that the current species that is classified as “California Condor” was the species that may have inhabited these areas in the past, from my understanding there were 6 species of New World Vultures and the California Species is the surviving member..

  53. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Layton, I really don’t know, but from reading the wikipedia article on them, they are fairly widespread, so I doubt they were reintroduced.. I was only visiting a very small part of their range!

  54. kt Avatar

    Save Bears: If videos don’t get through to you – Don’t think you’d understand words, either. Maybe you care to explain why we don’t??? Hardly think there is a carrion shortage out there …

  55. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I have watched several videos. I asked you a legitimate question, as well as made a legitimate point about species. I guess you choose not to engage.

    So be it.

  56. JB Avatar

    “… I don’t think there is a right or a wrong answer to this, I just find these kinds of questions interesting to discuss.”


    “OK, so when did humans become apart form nature?”

    Interesting question, Matt! I guess we began to become “apart from nature” when we started to use the word (or its synonyms) to differentiate ourselves from everything else. Pinchot recognized this dichotomy when he said, “there are just two things on this material earth–people and natural resources.”

    I also believe that the use of machines has a lot to do with our separation from nature. Machines provide a man-made barrier buffering us from the outside world. Modern cars keep the whether out and modern homes heat themselves (so to speak); we have machines that process and package our food for us, so–for the most part–it comes from a man-made location (grocer) instead of the earth.

    By the way, the man–nature dichotomy has heavily influenced our management of federal lands. The Wilderness Act defines wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Similarly, the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum–which the Forest Service developed to zone forest lands for different types of experiences–recognizes a continuum from those lands with a primitive character, to those that are heavily influenced by humans.

    In fact, humans are not only viewed in our society as a-part from nature, our activities are almost universally viewed as negatively impacting nature (just read the comments following nearly any post on this blog). This too has been institutionalized in the land management agencies policies–the Forest Service’s “Limits of Acceptable Change” and the Park Service’s “Visitor Experience–Resource Protection” planning frameworks both essentially attempt to limit the impact of human beings on parks and forests (i.e. nature).

  57. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    JB, you said, “By the way, the man–nature dichotomy has heavily influenced our management of federal lands. The Wilderness Act defines wilderness as ‘an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.’”

    Exactly, but look at a place like the Frank Church Wilderness, where there is evidence of human impact throughout. And this human impact is not only white “pioneers” but native American settlement. This is clearly a place that has ben trammeled by man, yet it is one of our more revered Wilderness areas in the country!

    To tie this back into species reintroduction, I think care must be taken when we talk about bringing condors back to places like the Hells Canyon or the Columbia basin. Generally, I think Save Bears makes a very valid point. I met some folks who were studying whether grizzly bears ever inhabited the Frank Church, or if they did, what were their numbers. People tend to assume that since it is a vast “wilderness” that grizzlies must have been there. It was interesting to see some people (committed environmentalists and scientists both) being wary of that assumption, or at least searching for facts. My point is that we could attempt to bring an animal like a bear or a condor back based on some assumptions, thinking that we are righting a wrong perpetrated on nature. But maybe the assumptions were flawed in the first place.

  58. kt Avatar

    Save Bears – We’re back to save bears (Why should we bother to save bears?) —- but not bother to save condors??? I actually connect more with condors – so does that mean they are worth more than bears in my mind-No. Both should be saved!

    I suggest you read E. O. Wilson on biophilia. And here you go:

    For the beauty of big birds. And I think it is time to start suggesting that these greedy Energy companies undertake, as part of any mitigation for industrial development of wind plants and transmission corridors in the Columbia and Interior Columbia Region, condor re-introduction projects … Think Idaho Power will like that?

  59. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Again, I never said not to save condors, do you have trouble with reading comprehension?

    I am simply bringing up legitimate questions about the possibility of the re-introduction.

    Being a wildlife biologist who has worked for agencies, I have a tendency to look at it from both practical as well as scientific standpoints.

    At this time we cannot say for sure the California Condor was the species that may have inhabited the Columbia River Gorge or the Hells Canyon habitats!

    As far as the Columbia River Gorge in truth is a small habitat that is highly used by humans, with a good sized human population…

    First we have to establish that in fact it is the same species, or you will have those against pulling the same crap that goes on in Idaho with wolves saying they are not the same as the wolves that lived there!

    Then you have to look at current use in the Gorge, IE: lots of human used especially during the summer and fall months between hikers, photographers and hunters. Then there are the dams. Like I said before, removing dams on the Clark Fork in Montana and the Sandy in OR, had very little negative implications, but besides the power, if you try to remove the Dams on the Columbia, you are talking about flood control for very large cities! Now if we just talk about re-working power grids in that area, your talking billions of dollars that will be passed on to the end users..

    I don’t think that would be an easy fight to win.

    Again, I have not said, I am not for saving Condors, I said!!!! we have to look at the areas that are feasible and poses the best chance at success!

  60. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Another thing to add, if you have not been down the Columbia for a while, you would be surprised at the hundreds if not thousands of Wind Generation areas that are now there, I went through there in Dec and they were putting more and more up everyday…

    There are just better areas that show more promise for success

  61. JB Avatar

    “This is clearly a place that has ben trammeled by man, yet it is one of our more revered Wilderness areas in the country!”

    Good point. Of course, right now human endeavors are impacting the most remote places (i.e. the polar caps) on earth! There is no hiding from man any longer. I think the way we use the word “nature” in our society recognizes a continuum from those things that are not influenced by man to those that are heavily influenced by man; what we’re coming to recognize is that the former doesn’t really exist. However, most people aren’t capable of recognizing the more “subtle” impacts people have on the environment. If there are no roads, shopping malls, gas stations or burger kings, than to them, it’s a wilderness/it’s natural.

  62. kt Avatar

    JB – That’s ESPECIALLY the case for designated BLM and National Forest Wilderness areas across the West that continue to be grazed by domestic livestock.

    I always marvel at how supposedly objective conservation scientists produce maps showing lands as “protected” if they have are in a designated Wilderness. An area can’t be considered “protected” when it is annually inundated by large herds of alien herbivores that are adapted to a humid European climate …


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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Ken Cole