MOUNT DIABLO (CBS SF) — For the first time in more than 100 years, a critically endangered California condor took flight above Mount Diablo.

Their natural habitat is in the Central Coast. So for one to fly roughly 100 miles north of its home is historic, according to Ted Clement with Save Mount Diablo.

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“In the Mount Diablo area, we’d not seen the condor in over 100 years,” said Clement, who is the executive director of the non-profit organization that has been preserving lands on and around Mt. Diablo.

According to the Ventana Wildlife Society, a GPS tracker showed Condor 828 took an exploratory flight to Mount Diablo on September 12. The 25-year-old female did not stay long, less than 30 minutes.

“As the population grows, it will expand its range into the Bay Area,” said Kelly Sorenson, executive director of the Ventana Wildlife Society (VWS). The non-profit releases and monitors condors, including Condor 828.

“They’re looking for new territory. I think it’s really exciting. We always expected that the condors that we released in Big Sur and other areas in Central California would eventually make their way up into both the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo Mountains,” said Sorenson.

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A GPS tracker showed a different condor made its way to the Santa Cruz Mountains earlier this month.
Biologists said the exploratory flights are a small victory for the captive breeding programs, which increased the population from the last 22 birds in the early 80’s to now roughly 300 California condors flying in the wild.

With a 9.5-foot wingspan, the California condors don’t kill, but feed on dead animals. Their biggest threat remains to be lead poisoning. So far in 2021, 13 California condors have died, at least nine of them due to lead poisoning, according the Ventana Wildlife Society.

“I want to be optimistic, but also cautious, because we haven’t solved the number one threat, yet. And until we do, I don’t think there’s hope,” said Sorenson.

“We’re in the midst of a mass species extinction event. But this condor sighting, this documentation of the condor is evident that with good, concerted land conservation efforts, we can still make a difference, even with all these challenges going on,” said Clement.

The Ventana Wildlife Society will release two to three young condors on Tuesday morning (11/2) at 9:30 a.m. The public is invited to watch it live via Zoom.

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