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Friday, Oct 18 2013 04:00 PM

Additional information released about dead condor discovered in Bear Valley

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Condor Number 630 is seen soaring in the Southern California mountains in this photograph from 2012. Photo courtesy of Hooper Mountain Wildlife Refuge

In this photo from Dec. 12, 2012, California Condor 630 takes flight from her perch atop a dead tree. The same animal was discovered dead in a Bear Valley Springs dip tank Thursday, Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of Hooper Mountain Wildlife Refuge.

More information has been released about a dead California condor discovered Thursday, Oct. 17, in a dip tank near Jacaranda Drive in Bear Valley Springs.

As we reported HERE, the body of the bird was discovered during an inspection of the tank, used by firefighting helicopters as a source of water, during exercises for Great Shake Out.

According to wildlife biologist Joseph Brandt, a leading condor expert for the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex, he was contacted by the Bear Valley Springs Police Department, and informed that there was a possible dead condor. "Typically, we work with Fish and Game whenever something like this happens," Brandt said. "We normally come out and collect the body so it can be investigated."

The carcass will be sent to the Wildlife Forensics Lab in Ashland, Oregon to determine the exact cause of death, but it could take up to a couple of months to receive the results.

Based on the amount of decay, Brant estimates the bird could have been in the tank for a week or more. "It looked like it was in the tank for a little while," he said. "There was a fair bit of algae growing around it."

Brandt declined to speculate on the cause of the condor's death until a complete necropsy report is done. "It's definitely possible that the water was the primary cause," he said. "But you always wonder if the bird may have compromised in some other way as well." He also stated that in the past, condors have become trapped in natural formations similar to the dip tanks.

This finding marks the second dead condor discovered in a local dip tank.

"We've just recently started seeing this," Brandt said. "This is the second bird we've pulled out of dip tanks in the area in within the last month or so." The other condor was found in a dip tank near Stallion Springs.

The condor found Thursday was fitted with a tag on its wing, and based on the color of the tag and number, this condor was identified as number 630, a female young adult, that was hatched in June of 2011, and one of very few condors to have been both hatched and fledged completely in the wild.

"We are hoping to be able to work with the Kern County Fire Department in the future," Brandt said. "Maybe we can come up with a way to make the tanks safer for the birds, but that is in the very early planning stages."

Currently there are thought to be around 65 wild California condors in the Southern California area, with a total wild population of just over 220 spread over California and Arizona.

Brandt also pointed out that they might have known the condor was missing earlier, but recent furloughs due to the recent partial government shutdown made keeping track of the birds difficult.

The Tehachapi News will continue to report on this story as more information becomes available.

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