Yurok Tribe to Reintroduce Sacred Condor


Yurok Tribal Elders signed a memorandum of understanding last month with state and federal agencies and a condor conservation group, allowing for test releases to if the Redwood Coast can support the birds.

Seven sites are under consideration on Redwood National and State Parks and private land within about 50 miles of each other, primarily south of the Klamath River. The first releases could come in the next one to three years.

Over the last five years, the Yurok Tribe Wildlife Program has performed studies to decide whether the endangered bird could be reintroduced back to the North Coast. Officials say Yurok land in Del Norte and Humboldt counties offers an “excellent” area for release because of lower contaminant levels in the region’s marine mammals, among other reasons.

To provide the greatest genetic diversity possible, birds would come from breeding programs in Oregon, Idaho and California, with the first releases coming in the next one to three years.

The large bird is sacred to the Yurok Tribe, whose history includes is stories of “Prey-go-neesh,” a condor that carries prayers to the sun. Regalia for the Jump Dance and White Deerskin Dance also rely on condor feathers, which are taken as “gifts” from living birds.

The condor once flew the entire length of the Pacific Coast from Mexico to Canada. Today there are 407 condors, including 128 in California.

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