California Condor Dies at L.A. Zoo

An endangered California condor that once flew free in the wild died at the Los Angeles Zoo only weeks after biologists recaptured the curious vulture that repeatedly strayed too close to populated areas, officials at the Ventura-based condor recovery program said Monday.

Known as Y87, the large vulture was captured July 4 after repeatedly visiting the San Marco Pass area of southern Santa Barbara County.

After being held for several days in the Sespe Condor Sanctuary north of Fillmore, the bird was taken to the zoo to become part of the captive breeding program on July 13.

But officials said Monday the death does not seem to be related to the capture. The posthumous exam revealed an enlarged liver.


No specific cause of death had been determined by Tuesday, but Marc Weitzel, program leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, said the bird had also eaten weather stripping from homes in the area he and another condor visited.

That condor, known as Y89, died June 24 after colliding with a power pole after the two birds had been near a back-yard pool and perching on neighborhood fences.

“These birds are incredibly curious about people,” said Jeanne Tinsman, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, which runs the recovery program based near Fillmore.

When the program began in 1992, the young zoo-bred birds were released into the Sespe Condor Sanctuary north of Fillmore. But after four deaths due to contact in populated areas, the remaining birds were transferred to the remote Lion Canyon area of Santa Barbara County, 60 miles northwest of the Sespe Condor Sanctuary.


Officials speculate that the young birds, only 6 months old at the time of their release, may need older birds to act as guides to keep they out of trouble.