Marking the 100th anniversary of the national wildlife refuge system, officials buried a time capsule and unveiled an educational kiosk Friday in downtown Fillmore, the gateway to the condor sanctuary in Los Padres National Forest.
The informational kiosk will serve as a reminder to schoolchildren and tourists that the sanctuary plays a crucial role in the preservation of the California condor, an endangered species that was nearly extinct 20 years ago, said Denise Stockton, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist with the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge.
Only six miles from Fillmore, the 2,471-acre refuge is closed to the public to protect the burgeoning population of captive-bred condors that have been released into the wild. But the new display, located in a small structure that formerly housed an automated teller machine, will put the public closer in spirit to the refuge, said Carol Lavender, economic development director for the city of Fillmore.
“We needed some way to better acquaint tourists and the general public with the preservation efforts that are going on,” Lavender said.
The kiosk features a video display of the history and current work of the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, which is run by the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, along with a display on the condor recovery program.
Hopper Mountain is among 540 wildlife refuges spread across the United States. The system was created in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt, who established the first refuge at Pelican Island off the east coast of Florida.
To mark the wildlife refuge system’s centennial in Fillmore, public officials buried a time capsule containing a dozen sanctuary-related items, including two California condor feathers and a radio transmitter and tag, which are placed on the birds’ wings when they are released into the wild to monitor and identify them.
The time capsule should be unearthed in 2103, said Marc Weitzel, project leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Hopper Mountain.
The mountains rising above Ventura County and stretching into Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Kern counties provide prime condor habitat, with their rocky cliffs, hidden caves and large pines for roosting.
The last wild condors in the area were taken into captivity in the 1980s, when the known condor population reached a low of 22. They are bred at three sites: the San Diego Wild Animal Park, the Los Angeles Zoo and a private center in Idaho run by the Peregrine Fund.
Today, more than 70 mostly captive-bred condors fly free over California and Arizona, as well as Baja California, Mexico.