Zion National Park's active role in the stewardship of the California Condors.

If you’ve had the good fortune of exploring Utah’s Zion National Park, we’ll bet that you brought home vivid memories of a lush, yet stark canyon carved by desert winds and the Virgin River over the course of millennia. Whether you stayed close to the shuttle stops for some quick out-and-back hikes, or climbed high to Observation Point, Zion is a place that creates valuable experiences time and again. You probably came across quite a few mule deer, or perhaps a desert tortoise, maybe a collared lizard or an elusive bighorn sheep.  But since June of 2019, the star of the show has turned out to be a condor family that’s expanded their nest and welcomed a rare chick into the world.  There’s 500 living California Condors right now (about half of them in the wild), and when you consider that in 1982 there were but 22 of them alive, it’s a pretty amazing feat.  We love a good comeback story, and we relish the chance to take whatever part we can in helping this family evolve. 

Given that Zion National Park is just a short drive from Salt Lake City, it’s no surprise that Wild Tribute boots are on the ground there on a consistent basis. The Zion National Park Forever Project has been a solid advocate for preserving the culture, geology, and wildlife of Zion National Park and we’re thankful to further our partnership with them in 2020 by supporting the Zion Condor Project.

The California Condor was added to the Endangered Species List in 1967. It’s the largest bird in North America, with a wingspan of almost 10’ and the ability to soar up to 15,000 feet of altitude.  In 1982, the total population of the species was down to just 22 birds.  To date, this is the 1000thCalifornia Condor that’s hatched since a breeding program began in the 80’s, so of course the Condor #1000 was dubbed “1K”. To illustrate just how rare this event is, one must consider that a breeding pair only gets the opportunity to lay an egg every other year.  And even then, there are no guarantees that it works out for the family.  But the odds go way up once the chick “fledges” the nest and begins to stretch its wings, testing the waters of what the world has to offer.  Then, for the first year of its existence, the fledgling relies heavily on its parents for survival.

 The mother of the chick, condor 409 (tag 9), hatched in 2006 at the San Diego Zoo and was released at the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument in 2008. The father, condor 523 (tag J3), hatched in 2009 at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, and was released in 2011 at the Vermilion Cliffs site. They have been together for two years since 409’s first mate (condor 337) died from lead poisoning in 2016. This family knows how to pick a nesting site.  Known for its many features, most notably the gorgeous 360-degree view from the top, Angel’s Landing is by far the highlight of anyone’s trip to Zion (and certainly worthy of a notch on your bucket list). Not a bad place to set your family ties, or to spread your wings and fly. Next time you’re in Zion Canyon, be sure to put your eyes to the sky.

Zion National Park has taken an active role in the stewardship of these rare birds since they were first reintroduced to the wild in 1992 and 1996.  They’re part of the Southwest Condor Working Group (which includes federal agencies like US Fish and Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Forest Service, and state wildlife agencies of Utah and Arizona). We know that we’ll be keeping an eye on 1K’s development, and we hope you will as well. This kind of teamwork and partnership shows how together we can and will make a difference, 4 The Parks.

The Zion National Park Forever Project engages in collaborative efforts with federal agencies, gateway communities, and guests to create connections to the Greater Zion Landscape that will lead to lifelong stewardship. By establishing business and agency partnerships, encouraging collaborative innovation, expanding educational opportunities, funding tangible projects, and leveraging resources, the Zion Forever Project is building the next generation of leaders and stewards.