Yurok Condor Restoration Program
Yurok Condor Restoration Program
The reintroduction and management of California condors (Gymnogyps californianus) is one of the Yurok Tribe’s flagship conservation projects. The Yurok Tribe, National Park Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are partners in the Northern California Condor Restoration Program (NCCRP) —
the collaborative effort to restore condors to Yurok Ancestral Territory and the Pacific Northwest. Through these efforts, the Yurok Condor Restoration Program (YCRP) endeavors to reestablish an apex scavenger that has been absent for more than a century, restore the balance and biodiversity that existed prior to Euro-American colonization of the region, and promote a thriving ecology for the benefit of wildlife and humans.
The Yurok Tribe is one of many indigenous cultures that considers condors sacred. California condors, or prey-go-neesh in Yurok, have been spiritually tied to the Yurok Hlkelonah — the cultural and ecological landscape — since the beginning of the world. Condors feature prominently in the Tribe’s origin narrative, and its feathers and songs are foundational components of Yurok World Renewal ceremonies. Management and conservation of condors in Yurok Ancestral Territory and the Pacific Northwest is part of the Yurok Tribe’s obligation to restore balance to the world. YCRP seeks to return the condor to the integral role it plays in healthy ecosystems and, in doing so, to renew and strengthen the spiritual lifeways of the many tribes who revere this majestic species.
Condors provide crucial ecological services and are significant contributors to the process of removing the remains of large carcasses from the landscape. As obligate scavengers — organisms that feed exclusively on dead animals — condors utilize their powerful bills to tear through tough hides, making those carcasses available to smaller scavengers, such as turkey vultures, ravens, crows, raccoons, foxes, and skunks. Condors are particularly important in places where other large scavengers, such as wolves and grizzly bears, have been extirpated. Intact scavenger communities benefit ecosystems not only by removing large carcasses, but also by reducing the potential for disease propagation and transmission in native and non-native species. Condors also possess a specialized gastrointestinal microbiome which enables them to eliminate a variety of harmful bacteria and toxins, including anthrax, botulism, and cholera. The importance of condors to the ecological and cultural communities of the Pacific Northwest was a driving force in the initiation of this ambitious endangered species recovery project.
Contribute to California Condor Recovery
Click on the condor icon, below, to learn how you can support condor conservation and the Yurok Condor Restoration Program mission to reestablish this magnificent and culturally important species to Yurok Ancestral Territory and the Pacific Northwest.
Or click on the Donate button to go directly to our donation portal.
Wok-hlew’ (Thank you)
In 2008, the Yurok Tribe Wildlife Program was created, with California condor reintroduction as its principal focus — a process that involved more than a decade of preliminary analyses and inter-entity collaboration. The Wildlife Program understood the challenges faced by the existing California Condor Recovery Program (CCRP) reintroduction sites in achieving self-sustaining condor populations, and sought to identify whether the Pacific Northwest, which appeared to have relatively lower human population densities, fewer anthropogenic threats, and more abundant resources, could be a favorable region for condor recovery.
As part of the Environmental Assessment developed for National Environmental Policy Act compliance, the Wildlife Program investigated the prevalence of environmental contaminants, including lead and DDT, in northern California — toxins which limit the recovery of the species at other reintroduction locations.
Adult California condor. Photo: YCRP
The results of those studies suggest that northern California may have much lower levels of these contaminants as compared with other sampled locations within the current range of the condor. The Environmental Assessment also included habitat suitability analyses, which sought to identify whether the Pacific Northwest had the natural resources required to support a thriving condor population. Those analyses suggest that the diversity of ecological systems, the abundance of late-successional and old-growth forest communities, the plentiful marine resources along long stretches of undeveloped coastline, and the mosaic of prairies and woodlands, all make northern California a potential refuge for the condor and a gateway to the Pacific Northwest for the recovery of the species. During this process, the Wildlife Program also emphasized community outreach, with messaging that focused on condor biology, ecosystem stewardship, and the benefits of selecting non-lead ammunition for hunting and land management — efforts which resulted in the creation of the Wildlife Program’s Hunters as Stewards project.
YCRP and regional partner Redwood National Park are members of both the NCCRP and the CCRP. Along with many other entities and organizations that are collaborating on this momentous conservation initiative, YCRP is fulfilling the Yurok Tribe’s objectives to restore prey-go-neesh to Yurok Ancestral Territory and the Pacific Northwest after a century-long absence, reestablish the species in the northern portion of its historical range, advance the mission of the CCRP, and benefit the ecology and indigenous cultures of the region.
Get to know the species on our Learn about California Condors webpage
Follow the work of some of our partners in the
California Condor Recovery Program