Welcome to the Yurok Condor Program
The Yurok Condor Reintroduction Initiative is now in the final stages of the required, formal process associated with returning the culturally invaluable species to the heart of its historical range. A National Environmental Policy Act project review, which began in January, 2017, is the last hurdle before condors can be reintroduced into the Tribe’s ancestral territory. A favorable NEPA document will pave the way for the Tribe and its partners to build a release facility and release a managed flock of birds into the wild. to see what the Tribe has done to date to bring the condor back to Yurok Country.
Returning the California condor to the Pacific Northwest is part of the Yurok Tribe’s obligation to heal the world. Yurok people consider the condor a sacred animal. It has been spiritually tied to Yurok ceremonies since the beginning of the world. Its feathers are used and its songs are sung in the World Renewal ceremony, in which Yuroks pray and fast to balance the world. The condor is also critical for a flourishing ecosystem. In the absence of large mammalian carnivores such as grizzly bears and wolves, condors do the “lion’s share” of work in removing large, decaying carcasses from the ecosystem. They can tear tough hides to open large carcasses and make them accessible to other scavengers such as turkey vultures, ravens, raccoons, skunks, and foxes.
Yurok Country is an ideal location in which to reintroduce condors, with relatively pristine habitat and miles of undeveloped forests, prairies, and beaches. Most of the extractive industries, such as timber, have run their course or have adopted more environmentally sound methods that would not adversely affect condors. The rugged, empty coastline and the barren, mountaintop meadows of the North Coast could provide vast soaring and foraging opportunities for the massive birds. Additionally, the rebound of California sea lions and gray whales would also produce ample food for condors. Evidence indicates that condors nested here on high-country cliff faces and in ancient redwoods, both of which are still here waiting for the species to take up residence again.
Yurok Tribe Wildlife Program biologists have confirmed that Yurok Ancestral Territory is indeed safe for reintroductions to begin. They have sampled seals and sea lions for organochlorine pesticides such as DDT and DDE, which negatively affect condor reproduction through the same thinning of eggshells as once threatened bald eagles, and found them to be lower than elsewhere in California. They also have trapped turkey vultures and ravens to test their blood for lead exposure from ingested ammunition. They have mapped potential condor habitat, conducted hunter education programs, and assessed potential release sites.