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caption: California condor flies over Bittercreek Wildlife Refuge in California.
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California condor flies over Bittercreek Wildlife Refuge in California.
Credit: Chuck Graham

California’s condor: the dinosaur bird

We meet a few of the many people who are out to save the California condor, including a man who turned from crime to condors and a life mission to remove killer lead from this magnificent bird’s ecosystem.

California condors are so iconic that when I finally saw one in person, it felt a bit like meeting a movie star. Condors were one of 78 species listed on the original endangered species list in 1967. And they are still on it. That's 54 years of living on the edge.

But seeing one, I was stuck with the resiliency and magic of these birds.

Condors are huge. They have a 9 foot wingspan and a bald, orange pumpkin like head. They are North America's biggest bird. They have long white triangles that look like they've been painted down the underside of their wings. And giant feathers that fan out at the tips, like huge outstretched flamenco dancer fingers.

caption: Host Chris Morgan (left) sits in the backyard of Anthony Prieto (right) who advocates for hunters to use lead free ammunition to protect condors.
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Host Chris Morgan (left) sits in the backyard of Anthony Prieto (right) who advocates for hunters to use lead free ammunition to protect condors.
Credit: Chuck Graham

But today, their future lies at the mercy of a hidden threat….lead. And it is poisoning them. But these birds have brought together a curious team of people who love them, and are doing everything they can to make sure they are around for not just another 54 years, but well beyond all of us.

caption: California Condor 28 at Bittercreek Refuge. Each member of the condor population is number to track them.
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California Condor 28 at Bittercreek Refuge. Each member of the condor population is number to track them.
Credit: Chuck Graham

Recommended links from Chris Morgan:

California Condor Recovery Program

Anthony Prieto Instagram

Non-Lead Hunter - Anthony Prieto's film

THE WILD is a production of KUOW in Seattle in partnership with Chris Morgan and Wildlife Media. It is produced by Matt Martin and edited by Jim Gates. It is hosted, produced and written by Chris Morgan. Fact checking by Apryle Craig. Our theme music is by Michael Parker.