The protection and restoration of the California condor continues to require difficult work. That work takes place in government offices, courtrooms, zoos, research labs, and many other locations. But a good argument can be made that the hardest work is in the field with the condors.
In 1983, condor field biologist Steve Kimple assembled a list of what his job required. Here are excerpts:
Carry a 75-pound pack crammed with food, clothing, and camping gear for a week, plus a car battery, coaxial cable, wire, an antenna and various other items used in telemetry work, for up to eight hours a day.
Scale 75-degree slopes while burdened with said pack.
Ability to scan the skies with binoculars and spotting scopes for periods of up to 14 hours at a time.
Ability to go without food for at least two days and to drink water with green stuff on top of it and crawly and wiggly things in it.
Must be able to identify mandibulation, dorsal wing stretch, urohydrosis and hundreds of other condor behaviors.
Must be able to sit in a 4′ x 4′ x 8′ box, with three other biologists/veterinarians, from dawn to dusk, making no noise at all, waiting for condors to come into your trapsite.
There is no stronger proof of the challenge presented by condor field work and the sacrifice involved than the life of Mike Tyner. Here are portions what US Representative Sam Farr said about Mike in the Congressional Record:
Mike was a field crew leader for the Ventana Wildlife Society’s California Condor Reintroduction Program. [He] graduated from California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology and Systematic Biology.
During the 2008 Big Sur wildfire, Mike and his team safely rescued seven captive condors that were held in a field pen in the fire’s path. Thanks in large part to Mike’s efforts, all biologists and condors were brought to safety.
During a powerful wind storm on November 30th, 2011, a falling tree branch struck and killed Mike when he was in the field in Big Sur, California, to ensure the safety of a newly released endangered condor.
Mike gave his life to help endangered species flourish, and his life is a reminder that we can all play a part in devoting ourselves to making the world a healthier and more beautiful place.
A number of those who have worked tirelessly to protect and restore California condors have written of their experiences. An exceptional example is Sophie Osborn’s account of the restoration of the condor to Arizona: Condors in Canyon Country. The book is based on her years of experience as field manager for this project. Readers will find an abundance of spectacular photographs of condors being condors. And thanks to Osborn’s fine writing, the dedication, passion, and sacrifice of condor field biologists comes through loud and clear.
Kimple, Steve. Looking for a job? Outdoor California. September 1983.
Farr, Sam. In honor of Mike Tyner. Congressional Record. 12 December 2012.
Osborn, Sophie A H. Condors in canyon country: the return of the California condor to the Grand Canyon region. Grand Canyon Association. 2007.