The Grand Canyon and the surrounding areas are home to some of the most magnificent animals in the entire animal kingdom. With great diversity of wildlife and several preservationist organizations, the species of this area are some of the most well-guarded in the world, making the canyon an ideal place to release threatened animals to allow their repopulation.
Reintroduced to the northern Arizona wilds in the early to mid-1990s, the California condor is one of the area’s rarest specimens. The single largest land bird in North America, this black and white vulture-like bird has a wingspan of up to 9.8 feet and the ability to live as long as 60 years. Banished to obscurity by poaching and habitat destruction, the 22 remaining California condor were taken into a sanctuary in 1987, and to this day, the species thrives in small numbers.
Not all is doom and gloom for the California condor, however, because a seasonal park ranger for the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado named Franz Carver spotted – and successfully photographed – N8, a California condor that was lost and feared to be dead. N8 hails from the Grand Canyon National Park, he’s two years old, and we’re overjoyed that he’s doing well.
Here are a few fun-facts about the California condor that we haven’t already covered:
– California condor don’t kill – they only eat already-dead animals
– About 237 California condor are believed to live freely in North America
– The California condor prefers rocky, forested habitats
– A California condor may fly as much as 150 miles in a single day
– Many of these birds live in caves or tree cavities
The story of how Carver found this incredible specimen of Grand Canyon wildlife is quite interesting. At first, Carver couldn’t believe his eyes. As a massive bird enthusiast who spends much of his free time searching for new and exciting species, Carver didn’t think he may ever see the elusive California condor, but when he crossed paths with N8, he knew he couldn’t miss this chance. He readied his camera, originally assuming the bird to be a turkey buzzard, but the sheer size of the 2-year-old condor tipped him off. As soon as he saw the picture he had taken, he knew this was something extraordinary.
After making his discovery, Carver contacted Janice Stroud-Settles, the Grand Canyon National Park’s wildlife biologist, to tell her the good news. Stroud-Settles had received reports of the rare bird in Colorado, but this was the first time photographic proof had been presented. As recently as February, N8 had been listed as “missing and feared dead”, but thanks to Carver’s photograph, that listing can now be changed to “alive and well”.
N8 was released near the Grand Canyon National Park in June of last year, and this 2-year-old California condor should still have a good 50-60 years ahead of him, but in the meantime, it’s good to have a little peace of mind. What endangered species are you most worried about? Have you ever seen an interesting or unusual animal near the Grand Canyon or one of America’s other National Parks? Let us know in the comments section below!