Can They Go Home Again?

Its majestic wings once cast large shadows all over North America. The bird was a survivor. When saber-toothed cats and other big animals died off about 10,000 years ago, the California condor retreated to the carrion-rich Pacific coast and survived. A Spanish priest recorded seeing one in 1602; Lewis and Clark spotted another in 1805.

But a 20th century plague of hunting and lead poisoning brought Gymnogyps californianus to near extinction. Biologists trapped the last wild California condor in 1987, and 27 birds remained as genetic "founders" for a breeding program that has produced 25 additional birds, including the two freed...

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