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Condor Wilderness Camp

This program is for 13-18 year olds interested in learning what it takes to be a wildlife field biologist working with endangered species. This is an intense field experience and is not for the faint of heart!

California Condor

Over three days, teens will:

  • Meet condor biologists
  • Learn about the Condor Reintroduction Program
  • Track wild condors using radio telemetry
  • Participate in a work project benefiting the condors
  • Camp along the coast and at our remote condor base camp

Since 1977 Ventana Wildlife Society has been involved with conservation ecology and species recovery. Having successfully restored the Peregrine Falcon and Bald Eagle in our earlier days, we continue to restore the California Condor through our rearing and reintroduction efforts in Central California. We currently assists in managing over 60 California Condors in the wild, with a goal of seeing 150 free-flying birds including 15 breeding pairs in central California.

In summer 2007 we piloted our Condor Wilderness Camp for teens, taking small groups students to our remote condor sanctuary and base camp in Big Sur. The program gives youth a unique chance to take an active role in our Condor Reintroduction Program and experience what it is like to be a field wildlife biologist. We believe that education at all levels is the foundation of any recovery effort, and that building passion for the environment is the first step toward building strong leadership and stewardship.

What to Expect
On the first day we will head to our Discovery Center in Andrew Molera State Park for an orientation on VWS and the Condor Recovery Program. After learning about radio telemetry technology and how it is used to manage the Big Sur condor flock, we will head down Highway 1 to track the birds. The first night is spent camping along the coast, usually at Andrew Molera State Park. The next day we will head up to Condor Base Camp for the second night of camping. While at base camp we will track birds, participate in a work project benefiting the Condor Recovery Program if one is available, and place supplemental food for the wild flock. Camping is a large part of the experience and everyone will be expected to take an active part in camp chores such as camp set up, break down, cooking and cleaning.

Supplemental Feeding Activity
The actual feeding slope is quite steep, and can be slippery even when not wet – sturdy shoes are recommended. Donning latex gloves, we will drag supplemental food items out onto the slope. These items may include the carcasses of rats, rabbits or calves. Calves are typically staked to the ground so that the birds do not drag the carcass out of sight while feeding. If at any time anyone is bothered by this activity, they will not be required to participate. An optional activity is to clean out the condor water pool and refill with fresh water, or to simply spend the time star gazing at the top of the slope. The next morning will hopefully be spent observing condors on the feeding slope!

The Condors Themselves
All of the condors we currently manage are free-flying wild animals. We place food after dark so there is less risk of the birds associating the food with humans. While the birds are curious and may often come close to investigate, it is our responsibility to move away to a distance that is safe for ourselves as well as the birds. It is important to always keep in mind that while we might want to get closer to a wild animal, it is in the animal’s best interest to keep our distance to encourage natural behavior.

Condor Rearing and Release Facility (Base Camp)
Our base camp is located 17 miles up a private dirt road at an elevation of 2,800 feet. There are no bathrooms along the way. Although it is a relatively short distance, the drive is slow going and takes an average of 1 ½ hours. 

There is a small cabin that our field biologists use. We will set up tents in the yard area. We will have access to a flush toilet and running water for drinking and dishes only. Water for base camp as well as the condors comes from a small pristine spring, and is a precious commodity. Rattle snakes and scorpions can be quite common in the mountains of Big Sur. We will provide tents for sleeping outside, and close toed shoes must be worn at all times.

Base camp is a very special place. As much as possible, low voices should be used in order to not disturb condors and other wildlife. During the day, hummingbirds dart about the feeder hanging from the front porch. Our resident rattle snake is very laid back and non-confrontational - if it comes out of hiding, consider yourself lucky! Golden and Bald Eagles have been seen here as well as many other bird species. Madrone and oak trees provide shade on hot days, and help camouflage the cabin and yard area. As the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean, condors fly in to roost and compete with each other for the prime perches on the pines. Bats can be seen zipping after insects and often more than one screech owl can be heard. On clear nights, the stars seem to go on forever. We look forward to sharing this beautiful and remote area of Big Sur with you!

For more information, or to sign up
Call 831-455-9514, or email Alena Porte
Alena Porte
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