LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST — A second California condor hatched in the wild has been found dead here, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
The death of the 5-month-old bird leaves just one chick of the original three left in the wild. Two weeks ago, the first condor to hatch in the wild in nearly two decades was found dead.
The latest death was discovered Tuesday by a biologist watching the chick in a cave in the Sespe Condor Refuge, located deep in the Los Padres National Forest. Biologist Allan Mee said he hadn’t seen any signs of the bird and thought it might have flown away.
“But when the father pulled the chick out of the shadows of the cave, I realized it was dead,” he said.
A cause of the bird’s death has not been determined.
Biologists were trying to reach the dead animal Thursday after a U.S. Forest Service helicopter was turned away by fog. The bird will be taken to the San Diego Zoo to undergo a necropsy.
Biologists said the bird’s mother had elevated levels of lead in her blood. Both parents were susceptible to lead poisoning because they foraged for food, and could have passed the lead on to the chick, they said.
The father of the chick that died earlier this month is missing and presumed dead. That bird was found dead on a ledge on Oct. 4.
That chick’s hatching was considered a milestone in the condor breeding program.