Vaccine Approved as Bird Flu Kills Endangered Condors

California condors will be given vaccine after pilot safety study in vultures
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2023 1:30 AM CDT
Updated May 17, 2023 3:00 AM CDT
Bird Flu Kills Several California Condors
In this June 21, 2017, file photo, a California condor takes flight in the Ventana Wilderness east of Big Sur, Calif.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
UPDATE May 17, 2023 3:00 AM CDT

As avian influenza continues to wreak havoc, a vaccine has been granted emergency approval for use on California condors. Authorities worry bird flu could wipe out the critically endangered species, having killed more than a dozen of them already, the AP reports. There are fewer than 350 in the wild, living from the Pacific Northwest to Baja California, the Los Angeles Times reports. Starting this month, the vaccine will first be given to North American vultures, a similar species, to check for adverse effects before ultimately being given to the condors.

Apr 11, 2023 1:30 AM CDT

Bird flu killed at least three endangered California condors in Arizona last month and test results are pending on five other dead condors, authorities say. And another five birds showing symptoms of avian flu were captured and went to a wildlife rescue, where one soon died; its cause of death was not yet clear. The other four are quarantined and are being tested for the virus, the New York Times reports. The biggest-ever US outbreak of bird flu has been wreaking havoc among farmed birds and has also spread to mammals; the condor deaths are causing experts to worry for the safety of the endangered species, which was once down to just 23 remaining in the wild.

The dead birds are part of the same flock, a population that migrates between Utah and Arizona, NPR reports. They are expected to have increased exposure to avian flu while migrating north in the spring. So far, the virus has not been detected in other condor populations in California or Baja California, Mexico. California condors are the largest land birds in North America, with a wingspan of 9.5 feet, allowing them to fly vast distances. Habitat loss, hunting, lead poisoning from bullets, and the synthetic insecticide DDT have contributed to their decline, but by 2020, their population had grown to 504 birds after a 1980s project to breed the few remaining birds at that time in zoos and then reintroduce them to the wild. (More condors stories.)

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