howls of derision from conservatives who think any money spent helping wildlife survive man's radical alteration of the planet is a waste. Questions were asked about the efficacy of man's intervention in their pending extinction, but also about the ethics of doing so given the birds notoriously slow reproductive rate. Female condors lay one egg every other year. A captive breeding program was set up when only 22 wild condors remained. Chicks are hand reared by humans wearing condor sock puppets on their hands to prevent imprinting on humans.[photo, below] Juveniles are then carefully reintroduced into the wild. Each bird is tagged with prominent number tags on their wings. They are fed carcasses to prevent them from ingesting all sorts of human detritus. Condors are especially found of sparkly metal objects like bottle caps. Occasionally birds need to recaptured and chelated to clean out their digestive tracts. So although the birds live in the wild, they are not yet completely independent of their caretakers. The program has been very expensive. In 2007 the US Fish & Wildlife reported the program cost about $2 million a year.
Ecohealth notes that this dependence may be changing for the better, although wilder behaviors are associated with lower survival rates. Condors once flew all over North America, now they have a range confined to the southwestern United States where they have been reintroduced.