Did you know that this scavenger gets food poisoning, but maybe not in the “rotten meat” way you think. In the 1980s, California condors (Gymnogyps californianus) were considered extinct in the wild due to many factors, but largely from unintentional lead poisoning from bullet fragments left in terrestrial animal carcasses. Due to captive breeding there are now populations in both inland and coastal habitats. Marine mammal carcasses are considered an important part of the costal population diet, however, marine mammals accumulate contaminants in their blubber. In comparison to the inland population, the coastal population has higher concentrations of mercury and pesticides in their blood which poses new risks to the continued conservation of condors.
[Photo by Nick Chudeau and caption by Karli Chudeau]
Kurle, C. M., Bakker, V. J., Copeland, H., Burnett, J., Jones Scherbinski, J., Brandt, J., & Finkelstein, M. E. (2016). Terrestrial scavenging of marine mammals: Cross-ecosystem contaminant transfer and potential risks to endangered California condors (Gymnogyps californianus). Environmental Science & Technology, 50(17), 9114-9123.