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The Bakersfield Californian:
Officials Probing Slaying Of Condor
By STEVE E. SWENSON, Californian staff writer
Tuesday April 01, 2003, 11:06:21 PM
Federal prosecutors are reviewing a criminal case against a suspect in the
shooting death of an endangered California condor, officials confirmed Tuesday.
The condor was found Feb. 13 within the Tejon Ranch, officials said.
Satellite and radio transmitters on the bird were used to find it,
A Tehachapi man who is reportedly a suspect in the shooting referred
comment Tuesday to his attorney, who then declined comment. Because the man
has not been arrested or charged in the case, his name is not being used in
Tejon Ranch runs a number of hunting programs on it huge, 270,000-acre,
holdings, but it isn't clear if the suspect was part of an organized or
authorized outing. A criminal investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service has been given to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Fresno, but no
decision has been made on whether to file criminal charges, Fish and
Wildlife investigator Brett Dickerson said.
Dickerson said he could not say anything more about the matter.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan B. Conklin in Fresno said he could not
comment on any case under review. Previously, officials have refused to say
where the condor, known as AC-8 (adult condor-8), was found.
But now that the investigation is in the hands of federal prosecutors,
Hopper Mountain Refuge Manager Mark Hall for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service confirmed that he found the dead bird after entering the Tejon
Ranch east of Grapevine.
Hall said it took him and a ranch employee about an hour after entering the
ranch property to find the carcass.
Tejon Ranch General Counsel Dennis Mullins said Tuesday that there is an
ongoing investigation into the shooting of AC-8, and he would not comment
at all on that matter. He said he would not confirm any information about
where the bird was found.
He said generally, however, "We think the shooting of a condor is a
terrible act. We hope the individual is arrested, indicted and brought to
AC-8, believed to be more than 30 years old, was the last female condor to
be trapped. She was captured in 1986 and released back to the wild after 1992.
The bird had a satellite transmitter which was tracked at least daily, and
a radio transmitter that was tracked by government biologists near it in
the wild, Hall said. It was because there was no detectable movement by the
bird in three days, that Hall went out looking for it, he said.
The satellite transmitter, which operates through NASA, gives a generalized
location of the bird, he said. Once trackers are near the bird, radio
transmitters can be used to pinpoint its specific location, he said. Hall
said he didn't know the exact location of where the bird was found except
that it was east of the Grapevine in the mountains on Tejon Ranch property.
The ranch has a variety of hunting programs, Mullins said. They are closely
coordinated with the state Department of Fish and Game.
He noted that licensed hunters know what they can and cannot kill.
Illegal hunting, including trespassing, occurs on the sprawling ranch, he
said. Despite efforts to stop it, it is more typical that illegal hunting
activity is discovered after it has occurred, but when it is discovered as
it happens, the ranch recommends arrest and prosecution, Mullins said.He
noted that the ranch area includes 51 parcels of land which are
privately owned and completely surrounded by ranch property.
The circumstances of how AC-8 was killed were not disclosed, and officials
would not comment on various reports of how it happened.
Violation of the Federal Endangered Species Act carries a maximum penalty
of one year in jail and a $100,000 fine.
If the shooter thought he was killing a buzzard such as a turkey vulture,
that is also illegal under the migratory bird act, officials said.
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