Scientists Look for Survivors After Thomas Fire Scorches Condor Sanctuary in Los Padres National Forest

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Joseph Brandt looks out over the Los Padres Sespe Condor Sanctuary in this undated photo. (Credit: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Joseph Brandt looks out over the Los Padres Sespe Condor Sanctuary in this undated photo. (Credit: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Pushed by instinct and age, a fledgling California condor had been expected to step to the edge of its cliff-side cave sometime in December and, with black-and-white wings flapping hard, make its first flight over the scrubby terrain of the Los Padres Sespe Condor Sanctuary.

But then the Thomas fire broke out.

The blaze ripped across Los Padres National Forest and into the 53,000-acre sanctuary, where 80 of the state’s 172 free-flying condors spend much of their time.

On Dec. 15, the 11th day of the fire, scientists lost contact with a radio transmitter attached to the turkey-size chick known as No. 871 as flames raced toward its closet-size cave. Days later a biologist chaperoned by a strike team from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection picked up a faint ping with an uneven tempo coming from the vicinity of the condor’s nest, but the findings were inconclusive.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.