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Power line kills condor in Arizona

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A second California condor released in the Grand Canyon transplant program was killed after it flew into a high-tension power line.

The condor, called No. 51, was found dead on Sunday. Its tail-mounted radio transmitter and a few feathers were found beneath the power lines, and the dead bird was found about a half-mile south of the power line.The condor was among six released in December. That release marked the first time the birds have flown in Arizona since 1924. Four others were released last week.

One of the original six birds, No. 42, was killed in December in an encounter with a golden eagle.

The state Game and Fish Department said that No. 51 was not immediately killed by the power line but struggled away to a rocky outcrop before it moved to a sandy area and died. The power line is east of Page.

The bird, a female, was the youngest of the original six, said Mark Vekasy, a Peregrine Fund biologist and field crew supervisor of the release area. Biologists from the group are managing the release.

"We expected a certain level of mortality with the young birds. It's going to be a learning experience for them," he said Tuesday.

Scientists found large fresh mammal tracks near the rocky area and suspect the mammal flushed the condor out.

Preliminary necropsy results could be finished this week.

The birds are equipped with transmitters and tags on their 9-foot wings that allow their flights to be tracked by a field crew based at the Vermilion Cliffs, about 30 miles north of the Grand Canyon.

For now, workers are leaving carcasses near the cliffs. The scavengers eventually will learn to find carrion for themselves. The field crews also are moving the carcasses farther and farther away from the Vermilion Cliffs, to which the birds have been returning, and towards the Grand Canyon.

Humans shot, poached and poisoned California condors until only nine birds remained in the wild in 1985.

Captive breeding has increased the condor population to about 120. The first condors were released in the coastal mountains of central California in 1992.

The government hopes to establish wild populations in both California and Arizona, with a population of 150 birds at each site.