The term “microtrash” refers to small bits of trash such broken glass, bottle caps, bullet casings, and other smaller broken down pieces of trash, all of which pose a serious threat to condors. Being scavengers and naturally curious, condors are attracted to these small, often shiny, foreign objects and collect them in their crop — which presents an issue when they are also collecting food scraps to feed their young.
When microtrash is brought to the nest and regurgitated by an adult condor, it is often ingested by condor chicks and these chicks are not able to regurgitate like their adult counterparts. Therefore, microtrash can get stuck in the stomach of condor chicks and cause impaction, which prevents them from digesting food, resulting in starvation and death if condor biologists do not intervene and surgically remove the trash.
As part of our efforts to protect wildlife, ForestWatch has been organizing volunteer microtrash cleanups in critical condor habitat since 2007. Microtrash is a widespread problem throughout Los Padres National Forest, and while we’re working to get as much as we can, we can’t get it all.
In order to ensure that we can get the most out of our volunteer efforts, we coordinate with condor biologists with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to identify priority sites. These selected sites most often end up being atop high peaks deep in the Los Padres that offer spectacular views of the surrounding area – but unfortunately all too often host irresponsible target shooters, OHV users, and rowdy camping groups.
Yet, our dedicated volunteers are there to respond, and one bit of trash at a time, we’ve been able to remove thousands of pounds of microtrash throughout the Los Padres. All the while, our staff works diligently to ensure that forest officials increase their enforcement efforts and take other measures to reduce the amount of trash left behind in the first place.
As of the end of 2014, ForestWatch volunteers have removed 11,440 pounds of microtrash from 37 sites in the Los Padres National Forest.
If you’re interested in doing your part to save the California Condor, click the button below or contact ForestWatch at volunteer@LPFW.org or 805.617.4610 ext. 3 to join our list of dedicated, fun-loving, adventurous volunteers today. You’ll receive monthly announcements about upcoming events and ways to get involved.