P.I. Hired in California Condor Case

Reward more than $40K

A conservation group based in Arizona has hired a private  investigator and has set up a hot line to help find those responsible for the  shootings of two endangered California condors in the Bay Area in recent  weeks.

The Center for Biological Diversity hired private investigator  Bruce Robertson of Los Angeles to assist the efforts of the California  Department of Fish and Game in investigating the shootings, Adam Keats,  director of the center's urban wildlands program, said today.

The first incident was reported March 10 when biologists from the  Ventana Wildlife Society found an adult male condor, known as #286, suffering  from 15 wounds from lead buckshot pellets, according to the California  Department of Fish and Game.

On March 26, this rare incident became a pattern when a wounded  young female condor, known as #375, was discovered in the same area in  Monterey County. She had three shotgun pellets lodged in her wing and thigh.

Both birds are alive, but Keats said it's not clear whether they  will ever be able to return to the wild. The condors were part of a flock  located near Big Sur, he said, and two of only 85 condors living in the wild  in California.

Keats said Thursday that the reward for information about the  shootings has also been increased to more than $40,000.

Keats said the increase in the reward is thanks to $8,000 from the  Ventana Wildlife Society in Monterey County and $2,500 from the Humane  Society of the United States.

The Ventana Wildlife Society had offered an initial reward of  $1,000 shortly after the birds were found last month. The Center for  Biological Diversity then announced a $30,000 reward earlier this week, with  the Wendy P. McCaw Foundation of Santa Barbara pledging $25,000 of that  amount and the center providing the rest.

Robertson, who was hired Thursday, said the reward helps people  cooperate with investigators.

The investigation "is not unlike solving the shooting of a person  or any other crime," Robertson said. "You gather the evidence available,  start piecing it together, follow any leads, and if you're working hard and  you're lucky, you'll solve the crime."

The Center for Biological Diversity also announced today the  establishment of a condor investigation hot line: (415) 632-5300. Anyone with  information about the shooting also can call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife  Service at (916) 414-6660, or the California Department of Fish and Game's  CalTIP program at (888) DFG-CALTIP.

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