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Biologists say first California condor chick born in Utah

By Jennifer Dobner

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A pair of California condors have successfully hatched a chick in the rocky peaks of Utah's Zion National Park, biologists have said, in what is believed to be the first birth of its kind in the Western state.

Biologists from the non-profit Peregrine Fund found the nest by tracking signals from tiny radio and global positioning system transmitters placed on the adult birds. Its exact location is being withheld under the Endangered Species Act.

"This is the first documented occurrence of California condors raising a chick in Utah," Eddie Feltes, a condor project manager with the Peregrine Fund, said Tuesday in a statement. 

"This is great news. This pair of condors, and their newly-hatched chick, could be a major step toward California condors reestablishing themselves in southern Utah."

A reintroduction program is underway in southern Utah and northern Arizona with support from state and federal agencies including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management, as well as the Boise, Idaho-based Peregrine Fund.

The condor chick is not expected to try to fly until November or December and its parents will spend a full year raising it, said Keith Day, a regional wildlife biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Day said California condors typically produce one chick every other year, and that this pair would not likely nest again until early 2016.

Fred Armstrong, head of resource management and research at Zion National Park, said the nest location is being kept secret in part because of the high level of public interest.

"Our top priorities are to allow the chick to grow and develop in a natural environment without significant human influence, keep it safe, and to protect park resources in the area where the chick is located," he said.

(Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Walsh)

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