According to the US National Park Service, California condors are not currently extinct in the wild. There are small populations of these majestic birds in Arizona, Utah, California, and Baja California. For a time there were no California condors left in the wild, but they did not go completely extinct on their own. When biologists in the 1970s realized how rare these birds were, they made efforts to conserve the species that appeared as if they might fail. For this reason, the decision was made to capture all the remaining California condors and bring them into captive breeding areas.
The last wild condor was caught in April 1987. In total there were 27 birds left, and they were housed in two facilities in southern California. Later more breeding centers were opened in Idaho and Oregon. The breeding program proved to be successful, and new chicks began to be born. By 1999, there were 161 living California condors, and by 2016 that number had grown to 446.
The first captive-bred California condors were released back into the wild in 1992. Since then, condors have been released in various sites in central and southern California, Arizona, and Mexico. As of 2018, the total world population of California condors was 488, with 312 of them living in the wild.
Threats that face California condors in the wild include lead poisoning from lead-based ammunition that they accidentally ingest from carcasses of animals that have been shot. Other threats include poison bait, environmental pollutants, and contamination from pesticides that contain DDT, which erodes their eggs. They also sometimes fly into power lines and other man-made structures.