The California Fish and Game Commission authorized researchers to steal one egg and one chick from California condors' nests in the $1 million effort to save the rare bird.
The decision marked a significant escalation of the condor campaign, which has been restricted this year to an unsuccessful effort to capture and breed a nearly adult condor. The commission authorized for next season the capture of one female condor as a mate for Topatopa, a male condor in the Los Angeles zoo.
The commission said if a male or an unsuitable female condor was found in the researchers' nets, they could fit two such birds with transmitters to track their movements. A federal official at the hearing expressed disagreement with that restriction; federal researchers had hoped to be able to track at least two condors, whether they managed to net a suitable female for breeding immediately.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a state spokesman said, had asked for permission to take three eggs for incubation, since two eggs had recently been destroyed by ravens and quarreling condor parents. But state commission members said they felt this would require too much disruption of the small southern California mountain home of the huge bird, whose numbers have dwindled to 30 or fewer.