The Grand Canyon is urging romantic visitors to stop attaching “love locks” to fencings and railings, a popular practice that park officials say poses a lethal threat to endangered California condors that inhabit the area.
Love locks, padlocks that couples connect to bridges, fences, and other public structures as a symbol of their everlasting love, are increasingly appearing at scenic viewpoints along the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. But park officials say these acts of love are merely vandalism and littering that put condors and other wildlife at risk.
“Leaving padlocks like this is littering and a form of graffiti,” the park posted on its Facebook page Tuesday morning. “If a condor ingests too many objects like this, it could die.”
With fewer than 500 California condors existing in the wild today, the giant scavenger birds are critically endangered. Condors will eat trash like coins and bottlecaps, and the metal padlocks and keys can get fatally lodged in their digestive tracts. One alarming x-ray image (see below) released by the park shows a condor with over two dozen coins filling its stomach.
Signs placed around the Canyon’s scenic vistas discourage visitors from throwing anything into the canyon or defacing property. “Objects are thrown from the rim every day. Padlocks and trash are not anomalies limited to Grand Canyon,” one such sign reads.
The park’s blunt Facebook message aims to curb the practice: “Love is strong, but it is not as strong as our bolt cutters.” Officials say they will remove all love locks found on park grounds.
Park rangers have cracked down on other recent incidents of littering and vandalism at the landmark. In October 2022, a woman was issued three federal violation notices for disorderly conduct and littering after she hit golf balls and tossed a club into the canyon. She had posted video of the stunt on social media. The maximum penalty is a $5,000 fine and six months imprisonment.
As one of America’s most beloved natural treasures that draws over 6 million visitors per year, the Grand Canyon depends on tourists acting responsibly. Park officials urge visitors to appreciate the landmark without defacing it, and to protect endangered species like the California condor by properly disposing of trash and avoiding destructive behavior. They say the best way to show one’s love is by helping preserve the park for future generations.
Cover photo courtesy of: National Park Service