'Love locks' littering Grand Canyon, threatening endangered condors

Officials classify the locks as littering and graffiti.

Grand Canyon National Park is warning visitors about the "love lock" trend, a practice where couples leave behind locks at a viewpoint to mark their relationship.

They've become a concern for park officials because they can harm the area's endangered condor population.

"People think putting a lock on fencing at viewpoints is a great way to show love for another person. It's not," Grand Canyon National Park said in a Facebook post.

"Leaving padlocks like this is littering and a form of graffiti. But because people will throw their padlock key into the canyon, the scenario becomes worse and more dangerous, specifically for a rare and endangered animal of the canyon."

Officials say condors are "curious" like a "small child" and are attracted to shiny things, like discarded keys.

They investigate things with their mouths and will sometimes eat the keys.

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But condors can't pass metal, which could become lodged in their digestive tracts. If they eat too many keys, it could result in injury or death.

In their post, officials included an X-ray image of a condor that required surgery after ingesting too may coins.

FACEBOOK - condor xray

Photo of a condor X-ray shared on Facebook (Grand Canyon National Park)

The warning extends beyond the Grand Canyon's rim. Objects, including padlocks and trash, are tossed into the canyon regularly.

The public announcement follows an October 2022 incident where three federal violation notices were issued to an individual suspected of littering and causing hazardous conditions with disorderly conduct.

The person had posted a video of herself hitting a golf ball into the Grand Canyon, which could carry a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to six months in prison USA Today reports.

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Header image: Photo of a love lock at Grand Canyon National Park posted to Facebook by officials.