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VENTURA FWO: Service Biologists Lead Hikes and a Kayaking Tour for Chumash Environmental Youth Camp
California-Nevada Offices , July 22, 2010
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Lena Chang from the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (center) and tribal youth learn about the elephant seal rookery in San Simeon, California. (photo: Michael Glenn, USFWS)
Lena Chang from the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (center) and tribal youth learn about the elephant seal rookery in San Simeon, California. (photo: Michael Glenn, USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a
Lena Chang from the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office informs Chumash youth about western snowy plover breeding habitat in Morro Bay, California. (photo: Michael Glenn, USFWS)
Lena Chang from the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office informs Chumash youth about western snowy plover breeding habitat in Morro Bay, California. (photo: Michael Glenn, USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a
Michael Glenn from the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office shows a garter snake to young members of the Chumash tribe at Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria, California. (photo: Lena Chang, USFWS)
Michael Glenn from the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office shows a garter snake to young members of the Chumash tribe at Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria, California. (photo: Lena Chang, USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a

by Lena Chang, Ventura FWO
This year, the Santa Inez Band of Chumash received a grant through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Connecting People with Nature program, for use towards their annual tribal youth environmental camp.  Participants included many volunteers and staff from the Santa Inez Band of Chumash Indians community, including their environmental and cultural offices.  Service biologists Michael Glenn and Lena Chang from the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office participated in the environmental camp, leading nature hikes and  kayaking tours in Morro Bay.

Tribal youth of all ages got  a first-hand look at the famous elephant seal rookery in San Simeon, California. They were thrilled to see the enormous animals, and were enthusiastic about learning facts about how deep the seals can dive (up to 5,000 feet), how long they can hold their breath (up to two hours) and how much they can weigh (males can approach 5,000 pounds). A docent from Friends of the Elephant Seals shared many interesting facts about elephant seals, and passed around a small piece of sloughed elephant seal fur that the tribal youth were able to feel and see up close. 

After some time at the elephant seal rookery, everyone loaded up and proceeded to Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria. The group was welcomed by the camp director, who gave a tour and checked the campers into their cabins. After a great organic lunch and proper introductions, it was time for everyone to head out for a hike.

The campers, ready for collecting new information in their waterproof field journals and global positioning system (GPS) units, joined Michael and Lena for an ecology hike. Species of interest that were seen were logged into the GPS units, and the campers wrote in their journals about all that they learned. Mike led half the group on a native plant ecology hike, while Lena led the other half on a bird ecology hike. The groups later switched so both groups had a chance to learn something new. Some plant and animal species observed on the hike included coast live oak, coyote brush, yerba buena, soap plant, coffeeberry, sticky monkey flower, poison oak, Monterey pine, scrub jay, acorn woodpecker, turkey vulture, California quail, and California towhee. The tribal youth and accompanying adults were excited to learn new information and how to identify native species.

The day progressed with a snake and bird lesson by the camp director, incorporating live gopher and king snakes, and a resident red-tailed hawk and great horned owl. Michael pitched in with snake knowledge, and Lena with the birds. Everyone was very excited to meet these critters first hand.  After dinner, the group moved on to tomahawk throwing and archery. After dark, it was time for a campfire and cultural lessons with Chumash songs and traditional games. 

The next morning, a handful of the tribal youth went on an ocean fishing trip, while the rest joined Mike and Lena on a kayaking tour of Morro Bay. Many of the campers had not been kayaking before. As the group paddled through the harbor, they stopped to discuss various birds that were seen, including the California brown pelican. Mike and Lena shared the history of the species with the campers, discussing reasons for its decline, and how recovery and its ultimate delisting were achieved. The campers then paddled to the sand spit that provides breeding habitat for the Western snowy plover. 

Habitat for the Western snowy plover was demarcated with signage and rope barriers. Lena explained to the campers the unique nesting methods practiced by the plovers, and the importance of protecting their habitat. The group walked around the dune and beach areas, and Mike pointed out more native plants. Just as they were ready to turn around and head back to the kayaks, an adult Western snowy plover ran past quickly with its legs a blur. 

Kayaking back to the boat dock, the group was treated with a visit from a southern sea otter. Everyone heard the tap-tap-tapping of the shell of the otter’s food against the rock held against its chest. The campers stopped paddling, and watched as the otter would dive for more food and resurface in a new spot. Everyone had a great look at the playful sea otter, and went back to the boat dock very satisfied after a great day of kayaking fun.

 


Contact Info: Lena Chang, 805-644-1766 x 302, lena_chang@fws.gov



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