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Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Pacific Southwest Highlights

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The fire crew from the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex

The Woolsey Fire burned nearly 100,000 acres from inland Thousand Oaks to the seaside town of Malibu, in November 2018. When it was finally contained, a team of scientists struck out to visit sites where California red-legged frogs were reintroduced in the hope that some the struggling population had survived. Credit: Ashley McConnell/USFWS

‘All is not lost’ – Rare California red-legged frogs fight for survival following SoCal wildfire

Amid an ashy creek bed in the Simi Hills, rare frogs are fighting for survival following the Woolsey Fire, which swept across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties this November, prompting mass evacuations. While thousands of residents fled their homes, California red-legged frogs, a threatened species, hunkered down in creek bottoms, and waited.

Fueled by persistent Santa Ana winds, the Woolsey Fire burned nearly 100,000 acres, destroying more than 1,500 homes, businesses, and other structures from inland Thousand Oaks to the seaside town of Malibu.

Nearly half of the Santa Monica Mountains burned, including sites where California red-legged frogs were reintroduced in recent years to help boost the dwindling population.

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Bruce Hall, from Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, has participated in several Maintenance Action Team projects and puts the skills he learns to work throughout the year. Credit: USFWS

Black-necked stilts are seen here at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Willows, Calif. In Bransford’s fields, black-necked stilts, avocets and mallards raise their young. To help them, he creates higher ground above the flooded fields for nesting, and mows the field edges only after they nest.
Credit: John Heil/USFWS

Maximizing every drop – Rice farmers, duck hunters work with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited for ‘world class habitat’

The rice fields are his home away from home. Don Bransford, a third-generation rice farmer in Colusa, California, has been growing the grain since 1980.

His 1,200-acre farm is in the Sacramento Valley, which on the whole supplies the country with nearly all of its sushi rice. Each spring, the farmer levels his fields, adds five inches of water, and, by plane, plants soaked rice seed from the air. He maintains the water level until the grain is ready to harvest in the fall.

The rice isn’t the only thing out there. Over 200 types of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have been documented to use rice fields.

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Condor biologist Joseph Brandt nets condor #20 and prepares to bring him outside the flight pen for his health check. Since 2008, more California condors have flown free in the wild than are held in captivity. Credit: Rebecca Fabbri/USFWS

'We got #20': Generations of biologists and volunteers track one of the last wild condors

“We got 20,” said biologist Nicole Weprin, nodding toward the 30-foot-tall pen of flapping, black-and-white wings.

Not 20 birds. And not just any bird. A single, storied male California condor called #20 – labeled by a fluorescent orange and black tag affixed to his wing and tracked by several generations of conservationists for his pivotal role in saving North America’s largest bird species.

But to many, #20 is known as adult condor "AC-4," the name given in 1985 when he was captured by biologists as part of a last-ditch effort to halt the extinction of the California condor.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife statistician, Dr. Nicholas Som, a career mathematician and former school teacher in Colorado, draws the life cycle of Ceratonova shasta on a chartboard, showing alternation between salmonid fish and polychaete worm hosts,  Credit: John Heil/USFWS

Arcata Fish & Wildlife Office employs statistician to understand relationship of fish to diseases and parasites

A human eyelash. That’s the size of a polychaete worm.

A recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study on the polychaete worm has identified the importance of it to the survival of juvenile salmon in the Klamath River. This worm is core to the diet of these salmon and as it turns out the surprising culprit in their mortality.

Understanding the worm’s lifecycle is critical in understanding their contribution to the infection and mortality of the Chinook salmon in the Klamath River since the early 2000s; an infection rate that reached 100 percent of fish in some samples since 2005.

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A flat-tailed horned lizard in the southern portion of its range in Sonora, Mexico. Twenty years ago, flat-tailed horned lizards were at the center of a controversial proposal to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Courtesy photo: Rob Lovich/U.S. Navy Engineering Facility Command Southwest

Military partner series: El Centro Naval Air Facility adds to conservation of flat-tailed horned lizard

Twenty years ago, flat-tailed horned lizards were at the center of a controversial proposal to be listed under the Endangered Species Act.

With the most restricted range of any of the species of horned lizard in the United States, and with most of the lizard’s habitat managed by state and federal agencies, there was concern about how listing the species might affect various land uses.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brought together all concerned parties to seek an alternative to listing that would ensure conservation of the lizard and its habitat. In 1997, the first Rangewide Management Strategy was released, and the Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard Interagency Coordinating Committee was born.

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As part of their species monitoring efforts, Travis Air Force Base personnel install silt fencing and pitfall traps to reroute California tiger salamanders away from the runway. Courtesy Photo: Kirsten Christopherson/U.S. Air Force

As part of their species monitoring efforts, Travis Air Force Base personnel install silt fencing and pitfall traps to reroute California tiger salamanders away from the runway. Courtesy Photo: Kirsten Christopherson/U.S. Air Force

Military partner series: Travis Air Force Base puts #NoBounds on endangered species protection

Travis Air Force Base in Solano County, California, is home to the largest airlift organization in the Air Force. As a major strategic logistics hub with global impact, the base is critical to the overall mission of the total force. One strategic project the base is committed to is its Environmental Management System, which includes protection of threatened and endangered species.

The base has made a significant contribution to species recovery by using grazing as a land management tool, conducting long-term demographic studies, monitoring species and educating the public. In fact, its natural resources management team maintains survey maps that illustrate each location where threatened and endangered species have been found on the base, including vernal pool fairy shrimp, vernal pool tadpole shrimp, Contra Costa goldfields and California tiger salamander.

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Corey Kallstrom, biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (left) and Dr. Daniel Thompson, associate professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas's School of Life Sciences, examine a sulphur buckwheat at the Spring Mountains, Nevada. Credit: USFWS

Understanding a 'sky island' plant might be secret to saving Spring Mountains dark blue butterfly

“The butterfly and the buckwheat” may not sound like a match made in heaven, but the Spring Mountains dark blue butterfly depends heavily on this yellow, flowering plant from birth until new eggs are laid the following season.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has partnered with biologists at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and U.S. Forest Service to find out more about this elusive butterfly and allocate resources to aid this rare species

“They only fly for a few weeks each year,” said Dr. Daniel Thompson, associate professor at the School of Life Sciences at UNLV. He and his students have been doing research on this Spring Mountains butterfly species since 2010.

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Service biologists work on the Delta looking for the elusive Delta smelt.

Adult female monarch butterfly B6679 stretches her wings after emerging from the chrysalis, just prior to receiving her coded tag. The newly hatched butterfly became the first recorded Pacific Northwest monarch to reproduce in Southern California, traveling more than 500 miles. Credit: Akimi King/USFWS

Monarch on a mission: Monarch butterfly first Pacific Northwest migrant to reproduce in Southern California

When Akimi King found monarch butterfly eggs in her garden near Klamath Falls, Oregon, in August 2017, she had no idea one would make western monarch history as the first Pacific Northwest migrant observed reproducing in California.

Since monarch survival in the wild is less than two percent, King, a biologist in the Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife Office, raised the larvae indoors for the next month.

On September 3, 2017, two adult monarchs emerged from the many pupating caterpillars King was nurturing. Within hours, the male and female were ready to fly. King affixed a small coded tag on the lower wing of each and set them free to migrate to the central California coast.

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