U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Pacific Southwest Highlights

a hand holding a fish

Central Valley steelhead, seen here at Coleman National Fish Hatchery in Anderson, California, has been federally listed as a threatened species since 1988. Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS

Restoring Dry Creek - Joint project with U.S. Air Force opens spawning habitat for threatened steelhead

In 1943 the Army completed a dam on Camp Beale so its soldiers could fish, swim and jump off the dam’s diving platform. Nearly 80 years later, the Air Force is giving Dry Creek back to the original tenants: its fish.

“The dam was built to provide recreation,” said Paul Cadrett, a fish biologist and habitat restoration coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Lodi, California. “Then in the ’80s someone said, ‘Hey, there are fish banging their heads at the bottom of this dam,’ so they built a fish ladder. But it didn’t work very well, and most fish weren’t able to navigate it.”

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a fish being injected with thiamine

Biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery inject a female winter-run Chinook salmon with thiamine. Researchers will gauge whether the vitamin boost is passed on to their offspring to address the risk of thiamine deficiency. Credit: Travis Webster/USFWS

Researchers probe deaths of Central Valley Chinook, with possible ties to ocean changes - Deficiency in Vitamin B1 linked to higher juvenile mortality in California fish hatcheries

Scientists from several fish and wildlife agencies have launched a rapid research and response effort for deficiency of thiamine, or Vitamin B1. This deficiency was recently found to be increasing juvenile mortality among Chinook salmon in California’s Central Valley.

The magnitude of its effect is not clear. However, it could be a risk to Chinook stocks, including endangered winter-run Chinook salmon and the fishery for fall-run Chinook salmon.

In early 2020, staff at state and federal salmon hatcheries in California’s Central Valley observed newly hatched offspring of adult Chinook salmon that spawned in 2019. They were swimming in corkscrew patterns and dying at unusually high rates. Researchers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s California-Nevada Fish Health Center eliminated infectious diseases as the cause. Then, they noticed that a bath of thiamine immediately revived the ailing juveniles.

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two desert bighorn sheep

Desert bighorn sheep pictured at Desert National Wildlife Refuge in southern Nevada. Credit: Peter Pearsall/USFWS

10 things you didn’t know about nature in Nevada

Nevada is famous for its casinos and nightlife, but not necessarily for its striking geography and biodiversity (and it should be, to be honest).

Here are 10 things you didn’t know about plants, wildlife and their habitats in the Silver State.

From mule deer to elk to ground squirrels to desert bighorn sheep, Nevada is 9th among all states in mammal diversity.

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a large fish being held.

An angler holds a freshly-caught Pilot Peak Lahontan cutthroat trout at Pyramid Lake. Courtesy photo by Greg Ritland

Iconic trout can access historic spawning grounds - New fish passage to open natural migration route after more than a century

Just one year after celebrating the Derby Dam groundbreaking ceremony, the state-of-the-art fish screen is ready and waiting to help Lahontan cutthroat trout travel from Pyramid lake to their spawning grounds above the dam.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is thrilled to finally have the Derby Dam fish screen completed,” said Service California Great Basin regional director Paul Souza. “The addition of this fish screen to the existing water infrastructure will allow the iconic Lahontan cutthroat trout to once again travel beyond the dam and complete its natural migration route for the first time in more than a century.”

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a large salmon in a net with a persons arm supporting it

In honor of World Fish Migration Day, Oct. 24: An adult winter-run Chinook salmon that returned to Battle Creek in March 2020. Credit: Jacie Knight/USFWS

700 winter-run Chinook salmon return to Battle Creek - numbers are higher than expected for “Jumpstart Project” the past two years

At least 700 sub-adult and adult winter-run Chinook salmon (winter Chinook) returned this year to Battle Creek.

Although monitoring efforts were curtailed, 47 redds were also observed with juveniles now being captured in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s rotary screw trap as they emigrate out of the system. To date, more than 300 fry have been captured and monitoring efforts will continue through the fall.

Establishing another self-sustaining population in a second watershed (in addition to population in Sacramento River), such as Battle Creek, is a high priority and a major component of the Central Valley salmonid recovery plan.

These returns are higher than expected, as there was an anticipation to see 500-600 adult fish return this year. Although the restoration actions in Battle Creek are not complete, there was adequate habitat for some fish to spawn and produce juveniles. This year’s returning adults were released into Battle Creek as part of the Jumpstart Project in 2018 and 2019 when 214,000 and 184,000 juveniles were released.

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close up photo of a tortoise's face

A desert tortoise diet consists primarily of wildflowers, grasses and cacti. You can often find a tortoise with “green lipstick” after it has eaten. Credit: USFWS

A Mojave desert tortoise's striking recovery

Mojave desert tortoises occur in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts north and west of the Colorado River in southwestern Utah, southern Nevada, southeastern California, and northwestern Arizona.

They live on a variety of terrain from sandy flats to rocky foothills, but face numerous obstacles when seeking suitable habitat in the wild. Roadways are one of the greatest dangers, accounting for the deaths of more than 200 tortoises a year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works closely with the U.S. Marine Corps and other organizations to treat injured tortoises.

Desert Tortoise Rescue tells the recovery story of one particular tortoise struck by a vehicle and the team that saved it. It highlights the work of Palm Springs Fish and Wildlife Office biologist, Scott Hoffman, who partnered with the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms’ egg incubation and hatchlings headstart facility, and Turtle Island’s conservation, breeding and research center in Austria. The video also provides ways to help protect the threatened species.

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Landscape photo of a green marsh with a body of water under a blue sky.

A view of the marsh habitat at the Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Ivette López/USFWS

A tribute to the Latino legacy of the Salinas Valley - Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15) honors the history and contributions of Latinos tracing their roots to Spain, Mexico, Central America, South America and the Spanish-speaking nations of the Caribbean. The theme for Hispanic Heritage Month 2020, “Be Proud of Your Past and Embrace the Future," invites Hispanic people to embrace their backgrounds and be proud of who they are and where they came from. It serves as a powerful reminder to all of us that by embracing others and ourselves we can have a brighter future through the inclusion of diverse cultures, backgrounds and perspectives.

Historically and today, the Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge in California depict the Latino heritage in the region. Like many other places throughout the United States, the Salinas Valley is integral to the individual and collective experiences of the Latino diaspora. After operating as a coastal defense base by the U.S. Navy, the Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge was established on July 10, 1973, for its prime location along the Pacific Flyway.

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a small bird under a piece of debris

California least tern chick cover under chick shelter at San Dieguito Lagoon. Credit: Brian Foster/Volant Research Enterprises

Return of the tern - If you build it, they will come… eventually

The California least tern (Sterna antillarum browni) faces many hurdles for successful nesting and chick production, and this year was no exception. A strong red tide, predators and recreational trespassing affected least terns at sites throughout California. Despite all odds, about 10–15 adult tern pairs, along with their 10 offspring, were observed at San Dieguito Lagoon this past spring, marking the first ever nesting success at two manmade sites.

The tiny, federally endangered bird returns to California each April to breed, nesting directly on the sand at river mouths and coastal strands, from the U.S./Mexico border to the San Francisco Bay. However, loss of habitat and historical nesting sites due to development and recreational use led the California least tern to be included on the first list of federally endangered and threatened wildlife under the Endangered Species Act in 1973.

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screen shot of a Microsoft Teams meeting with four different people.

Yosemite toads collected along State Route 108 during the maintenance project. Credit: Kris Bason/Caltrans

Building roads to save Yosemite toads

Each spring deep in the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite toads roam the alpine meadows in search of a mate. Biologists have been tracking the movements of these toads, and have noted that they travel surprisingly long distances for such small creatures. From breeding habitat to overwintering habitat, they journey nearly a mile, and in some places, the toads must cross busy highways to reach important habitat.

“In Mono County, Highway 108 goes right through Upper Sardine Meadow, a breeding area for one of the largest known populations of Yosemite toads on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. The road literally splits the toad breeding habitat in half,” said Chad Mellison, fish and wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Reno Fish and Wildlife Office.

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