Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin
A rat's best friend
The connection between grazing, vegetation cover and abundance of kangaroo rats is clear — cattle grazing improves the species' survivability. At left, a Stephen’s kangaroo rat perches on biologist Dan Grout’s hand during a survey at Detachment Fallbrook near Camp Pendleton, California.
Credit: Joanna Gilkeson / USFWS
South Bay icon
From their treasured picnicking spot at the edge of San Francisco Bay in 1951, Florence LaRiviere and her husband Philip noticed that the city was “scooping out a bucket of mud from the bottom of the bay...and dropping all that mud on live, beautiful tidal marsh” to maintain the harbor, she said. It was the day her journey in conservation began.
Credit: Jon Myatt / USFWS
Lessons from a butterfly basket
Inspired by an ancient butterfly-adorned handwoven basket, Timbisha Shoshone tribal member seeking to reconnect with his Native American heritage, volunteers family for Saline Valley, California Monarch Count.
Credit: Joanna Gilkeson / USFWS
Feeding a crowd
Sandhill cranes forage on Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge. From October through the end of January, the refuge becomes a key stopover point for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway.
Credit: Rebecca Fabbri / USFWS
Hawkeyes, tritons... and rails?
Light-footed Ridgeway rails faced extinction in the 1980s due to habitat loss. Naval Base Ventura County has worked with the Service to create nesting habitat to support this rare bird’s recovery.
Credit: Andrew Fisher / USFWS
Boots in the water
An adult Pacific lamprey attaches itself to a rock in San Luis Obispo Creek. The species returned to the creek in 2017 after a six-year absence. “Before we moved forward with reintroduction, they came back by themselves,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Damon Goodman.
Credit: Donald Baldwin / CDFW
Artichokes and amphibians
Watsonville Slough Farm brings land conservation and farming together. Organic artichokes on Watsonville Slough Farm.
Credit: Hazel Rodriguez / USFWS
Red Bluff Fish & Wildlife Office biologists break new ground in Sacramento River juvenile green sturgeon migration research. Lenny Cheskiewicz, Chad Praetorius and Lyla Pirkola captured and tagged four green sturgeon and released them back into the upper Sacramento River.
Credit: Steve Martarano / USFWS
Pacific Southwest Highlights
Five projects stretching across 1,500 acres of sagebrush ecosystem in Nevada received $235,000 under a wildlife grant program. Service biologists from the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program will work with private landowners and the Nevada Department of Wildlife to enhance habitat for big-game species such as mule deer and pronghorn. Credit: Bob Wick/BLM
Wildlife corridors: Nevada receives $235,000 grant for wildlife corridor improvement
Wildlife needs room to roam. In Nevada, animals including mule deer and pronghorn use open range areas called corridors for their annual migrations and day-to-day movement.
On March 1, 2019, the Department of the Interior announced $1.5 million in funding for private land habitat projects across eight western states.
These projects support objectives outlined in Secretarial Order 3362, which aims to enhance and improve the quality of big-game winter range and migration corridor habitat on federal lands under the Department’s jurisdiction.
San Fernando Valley spineflower, a tiny buckwheat once presumed extinct, now grows in the thousands at introduction sites in Los Angeles County. The tiny buckwheat is part of a multi-year effort that kicked off this past December to re-establish the plant across its historic range. Credit: Ashley McConnell/USFWS
Flourishing return: Once presumed extinct, plant returns following successful first year planting
The San Fernando Valley spineflower, once believed extinct, is now flourishing in the hills above the Santa Clarita Valley in Los Angeles County.
Botanists planted seeds of the tiny buckwheat as part of a multi-year effort that kicked off this past December to re-establish the plant across its historic range. After abundant rainfall, those seedlings are now growing in the thousands across eight sites in the county.
“It’s pretty exciting for this first year of introductions to be such a success,” says Cat Darst, assistant field supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s office in Ventura. “This tells us this can work.”
Lisa Heki joined the U.S. Forest Service as a fisheries biologist in 1990, advising forest management on how to benefit steelhead trout and salmon. The need to look both in and out of the stream would prepare her for future work at Pyramid Lake. Credit: USFWS
From Peak to Pyramid: Biologist turns dream to reality for Lahontan cutthroat trout
Some thought it was a lost cause. When Lisa Heki took on Lahontan cutthroat trout recovery in Nevada’s Pyramid Lake in the 1990s, the fish had been missing from the iconic desert lake for half a century.
Generations of Pyramid Lake Paiute tribal members and the surrounding communities had passed without witnessing the largest inland cutthroat trout species, weighing in at upwards of 40 pounds. Gold Rush settlers in the 19th century told tales of abundant, 60-pound trout in the Truckee River upstream of Pyramid Lake. In those days, the fish could make the 120-mile swim to Lake Tahoe.
But Heki had hope. “I have a lot of faith in a species’ ability, if you give it just a little bit of a chance,” she said.
Kimberly True stands by a wall of coasters in the Fish Health Center lab. As a college student in the 1980s, she took a hard turn, abandoning a potential career in human health to pursue one devoted to raising healthier fish. Credit: Meagan Racey/USFWS
The fish doctor: a 'force behind 1998 effort to standardize' the methods for monitoring, managing fish disease
She wanted to work with people – be a nurse, maybe even a doctor. Then, a college course about salmon – in the wild, not on the plate – changed Kimberly True’s life.
The future of the 1980s college student took a hard turn, abandoning a potential career in human health to pursue one devoted to raising healthier fish.
“I got really excited about them and thought they were amazing creatures,” she said, describing the salmon’s lengthy trek to the ocean and its marathon return riddled with obstacles. “They really work very hard to survive.”
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.
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.
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.
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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The Western Monarch
The Monarch Story...
The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable species of wildlife in all of America. They undertake one of the world's most remarkable and fascinating migrations, traveling thousands of miles over many generations from Mexico, across the United States, to Canada. Learn about their amazing journey and how you can help them.
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California Condor Recovery Program
The California Condor Recovery Program (Recovery Program) is a multi-entity effort, led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to recover the endangered California condor. Cooperators include the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Game and Fish Department, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, San Diego Zoo Los Angeles Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoo, Chapultepec Zoo, Peregrine Fund, and Ventana Wildlife Society, among others. Learn more here...
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