U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Pacific Southwest Highlights

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

Clockwise from top left: Jen Benedet, California Department of Fish and Wildlife R3, Lt. Shawn Olague, department Law Enforcement, Roger Bloom, department Fisheries, and Brian Huber, California Waterfowl Association, discuss the difference between bag and possession limits, laws and regulations for gifting harvested game, and how these are tied to wildlife management. Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife

“Harvest Huddle Hours” aim to inspire a new flock of hunters, anglers

Novice hunters, anglers and even foragers – yes, foragers – have a new venue to learn the basics of these outdoor recreation experiences without the intimidation factor normally associated with picking up an outdoor sport like hunting or fishing. In August, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife began offering free virtual “Harvest Huddle Hours” as a pilot program to help those interested in pursuing hunting, fishing or foraging but don’t know where to begin.

The Harvest Huddle Hours are one small part of the department’s answer to the nationwide recruit, retain, reactivate, or R3, effort to reverse the decline in hunting, fishing and shooting sports. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has participated in the development and now implementation of department’s R3 effort through Wildlife Restoration and Sport Fish Restoration Act grants.

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a white, tan and grey fox looking to the side

The Kit Fox is a species protected by the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan. Photo courtesy of Kevin White/Full Frame Productions

Saving Species Together - San Joaquin kit fox

California’s Central Valley once provided ample habitat for the San Joaquin kit fox, a small fox with relatively large ears. Yet, today much of the habitat is lost to land use or development.

While solar energy companies and others come together to set aside critical habitat for San Joaquin kit foxes, the public can also play a role in the species survival.

“The truth is we need the public to help us as well,” said Brian Cypher, a biologist with California State University Stanislaus. “We need them not to feed the foxes or leave food out, be careful driving at dusk and for sports teams that use nets… to pack the nets away so they don’t get caught in them.”

Saving Species Together highlights the positive stories of collaboration between private land managers, resources agencies, non-profits and the public to protect threatened and endangered species.

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a front facing shot of a salmon swimming

Fallen trees, side channels, and beaver ponds are important river features for Coho Salmon. Without these sheltered areas, juvenile Coho would be washed out of their natal streams during winter floods. Photo courtesy of Kevin White/Full Frame Productions

Saving Species Together - Coho salmon

Today, a logging company is taking steps to restore watershed habitat in California’s North Coast, which is home to rivers that were historically filled with millions of spawning Coho salmon.

“What was amazing is that we immediately started getting salmon and steelhead juveniles in these off-channel ponds,” said Bob Pagliuco, a biologist with National Marine Fisheries Service. “They used it right away, and some stayed over during the summer before heading back into the river. It’s remarkable how quickly the fish have taken to it. Open the habitat and they will come.”

Saving Species Together highlights the positive stories of collaboration between private land managers, resources agencies, non-profits and the public to protect threatened and endangered species.

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a small white bird with grey and black markings stands on sand

The Western snowy plover is federally listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 as threatened and is a Bird Species of Special Conservation Concern in California. Credit: USFWS

Saving Species Together - Western snowy plover

Western snowy plovers once nested along the entire Pacific Coast. As their nesting and breeding habitat was lost to development and recreation, their numbers dwindled and conservationists looked to local communities and the public to help reverse the trend.

“It takes a lot of initiatives to help the snowy plovers nest successfully: from public awareness campaigns, to removing invasive plants and dune restoration, to mitigating the number of crows predating on the chicks,” said Matt Lau, biologist with Point Reyes National Seashore. “Yet, that is what it is going to take to be able to see these species survive into the future.”

Saving Species Together highlights the positive stories of collaboration between private land managers, resources agencies, non-profits and the public to protect threatened and endangered species.

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hands holding a black with yellow spots salamander

A female California tiger salamander. Credit: Ashley McConnell/USFWS

Saving Species Together - California tiger salamander

California’s rolling hills and seasonal ponds provide vital habitat for California tiger salamanders, which is becoming scarce. The primary cause of the decline of the species is the loss and fragmentation of this habitat from development and farming.

“These species are California’s legacy so we all need to protect them. It’s essential we work together for the benefit of the species, otherwise it won’t happen,” said Marcia Grefsrud, an environmental scientist with California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

As Grefsrud suggests, there is hope if we work together: learn how Shea Homes in Livermore, California is doing their part for the stewardship of the species and California’s landscapes.

Saving Species Together highlights the positive stories of collaboration between private land managers, resources agencies, non-profits and the public to protect threatened and endangered species.

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two condors touching heads.

An adult and juvenile California condor. Photo courtesy of Loi Nguyen

Three endangered California condor chicks survive Dolan Fire in Big Sur

As the Dolan Fire sweeps through portions of Big Sur along the central California coast, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with the Ventana Wildlife Society and Pinnacles National Park to monitor the status of these critically endangered birds.

“The California Condor Recovery Program has faced setbacks in the past, but we will continue to work with our dedicated partners, the Ventana Wildlife Society and Pinnacles National Park, toward our ultimate goal of recovering the California condor in the wild,” said Steve Kirkland, condor field coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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A picture of a green frog and a brown frog side-by-side

Left: Bullfrog by Spencer Neuharth/USFWS. Right: Columbia spotted frog by Rachel Van Horne/U.S. Forest Service. One of these frogs is invasive in the western United States.

Invasive or not?

Many invasive species look similar to the local plants and animals that belong in our backyards, deserts, forests and streams. Despite their ability to blend in, invasive species can be destructive to both native plants and animals, and humans.

They are often great adapters, and can outcompete important native species, disrupting ecosystems or causing native or rare species to decline. Conversely, native species help keep our ecosystems healthy and in balance.

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