U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Pacific Southwest Highlights

Red maids at Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. Credit: Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS

California's 2017 #Superbloom — A photo essay

The deserts of southern California erupted in an explosion of color during their annual inland display of wildflowers recently. A popular destination for tourists, locals, photographers and wildlife viewers, the area has experienced a surge in visitation since the blooming began. Joanna Gilkeson, of the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, joined the thousands of visitors in the desert and shared this photo essay.

“We documented this year’s super bloom because we believe in sharing the beauty of open space, providing refuge to our plants and wildlife,” she said.

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Public affairs specialist Byrhonda Lyons and outreach specialist Laura Mahoney put together this video showing the spawning process at Coleman National Fish Hatchery in Anderson, Calif. Watch it here. Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS

Steelhead, Chinook salmon spawning at Coleman National Fish Hatchery in Northern Calif.

When it’s spawning season at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery in Anderson, Calif., all hands are on deck. From October to March, hatchery employees spawn Steelhead and Chinook salmon twice a week.

The hatchery hosts an annual Salmon Festival on the third Saturday of October to show visitor how spawning works. However, since October is months away, here’s a behind-the-scenes video of spawning at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery. -- Byrhonda Lyons

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IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Tracking the Eastern Sierra Monarch

IN HER OWN WORDS: Service biologist Rachel Williams describes her work recording the locations of Eastern Sierra monarchs and their milkweed food sources. Credit: USFWS

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Tracking the Eastern Sierra Monarch

Like ducks and caribou, monarch butterflies migrate with the changing seasons. As the weather cools and plants begin to go dormant in the fall, monarchs fly to warmer areas to overwinter.

As a biologist in a remote part of California nestled between the Sierra Nevada Mountain range and the Great Basin desert, I have been working with other scientists and volunteers to try to learn more about the migration patterns of western monarchs.

Last summer, with the help of volunteers citizen scientists, we began recording locations of Eastern Sierra monarchs and their milkweed food sources.

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Roy Averill-Murray never thought his future would revolve around saving desert tortoises, but he has become the Service's top desert tortoise biologist.
Credit: Cecil Schwalbe

Service biologist creating an 'era of better research'

As someone who grew up fond of snakes, Roy Averill-Murray never thought his future would revolve around saving desert tortoises. Yet his 26 published journal articles, primarily focused on desert tortoise conservation only skim the surface of his efforts to keep these modern dinosaurs thriving in the wild.

He was the first person to document the reproduction of that species and with several papers published; he’s now working on an analysis that highlights the differences between Sonoran Desert tortoise and Mojave Desert tortoise reproduction.

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Service biologist Clark Winchell (right) and conservation intern Stella Yuan collect data on the San Bernardino flying squirrel's habitat in the San Bernadino National Forest. Credit: Joshua Ray/USFWS

Learning the secret life of flying squirrels

Flying squirrels have inhabited southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains for thousands of years, but most people have never seen one.

Now, a group of 50 citizen scientists, supported by a number of federal, state and local organizations, are trying to change that.

Most residents of San Bernardino mountain towns aren’t “even aware flying squirrels are up here,” says Nole Lilley, one of the citizen scientists studying the squirrels.

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A solitary monarch in Goleta Butterfly Grove in Goleta, Calif. Recent monarch population estimates are a mere fraction of the 1.2 million monarchs recorded annually in the late 1990s. Credit: Lisa Hupp/USFWS

Monarch overwintering numbers remain low in the West despite increased conservation efforts

Monarch butterflies are an astonishing insect, especially in the winter. They migrate to Mexico and the coast of California, form dense clusters high up in the trees and hunker down until spring./

In 1997, a few scientists and volunteers in California, inspired by these orange and black clusters, began an organized effort to estimate the number of butterflies wintering along the central California coast, and the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count was born.

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Known for its tule elk and wildlife habitat, the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge has been a part of the San Joaquin Valley since 1967. Credit: Meg Laws/USFWS

50 Years Later: A Community Still Invested

An avid birder and photographer, Rick Lewis is a regular at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in Los Banos, Calif. On weekends and holidays, he makes the 100-mile trek south from Alameda, Calif., to explore the refuge. 

“It’s [the refuge] spectacular,” Lewis said. “I don’t know what it looked like 100 years ago, but as a birder and photographer, the refuge is paradise.”

Known for its tule elk and wildlife habitat, the refuge has been a part of the San Joaquin Valley since 1967. Authorized 50 years ago through the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, the refuge’s original size conserved 7,360 acres in the valley.

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A close up of the Quino checkerspot butterfly larvae (caterpillars). Credit: Tammy Spratt/San Diego Zoo

Once vanished, rare butterfly reintroduced on San Diego National Wildlife Refuge

A team of biologists from the San Diego Zoo, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, San Diego State University and the Conservation Biology Institute released 742 larvae of the endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha quino) onto the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge last December, the first-ever captive-rearing attempts for this butterfly species.

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Combner, the green sea turtle

A male green sea turtle washed ashore on Vancouver Island, British Columbia last winter. Luckily, he made a full recovery and was released back into the ocean off the coast of southern California. Credit: Jen R/FlickrCC

Lucky Sea Turtle Returns to Its Pacific Ocean Home

In the midst of winter, a green sea turtle suffering from severe hypothermia washed ashore at Combers Beach, located in Canada’s Pacific Rim National Park. Parks Canada staff discovered the ailing and nearly lifeless turtle, and quickly transported him to the nearest marine mammal rescue facility.

“Comber,” named for the beach of its rescue, is the only sea turtle found stranded as far north as Canada, to undergo rehabilitation and survive.

While Canada is an unexpected place for a sea turtle to land, the closest rescue facility, the Vancouver Aquarium, had the capacity and expertise to provide Comber a perfect place to recover.

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