U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Pacific Southwest Highlights

a collection of nine photos including from the top left, two toads, a small fish, a monarch butterfly, a salmon being injected, a green beetle, a toad, a ram, a hand holding two small toads, and a school of fish in blue water

Photo composite by Jake Sisco/USFWS

Celebrating 10 wildlife wins from 2020

With 2021 underway, it’s time to look back at all the conservation successes in California and Nevada from last year. From fish and birds to amphibians and mammals, the Service had quite a year of accomplishments. Check out some of our successes with story links below.

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a butterfly on a small branch

There may be fewer than 50 Lange’s metalmark butterflies remaining today, down from an estimated 25,000 between 50 and 100 years ago. The butterfly is only found at Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS

Dredging up the past at Antioch Dunes - Sand from the Port of Stockton is restoring a unique refuge

Over thousands of years, the shifting sands of time built dunes that reached 120 feet high and stretched for 2 miles along the San Joaquin River, about 35 miles east of San Francisco. Isolated from similar habitats, the Antioch Dunes slowly developed species found nowhere else in the world.

The gradual shifting of sand, however, was replaced by a rapid effort to turn it into bricks in 1906, after a devastating earthquake and fires demolished buildings in San Francisco. As industry depleted the sand over the next 70 years, the dunes’ unique species struggled to survive on dunes that eventually topped out at 50 feet.

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a man kneeling on a bank  holding a bucket with small fish in water

California Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist John Hanson releasing Paiute cutthroat trout into Silver King Creek. Photo courtesy of Rachel Van Horne/USDA Forest Service

Paiute cutthroat trout recovery effort continues despite the Slink Fire

The Paiute cutthroat trout made national headlines last year when the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners returned this California native fish to its home waters in Alpine County for the first time in more than 100 years. The Paiute cutthroat trout was one of the first species in the nation listed under the federal Endangered Species Act in the 1960s.

Recovery efforts continued this October when fisheries biologists relocated 44 Paiute cutthroat trout by pack animals from the nearby Corral Valley Creek into Silver King Creek, the fish’s historic home. Both creeks are in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

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a small brown rabbit standing on dry grass

The endangered riparian brush rabbit is found only in California’s Central Valley and could be impacted by a deadly virus new to wild rabbits in North America. Photo courtesy of Don Cool

Partnership protects endangered rabbit from fatal virus moving through California

Under the hot summer sun, Eric Hopson, assistant refuge manager for the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge, sets traps to capture live, endangered riparian brush rabbits on the refuge. Brown and white with a fuzzy cottontail, the riparian brush rabbit was once believed to be extinct, but a remnant population was discovered in San Joaquin County and reintroduced to the refuge. Recovery efforts improved the population, but the successful work could be derailed by a highly infectious virus that appeared in wild rabbits for the first time this spring.

In an eerie parallel to the pandemic sweeping across the human population, the rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus serotype-2 was first observed in wild rabbits in March 2020. While the virus was known to infect domestic rabbits, its discovery in wild populations in the United States was alarming.

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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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