Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin
A great leap forward
Juvenile Foothill yellow-legged frogs look similar to adults except for their smaller size, more contrasting dorsal coloration and lack of significant yellow on their undersurfaces. Credit: Rebecca Fabbri / USFWS
Using local seeds to save the sage
The idea of using local, native seeds in restoration is taking off, just like the wildfires they are designed to follow, as ecologists and botanists in Nevada embark on research to test the use of these seeds in helping burned areas recover and become resilient.
Credit: Sarah Kulpa / USFWS
Imagine taking a kayak out on the water all day as a full-time job. Well, that’s exactly what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees from the Red Bluff office do for a portion of the year.
Credit: John Heil / USFWS
“The excitement in the air is palpable,” says Chad Mitcham, fish and wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, after releasing 43 Ohlone tiger beetles to their new home in Santa Cruz County.
Photo courtesy of Alex Jones/University of California, Santa Cruz
A magical place
The Nipomo Mesa lupine, an endangered plant that is endemic to the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, grows no taller than eight inches and has purple and pink-colored blossoms. Its’ entire geographic range extends only two square miles and it occurs no place else on earth.
The natural portfolio
In northern California, springtime is marked by wildflower blooms, bird migrations, swollen rivers, and the return of the first salmon of the year to the Klamath River – spring-run Chinook salmon.
Credit: John Heil / USFWS
From “extinct” to “prolific”
This spring, Susan Sorrells, with the help of the Service and Deana Clifford, from the State’s Wildlife Investigations Lab, plans to introduce a group of wild endangered Amargosa voles onto her property with the hope of establishing a new population.
Credit: Rebecca Fabbri / USFWS
Summer steelhead are the most extreme athletes of the steelhead according to Damon Goodman, a biologist out of the Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office.
Credit: John Heil / USFWS
Pacific Southwest Highlights
California condor #784 was one of six condors spotted in Sequoia National Park in May. Credit: USFWS
California condors spotted in Sequoia National Park, first time in nearly half a century
Recently reintroduced endangered California condors continue to reoccupy parts of their historic range, including the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and adjacent foothills. Condors were spotted atop Moro Rock, a popular hiking destination in Sequoia National Park, in late May. They are back to the towering trees and cliffs of the parks after being absent for nearly 50 years.
“Condors were consistently seen throughout the parks until the late 1970s. Observations became increasingly rare throughout the latter portion of the century as the population declined,” said Tyler Coleman, a wildlife biologist with Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. “Four condors have been spotted flying near the Giant Forest and at least two near Moro Rock.”
Using hawks (or other falconry birds) to hunt prey, or “hawking” as it is more commonly referred to, is an ancient tradition tracing back some 4,000 years. Credit: USFWS
Birds of a Feather – One Ranger’s Foray Into Falconry
I am standing in the middle of the desert, staring at the sky. Having been perched on a gloved hand just moments ago, the red-tailed hawk has now soared on a thermal current to almost 1,000 feet above us. Distracted, I watch as the raptor hovers and glides with those invisible air currents, envying its freedom in the nearly cloudless sky. The winds have only just died down enough for the bird to fly safely. Back on the ground, my instructors are quick to refocus my attention to the task at hand. Our mission: hunting jackrabbits.
A mountain yellow-legged frog quietly swims in a mountain lake in California. The frogs are highly susceptible to a chytrid fungus commonly known as “Bd” that is sickening millions of frogs around the world. Photo courtesy of Isaac Chellman
Fighting Chytrid – How do biologists fight pandemics in the animal kingdom?
While this is the first pandemic many of us humans have experienced, pandemics are not uncommon in the animal kingdom. As biologists learn about these diseases, they also identify ways to treat the infected individuals and boost immunity among the larger population. Right now, biologists in California are helping mountain yellow-legged frogs fight a deadly skin fungus, and the strategies they’re using aren’t too different from the strategies being used to fight the current pandemic in the human world.
Biologists and researchers from multiple agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are working to combat Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a form of chytrid fungus commonly known as Bd. Infections from the fungus have wiped out dozens of frog species around the world. The fungus attacks the frogs’ permeable skin, and their breathing and water balance become compromised. Bd can be transmitted through water or skin-to-skin contact. While some frog species can live through infection or even be asymptomatic carriers, others are vulnerable.
Service fisheries biologist Alex Jones said that removing individual barriers to in-stream fish passage is a simple way to restore large sections of suitable fish habitat. This can help threatened populations recover and may help improve recreational fishing opportunities. Credit: Dan Gale/USFWS
Finding their way – New website helps public remove fish passage barriers
Last fall, the California Fish Passage Forum announced the launch of a new web-based tool, FISHPass, to help determine which fish passage barriers to prioritize for removal. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is one of several organizations participating with the Forum to help guide the decision making process for fish barrier removal projects throughout the state.
There are thousands of fish passage barriers in California, and prioritization methods differ widely on which barriers to remediate. Recognizing the need to ease and possibly standardize this process, the forum created this publicly available tool to provide a state-wide method to assist in making these decisions.
A female monarch butterfly nectars on flowers after eclosing, or hatching, in a community garden. Providing flowering plants that grow throughout the season is key to attracting a variety of pollinators to any garden. Credit: Akimi King/USFWS
Creating a patchwork of pollinator plots
Scattered in and around the city of Klamath Falls, Oregon – population about 22,000 – is a patchwork of nearly 40 open spaces that maintain a valuable connection between local residents and the natural world.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife Office has led the effort in creating these nature-scape sites with the help of many dedicated community partners.
Working together with schools, museums, private landowners, local governments, youth and garden clubs, the Klamath Office has transformed empty, neglected and underutilized spaces into productive landscapes that provide rest-stops for pollinator species and in many cases, grow food for people.
Stinknet in bloom, showing the globe shaped flowers. Photo courtesy of Chris McDonald, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Cooperative Extension
Pretty looks can be deceiving
A field of yellow, ball-shaped flowers beckons. It’s pretty to look at and one is tempted to walk through it expecting to inhale a pleasing aroma. Not so fast! Oncosiphon piluliferum, known by the more appropriate moniker stinknet, has an odor reminiscent of turpentine. “The smell is so overwhelming it can give you a headache,” according to Brian Shomo, director of Natural Resources with the Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency.
“Introduced to California in the 1980s, this invasive plant from South Africa poses a growing risk to native plants and animals in Southern California, including the federally endangered Stephens’ kangaroo rat,” said Karin Cleary-Rose, division chief at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Palm Springs Office.
Op-ed – Preserving a conservation legacy for future generations in Santa Barbara County
The rolling hills of the Santa Barbara backcountry offer a pristine backdrop of undeveloped, contiguous lands that provide safe haven for wildlife and a way of life for generations of Californians. From orchards and vineyards to cattle ranches and preserved open spaces, these lands make Santa Barbara County one of the most picturesque and serene places on Earth.
Service proposes new hunting opportunities on Merced National Wildlife Refuge to begin this fall
The Merced National Wildlife Refuge has an existing waterfowl hunt program on over 2,100 acres and has one of the top public hunt areas in California's grasslands ecological area. The refuge hosts the largest wintering populations of lesser sandhill cranes and Ross's geese along the Pacific Flyway.
Shasta crayfish, an endangered species, found a new home thanks to a partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Pacific Gas and Electric and Spring Rivers Ecological Services. Credit: Koen G. H. Breedveld/Spring Rivers Ecological Sciences
Saving California’s crayfish
Marin County’s landscape is a source of inspiration for many people, including Josh Hull, a Marin County native who now works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“I always loved nature because I was always in it,” he said. “I spent my weekends at Marin County beaches or in Muir Woods. It was an era where these places were well-known but not overcrowded.”
Today, Hull applies his passion to recovering endangered and threatened species in California, including the Shasta crayfish (Pacifastacus fortis).
Using U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funding secured from the Natural Resources Damage Assessment process from two oil spills in Humboldt Bay in 1997 and 1999, the Seabird Protection Network North Coast Chapter monitors human disturbances such as recreation in seabird habitat areas. The pigeon guillemot, above, is one of many seabird species to call the area home. Bob Wick/BLM
Save future generations of seabirds – Volunteer to protect and restore Northern California seabirds with the Seabird Protection Network North Coast Chapter
Would you like to make a difference in a seabird’s life?
You can. Just ask members of the North Coast Chapter of the Seabird Protection Network. They are looking for volunteers this spring and summer in Trinidad, California, to assist with Community Science. The organization needs volunteers to collect scientific data that identifies current or potential disturbances to nesting seabirds, including cormorants, murres, and gulls.
Using U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funding secured from the Natural Resources Damage Assessment process from two oil spills in Humboldt Bay in 1997 and 1999, the chapter was established in 2016. This breeding season (April-August) will be the chapter’s fourth year of monitoring human disturbances such as recreation in areas around seabird nesting habitat.
The San Benito evening primrose is a small, annual plant with bright yellow flowers once thought to be in danger of extinction. It is now being found more commonly in the coast range in California’s San Benito, Monterey and Fresno counties. Credit: Ryan O’Dell/BLM
“Goldilocks” plant once believed in danger of extinction now no longer threatened in the wild
A small, annual plant with bright yellow flowers once thought to be in danger of extinction is being found more commonly in the coast range in California’s San Benito, Monterey and Fresno counties, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to propose removing it from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife and Plants.
“Whenever we can propose the delisting of a species due to ESA-inspired partnerships and improved science, it is a good day,” said Service director Aurelia Skipwith. “Thanks to the efforts of the Bureau of Land Management over the course of three decades, our scientific understanding of the San Benito evening primrose has improved and habitat for the plant has been restored and protected.”
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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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FieldNotes showcases the activities, events and conservation work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including here in the Pacific Southwest Region. The articles inside are written by our employees and reflect the efforts of the Service and our partners in conserving and preserving the unique natural resources across the nation. You can find stories specific to California, Nevada and the Klamath Basin. After you've visited FieldNotes, follow us on these social media channels...