U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Pacific Southwest Highlights

Bruce Hall, from Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, has participated in several Maintenance Action Team projects and puts the skills he learns to work throughout the year. Credit: USFWS

Bruce Hall, from Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, has participated in several Maintenance Action Team projects and puts the skills he learns to work throughout the year. Credit: USFWS

Building the Workforce: Maintenance Action Team projects provide training and savings

For many, the word “construction” in the summer conjures up images of long lines of cars delaying arrivals at vacation destinations. But on national wildlife refuges in the Pacific Southwest Region, the dry weather in the spring and summer months are ideal for working on projects that help maintain critical wildlife habitat and infrastructure, as well as improve recreational access to public lands.

Each year, refuges throughout the region complete hundreds of construction projects that range in scope from fixing steps to roads. This year, the region completed three large projects using Maintenance Action Teams. While these teams bring together Service staff from multiple refuges with the goal of accomplishing a large refuge project, they’re also designed to provide career growth and training for those employees.

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SDucks recover in the 'duck hospital' on Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Since late July, several refuges and wetlands along the Pacific Flyway have experienced outbreaks of avian botulism. Credit: Bird Ally X

Ducks recover in the 'duck hospital' on Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Since late July, several refuges and wetlands along the Pacific Flyway have experienced outbreaks of avian botulism.
Credit: Bird Ally X

'Duck hospital': Rehabbers to the rescue, saving sick birds from botulism in the Klamath Basin

January Bill never has a dull moment when it comes to caring for sick wildlife. As co-founder of wildlife rescue group Bird Ally X, she has helped manage the daily treatment and recovery of birds suffering from avian botulism at the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge complex ‘duck hospital.’

Bill moves quickly between tasks, performing intake exams on waterfowl and shorebirds, preparing bowls of food for recovering birds and providing orientation to new volunteers. While expertly inserting a tube in the throat of a sick duck, Bill explains that botulism is a neurotoxin that can paralyze birds and the primary treatment is to flush the toxins out with hydration fluids.

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A bigger, happier and healthier Moka in his new home at Lions, Tigers and Bears sanctuary in Alpine, California. A hybrid Bengal tiger, Moka was an extremely sick and emaciated cub when confiscated at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry on California's southern border in August 2017. Credit: Lions, Tigers and Bears wildlife sanctuary

Moka's journey: Bengal tiger cub rescued from wildlife smugglers has bright future

With more than 8 million vehicle crossings in 2017, Otay Mesa Port of Entry, 25 miles southeast of San Diego, is one of the busiest border crossings in California. On the night of August 23, 2017, a Customs and Border Protection Officer peered into a car and noticed a small feline on the floor of the front seat.

The occupants of the car said it was a domestic cat, but on closer inspection, the officer knew it was no house cat. The feeble feline with unusual markings turned out to be an extremely sick and emaciated hybrid Bengal tiger cub; the latest victim of the illegal wildlife trade.

It is exceedingly rare to find a tiger cub being smuggled across the border, and according to Erin Dean, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service resident agent in charge for Southern California, the only other known cub smuggling in the state “occurred 20 years ago.”

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Bob Hautman artwork

Last year's 2017 Federal Duck Stamp Contest winning art of mallards was produced by Minnesota artist, Bob Hautman of Delano. It was the third win for Hautman. Credit: USFWS

The 2018 Federal Duck Stamp Contest comes to Las Vegas in September

Conservation history will be made in Nevada on Sept. 14-15, when the Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious wildlife art competition, comes to Springs Preserve in Las Vegas.

The winning art chosen at the contest will be made into the 2019-2020 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp known as the “Duck Stamp” which raises millions of dollars annually for habitat conservation.

Sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the contest is free and open to the public. The winner will be announced at approximately noon Pacific Standard Time on Saturday, Sept. 15.

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All smiles here! Presley Burgess shows off her very first catch with her father Gregg Burgess, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officer.  Presley, a Wilson Elementary School third grader, joined her classmates on a trip known as the “Sutter Buttes Science Field Day.” Credit: Rebecca Fabbri/USFWS

Gridley elementary schoolers encouraged to 'think like a biologist' in program that brings science education to students in rural areas

“This is the best day of my life,” squealed third grader Presley Burgess, while reeling in a boisterous bluegill.

Presley was one of the many exuberant Wilson Elementary School third graders who attended a trip known as the “Sutter Buttes Science Field Day.” The field day is an ongoing tradition at the school, located in Gridley, California; this year marks the program’s 25th anniversary.

Every year, Wilson Elementary students are transported to a beautiful 600-acre private property, deep within the California Sutter Buttes. Launched by elementary school teachers Pam Wolf and Joann Hamman, the field trip idea was originally inspired by their involvement with a two-year program known as “Science in Rural California” that focuses on bringing science education to students in rural areas.

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Chris Derrickson, summer technician from Oregon State University, listens for the ‘chirp’ of a radio-tagged sucker as the scanner picks up the signal from the murky waters of Upper Klamath Lake, while Jordan Ortega, Oregon State University field technician, records data.

Chris Derrickson, from Oregon State University, listens for the ‘chirp’ of a radio-tagged sucker as the scanner picks up the signal in Upper Klamath Lake, while Jordan Ortega, Oregon State University field technician, records data. Radio tracking is a new phase of the sucker rearing program in the Klamath Basin. Credit: Kirk Groves/USFWS

Search for 'chirping' signals part of pilot project to learn if captive-raised endangered sucker are surviving in Upper Klamath Lake

Chris Derrickson tilts his head slightly, listening to the faint bird-like ‘chirping’ sound through his earphones while standing in a slowly moving boat. He concentrates on a digital scanner as the chirp grows stronger, closing in on his target. But rather than look to the sky for a bird, Derrickson leans over, peering into the murky waters of Upper Klamath Lake.

His target is a fish, more precisely a juvenile endangered sucker fish with an implanted radio transmitter.

Derrickson and Jordan Ortega, both interns at Oregon State University, are spending the summer tracking two-year-old Lost River and shortnose suckers. As part of a pilot project, their mission is to determine where the young fish hang out, and more importantly, if they are surviving.

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The fire crew from the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex

There is lot of activity in the Yolo Bypass Basin these days. Habitat restoration is occurring in one of the state’s most important systems and all of California benefits. Above, a February 2017 photo overlooking the flooded Yolo Causeway, a 3.2-mile long elevated highway that crosses the Yolo Bypass floodplain, connecting Davis and West Sacramento. Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS

The Yolo Bypass: Restoration of the largest seasonal floodplain in the West benefits all Californians

There’s a buzz of activity in the Yolo Bypass surrounding crucial habitat restoration projects.

One project is essentially finished; another is under construction and four others are deep into the planning process.

There is almost too much activity in the Yolo Bypass Basin these days to keep track. But when that means critical habitat restoration is occurring to help fish in one of the state’s most important systems, all of California benefits.

The Yolo Bypass is a critical part of the state’s flood control system, receiving flood waters from major waterways including the American, Sacramento, and Feather rivers. When flooded, the bypass becomes one of the largest seasonal floodplains in the Delta, and a migration corridor for dozens of native fish species including Chinook salmon, steelhead, and green sturgeon.

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Joonya Lopez is the owner and operator of Whisper Charters, an eco-friendly option for visitors to enjoy southern sea otters and other wildlife of Elkhorn Slough.

Joonya Lopez is the owner and operator of Whisper Charters, an eco-friendly option for visitors to enjoy southern sea otters and other wildlife of Elkhorn Slough in a safe, natural, and minimally-invasive way. Credit: Hazel Rodriguez/USFWS

Nature's Good Neighbors Series:

Serenity in the slough: Sea otters lure the world to tiny coastal town

Joonya Lopez steers his quiet, 22-foot electric boat carefully around the boat docks, coming up parallel to a group of a hundred or so harbor seals basking in rays of sunlight peeking through an overcast sky. The bank is teeming with wildlife, from pelicans and cormorants to gulls and other seabirds.

It’s a serene morning at Elkhorn Slough, one of the largest wetlands in the state of California. It’s 20 miles north of Monterey in the town of Moss Landing, population 204.

Gena Bentall raises her binoculars to get a closer look at kayakers near a group of sea otters resting in the water. She likes what she sees. “They’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing: staying parallel, about 20 meters away from the otters so as not to disturb them,” she says.

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A recently installed nest camera located near the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge.

Jon Griggs, manager of Maggie Creek Ranch. Credit: Dan Hottle/USFWS

Working together: Creating healthy rangelands one handshake at a time

When asked about his thoughts on improving the ecological state of northeastern Nevada’s plants, birds and animals, Maggie Creek Ranch manager Jon Griggs narrows his eyes under a wide brim, shoots a wry grin and says, “You know, I’m not a biologist. I’m just a dumb, biased cow guy.”

On the contrary, actual biologists from Nevada state and federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service consider the humble, veteran ranch hand an equal when it comes to the study of good rangeland health practices that benefit wildlife.

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Service biologists work on the Delta looking for the elusive Delta smelt.

The endangered Southern California population of mountain yellow-legged frogs teetered on the brink of extinction in 2002, with fewer than 100 adults left in the wild. Credit: Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS

Reintroduction of mountain yellow-legged frogs marks milestone in species rescue efforts

At a campground on the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument inside the Angeles National Forest, scientists gathered on a warm summer morning in June. In a cooler, 500 endangered tadpoles dart back and forth inside several zip tied plastic bags, unaware they would be pioneers in an effort to re-establish a population of their species in the wild.

“There are more tadpoles in this cooler than there are on this entire mountain,” said Ian Recchio, curator of Amphibians, Reptiles and Fish for the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanic Gardens.

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