Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin
“Homage” to history
After decades of hard work by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees, volunteers, tribes and partners and after two previous efforts in the '80s and '90s, the Lanphere and Ma-le’l Dunes were finally recognized as a National Natural Landmark on January 19, 2021.
Credit: Andrea Pickart / USFWS
The return of red-legged frogs
“It was serendipitous,”said Clark Winchell from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a recent collaborative endeavor to bring California red-legged frogs back to their natural habitat in Southern California after they were extirpated decades ago.
Photo courtesy of Bradford Hollingsworth / San Diego Natural History Museum
Rumble in the river: brook vs. bull trout
In the fictional world of trout wrestling, one of the most uneven matchups would pit brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) against bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus). When squaring off in their aquatic ‘ring,’ the invasive and scrappy ‘brookies’ are bullies, outcompeting the native bull trout by eating all the food, hogging the best shelter and generally pushing them around.
Photo courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coleman National Fish Hatchery and Mt. Lassen Trout Farm have come together to raise endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon and release them into Battle Creek as part of the Jumpstart Project aimed at reintroducing winter-run to the watershed.
Credit: Jake Sisco / USFWS
Dredging up the past at Antioch Dunes
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.
Credit: Brandon Honig / USFWS
Restoration brings salmon, people back to Clear Creek
“You get to see big male salmon chasing each other away from females and see females digging redds, or nests, it’s exciting.” said Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Charlie Chamberlain. “It’s something a lot of people would not expect to see in California except on National Geographic.”
Credit: Brandon Honig / USFWS
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
Pacific Southwest Highlights
Salamander surveys enable the Service to work with partners to conserve and protect these sensitive amphibians from threats that could put them at risk. Pictured here is one of the three species of Shasta salamander found only around Shasta Lake in California. Credit: USFWS
Salamander sleuthing - Turning over rocks helps conservation efforts of secretive species
On a chilly, rainy day in Northern California, a 3-inch-long web-footed salamander crawls out of a rock crevice, its sticky toes clinging to an outcrop on a forested slope. While most cold-blooded animals are dormant in cooler weather, several species of salamanders are the exception to this amphibian ‘rule’ and actually require these conditions to become active above ground.
Ranging from Shasta Lake to the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains of northern California and southern Oregon, the Shasta, Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar salamanders live similar lifestyles. All of these salamanders are lungless, needing moist conditions to breathe through their skin. They spend both cold winters and hot, dry summers hiding under logs, deep within rock crevices, or inside limestone or other rocky caves. They only become active above ground most often at night during short periods in the late fall and spring, and during the winter when temperatures are above freezing, and humidity is high.
Bighorn sheep once roamed the American West by the millions, by the 20th century their numbers were reduced to just a few thousand individuals and were even completely extirpated in several states. Photo illustration: USFWS
Decades of wildlife restoration funding help recover Nevada’s bighorn sheep
Since the 1960s, biologists in the U.S. and Canada have undertaken an ambitious effort to recover bighorn sheep – a species that nearly vanished across western landscapes due to disease transmission from domestic sheep, degraded habitat, unregulated hunting and human disturbances.
The recovery effort in Nevada has been funded by many sources, including donations from sportsmen’s organizations that leverage a substantial amount of federal dollars provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.
8 listed flowers that light up the landscape
We’ve all heard the saying, “April showers bring May flowers,” but at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we like to say, “listed flowers are the prettiest.” Here’s a few threatened and endangered flowers in California and Nevada that we think prove our point.
While the Sacramento River can be calm, it is also known to breach levees, flooding nearby towns. Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS
Revitalizing California’s floodplains benefits people and wildlife
Throughout California’s history, rivers have been diverted, rerouted and contained by concrete. While these actions have brought agriculture and communities to arid land, and reduced large-scale flooding, it has also eliminated some of the natural benefits provided by untamed rivers. Today, efforts are underway to restore some of the natural riparian areas to the benefit of both humans and wildlife.
“Over the past few decades, the Sacramento Valley has seen a lot of riparian restoration projects,” said Jennifer Hobbs, a senior wildlife biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sacramento office who oversees consultations on federal water projects. “These projects are targeting areas where the agricultural and development value is low due to flood risk, but connectivity between wildlife areas is high.”
Three western pond turtles bask on a log in an Oregon wetland. Western pond turtles are this region’s only native freshwater turtle and without conservation efforts their populations will continue to decline. Credit: Simon Wray/Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
The rocks that swim – western pond turtles
What looks and feels like a river rock, has four webbed feet, a pointy snout with beady eyes, buries itself during winter, and dines on small frogs, fish, aquatic insects and plants?
These are attributes of the two species of western pond turtle, the northwestern and the southwestern, found in ponds and streams from Baja California north through California, Oregon, and Washington and into a portion of Nevada.
They are unique and charismatic hard-shelled reptiles and this region’s only native freshwater turtle. As opportunistic omnivores that eat a wide variety of prey, they are an important part of the ecosystem. Recently however, western pond turtle numbers have been declining, and in response the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers them to be an “at-risk” species. Without critical conservation efforts their numbers are likely to continue to decrease.
It’s tern up time in California
California has once again welcomed tiny and graceful visitors to beaches, estuaries, river mouths and lagoons. The federally endangered California least tern (Sterna antillarum browni), the smallest of the tern species, returns to California — from the bay to the border — each year during the first or second week of April to feast, rest, and nest.
Least terns hover over the surf zone or shallow estuarine waters and can be seen plunging into the water from 10–30 feet to capture small, slender-bodied fish like anchovies and topsmelt. They target and capture the fish in the top few feet of the water column.
Meet the marvelous milk-vetches
Milk-vetches are part of the largest group of plants in the world known as Astragulus and consists of about 3,000 identified species. This group is part of the legume family, which includes peas. In California, Nevada and the Klamath Basin, some of these milk-vetches grow in habitats that are incredibly inhospitable to most plants. Let’s meet a few of these tough and resilient beauties.
With a wingspan of almost 10 feet, the California condor is the largest soaring land bird in North America. Credit: Jon Myatt/USFWS
For the first time in a century, California condors will take flight in the Pacific Northwest - Partners help the nation’s largest land bird return to the northern portion of its historic range
For the first time in 100 years, the endangered California condor will return to the Pacific Northwest. Once on the brink of extinction, this iconic species has made significant steps towards recovery. Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and the Yurok Tribe announced a final rule that will help facilitate the creation of a new California condor release facility for the reintroduction of condors to Yurok Ancestral Territory and Redwood National Park, which is in the northern portion of the species’ historic range. This facility will be operated by the Northern California Condor Restoration Program, a partnership between Redwood National Park and Yurok Tribe.
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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...