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VENTURA FWO: The Endangered Mohave Tui Chub Has a New Home Courtesy of Ventura FWO and Others
California-Nevada Offices , November 16, 2011
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Colleen Mehlberg, biologist with the Ventura FWO, nets endangered Mohave tui chubs from the Lark Seep Complex at China Lake Naval Weapons Station in the Mojave Desert. The tui chubs were relocated to a new pond site at the defunct Morning Star mine.
Colleen Mehlberg, biologist with the Ventura FWO, nets endangered Mohave tui chubs from the Lark Seep Complex at China Lake Naval Weapons Station in the Mojave Desert. The tui chubs were relocated to a new pond site at the defunct Morning Star mine. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Judy Hohman of the Ventura FWO releases Mohave tui chubs into their new home at a pond at the abandoned Morning Star mine in the Mojave Desert.
Judy Hohman of the Ventura FWO releases Mohave tui chubs into their new home at a pond at the abandoned Morning Star mine in the Mojave Desert. - Photo Credit: USFWS
The islands of native plants at one of the ponds at the Lewis Center for Environmental Studies help to mimic the Mohave tui chub's natural habitat.
The islands of native plants at one of the ponds at the Lewis Center for Environmental Studies help to mimic the Mohave tui chub's natural habitat. - Photo Credit: The Lewis Center

By Lois Grunwald, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office

Just off a main highway and several miles down a rocky dirt road in California’s Mojave Desert is a small spring surrounded by low-growing desert plants and a sprout of green reeds jutting up from the middle of the seep.

In this obscure pool of water, called Mojave Chub Spring, lives the original pure genetic strain of the endangered Mohave tui chub (Siphateles bicolor mohavensis), a 4-to 9-inch long fish that is believed to have ended up in the spring in the distant past when the Mojave River flooded and then receded.

For a time, the spring was the only place where this pure strain of Mohave tui chub could be found and it was the original source for establishing some of the first Mohave tui chub populations.

With buckets full of tui chubs, staff from the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (FWO), Mojave National Preserve, California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), and California State University, Fullerton, created another new population of tui chubs at the defunct Morning Star mine site in the Mojave National Preserve.

In October 2011, about 1,000 Mohave tui chubs were deposited in a one-acre groundwater-fed pond in the mine’s abandoned pit. The fish were caught in traps at two other tui chub locations at the Lark Seep Complex at China Lake Naval Weapons Station and Soda Springs-Zzyzx in the Mohave Desert.

The other populations of Mohave tui chubs are at West Pond at the California Department of Fish and Game’s Camp Cady and ponds at the Lewis Center for Educational Research in Apple Valley. The goal is to have a minimum of six thriving populations of Mohave tui chubs and to ultimately return them to their native habitat in the Mojave River.

The Mohave tui chub, a minnow, is the only fish native to the Mojave River. It vanished from the river in the 1960s due to predation and competition from non-native fish that were introduced into the Mojave River system and loss of habitat when the Mojave River and its tributaries were dammed and diverted. Some remaining tui chubs may have hybridized with arroyo chubs introduced by anglers as bait fish. The Mohave tui chub evolved in slow-moving water and habitat that lacked aquatic predators. It can tolerate high levels of salinity and water with low dissolved oxygen.

A few years ago, students from the Lewis Center donned work clothes and installed lining for a pond that would serve as a new home for Mohave tui chubs. The new pond, Tui Slough, was created through a collaborative effort with the Lewis Center, Ventura FWO, Mojave Water Agency, and national and local contractors. It was constructed next to Deppe Pond, another habitat for tui chibs, on the Lewis Center’s campus.

The two ponds, less than an acre in size, are adjacent to a portion of the Mojave River that is straddled by the campus. Tui chubs have been successfully reproducing in the reed-lined ponds and their current population is estimated at more than 900. To help give students from the Lewis Center’s Academy of Academic Excellence the skills to learn how to perform population surveys for the fish, staff from the Ventura FWO, DFG, and a volunteer consultant visited the facility on November 16 and 17, 2011.

Judy Hohman, biologist with the Ventura FWO, talked with students about when and how to put the traps into the two small ponds. She demonstrated how to pull the traps, remove the fish, and carefully measure, weigh and mark them. “The philosophy of the Lewis Center is that students learn by doing,” said Hohman.

The students were also instructed in how to take periodic water quality samples. They have removed invasive plants from in and around the ponds, eradicated nonnative mosquito fish, which compete with the tui chub, and removed nonnative bullfrogs, which prey on the species.

The Lewis Center for Educational Research opened in 1990. Since that time the center has hosted more than 100,000 students, teachers and parents participating in outreach programs, clubs and other educational activities.

The new Morning Star pond and the other ponds are helping to bring the recovery of the Mohave tui chub closer to reality. There are an estimated 8,000 to 9,000 tui chubs in all of the existing ponds.

For information on the Ventura FWO, visit http://www.fws.gov/ventura/


Contact Info: Lois Grunwald, , lois_grunwald@fws.gov
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