Resource Management

Resource Management with CCCs on Bitter Creek NWR

Bitter Creek NWR was established in 1985 to provide safe roosting and foraging habitat for California condors and to protect other threatened and endangered species. Since its establishment, the refuge has been closed to public use due to the sensitive nature of the California Condor Recovery Program activities and the sensitivity of its resources.

Wildlife and Habitat Management

Since 1995, the refuge has served as a release site for the Recovery Program to release condors into the wild.  Condor management activities include:

  • Condor population monitoring; very high frequency (30–300MHz) (VHF), global positioning system (GPS), and visually providing sites for the Recovery Program to trap and process condors (assess body condition, attach transmitters).
  • Twice yearly (minimum) trapping and sampling all southern California condors; monitoring contaminants in released condors (analyzing blood and feather samples).
  • Providing sites to vaccinate condors for West Nile Virus and sites for supplemental feedings to maximize survivorship.
  •  Maintaining temporary quarters for Service biologists performing Recovery Program activities and researchers, volunteers, and partners supporting Recovery Program or refuge goals.
  • Releasing up to 15 tagged condors into the wild per year (as needed and as determined by the Recovery Program).
  • Coordinating with ranches to allow condors to feed on natural livestock mortalities.

The Service also manages grassland, mixed scrub, oak and juniper woodlands, riparian, and wetland habitats that support other plants and wildlife, as well as the condor.

Wildlife Surveys

To date, plant and wildlife data collected to inform refuge management decisions include surveys for burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) (2006), rare and endangered reptiles and amphibians (1994), small mammals (2006–2007), tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor) (2006–2011), and plant surveys of Bitter Creek NWR (1997, 2009–2011). Sightings of wildlife have also been documented for San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) (1982–2009), tule elk (Cervus elaphus ssp. nannodes) (2008–present), and other species (periodically between 1991 and 2008).

See Appendix D of the CCP for a list of surveys conducted.

Fire Management

Fire preparedness is an important aspect of refuge management. The Service suppresses all wildfires and implements fire prevention and mitigation measures (such as fuel breaks) at the wildland-urban interface (WUI) and roads. The approved update to the Fire Management Plan for Bitter Creek NWR allows prescribed burning in the form of pile burning (USFWS 2001). Pile burning is a low risk use of fire, used primarily in winter, when air quality is less likely to be adversely affected. The Service obtains the required permits to burn from the regional air quality district. Department of the Interior and Service policy require that the Service comply with all air quality regulations and obtain permits for all planned burning on the refuge.

For more information on the FWS Fire crew that is responsible for this refuge, please visit the Fire Management Page.

Cultural Resources Management

Previous cultural resource inventories have recorded sites associated with Native American use of the refuge area along with historic-period resources. To date, approximately 7.5% (1,886 acres) of the 14,096-acre refuge has been systematically surveyed as a result of 13 archaeological research projects conducted on the refuge. It is highly probable that additional archaeological sites will be exposed by human actions or natural causes in the future. Previous archaeological research includes the following. In 1982 and 1983, three land parcels were surveyed for cultural resources in anticipation of development for housing within or immediately adjacent to what later became the refuge boundary. As a result, seven prehistoric archaeological resources and three isolated artifacts were recorded within the current refuge boundaries.

Archaeological fieldwork on the refuge since its establishment in 1985 has primarily focused on compliance with Section 106 of the NHPA for a variety of undertakings proposed either by right-of way holders or by the refuge.