Help Save Endangered Species at Tax Time!

Media Contacts:
Esther Burkett, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3764
Melissa Miller, Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center, (831) 469-1746
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

large black and brown raptor flying overhead

California Condor in flight over the Big Sur Coast. Carrie Battistone/DFG photo

Tiburon Mariposa lily (calichortus tiburonensis). Sam Abercrombie photo

Tiburon Mariposa lily (calichortus tiburonensis). Sam Abercrombie photo

Red fox standing in snow near tree

Sierra Nevada red fox, in Sonora Pass area of Mono County. CDFW photo

Sea otter floaring on its back in bay water

California (southern) sea otter in Monterey Bay. CDFW photo

Orange and yellow globe-like flower

Pitkin marsh lily, (lilium pardalinum), a state-listed endangered species. Roxanne Bittman/DFG photo

gray freshwater fish with salmon-colored sides and gills in clear stream

Rare Paiute cutthroat trout in a remote Alpine County stream. CDFW photo.

Two yellow-legged frogs on creek bank

Mountain Yellow-legged frogs (Rana sierrae) in the eastern Sierra Nevada. CDFW photo

Gray owl on tree branch

A great gray owl in Sierra National Forest near Oakhurst. Chris Stermer/CDFW photo

Lizard with leopard-like markings on a rock

Endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia silus).

California’s wild animals and plants need your help, and there’s an easy way to do it! Just make a voluntary contribution on line 403 and/or line 410 of your state income tax return (Form 540). By contributing any amount over one dollar you can support the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Fund and/or the California Sea Otter Fund. What you donate this year is tax deductible on next year’s return. Californians can receive state income tax credit from the Franchise Tax Board for helping wildlife.

“The voluntary contributions Californians make at tax time are incredibly helpful in our efforts to save threatened and endangered species,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “These funds have provided critical support for many state-listed species, including the Tiburon mariposa lily, Owens pupfish, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, mountain yellow-legged frog, great gray owl, Sierra Nevada red fox and many more. These donations help protect California’s exceptional biodiversity.”

There are 387 listed plant and animal species in the state, from little “bugs” that most of us have never heard of, to the iconic California sea otter. Money raised through the tax check-off program helps pay for essential CDFW research and recovery efforts, and critical updates on the status of state-listed species to help assure their conservation.

California is one of 41 states that allows taxpayers to make voluntary, tax-deductible contributions to worthwhile causes on their state returns. Since 1983, the tax check-off fund for Rare and Endangered Species has raised more than $18 million and supported numerous projects, including surveys for the endangered Sierra Nevada red fox. Support from California taxpayers has enabled wildlife biologists to achieve important recovery milestones to conserve vulnerable species.

More information on the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation tax check-off program is available at

A second tax check-off fund was created in 2006 specifically to facilitate recovery of the California sea otter, which is listed as a Fully Protected Species under the state law and threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. According to the most recently completed survey, there are fewer than 3,000 sea otters in California waters. This small population is vulnerable to oil spills, environmental pollution, predation by white sharks and other threats. Many sea otter deaths have been linked to pollution flowing from land to the sea, including fecal parasites, bacterial toxins, road and agricultural run-off, and chemicals linked to coastal land use.

According to CDFW Wildlife Veterinarian and lead sea otter pathologist Melissa Miller, the California Sea Otter Fund provides essential funding to help state scientists better understand and trace the causes of sea otter mortality, identify factors limiting population growth and collaborate with other organizations to prevent the pollution of California’s nearshore marine ecosystem. This fund consists entirely of voluntary contributions from taxpayers of the state of California. The California Sea Otter Fund has become especially vital during the current economic downturn, because other sources of support for sea otter conservation and research have decreased or disappeared entirely. There are no other dedicated state funding sources available to continue this important work.

You can support this research by making a contribution on line 410 of your state tax form 540, the California Sea Otter Fund. CDFW works with the California Coastal Conservancy, Friends of the Sea Otter, Defenders of Wildlife and others to promote the Sea Otter Fund. Visit the website at and our Facebook page at

Sea Otter Awareness Week is Sept. 23-29

Sept. 20, 2012
Media Contacts:

Michael Harris, DFG-OSPR Scientific Branch, (805) 772-1135
Colleen Young, DFG-OSPR Scientific Branch, (831) 469-1740
Mary Fricke, DFG-OSPR Public Affairs, 916-327-9948

Celebrate Sea Otter Awareness Week with the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG)! The last full week of each September numerous organizations work to educate, inform and entertain the public with sea otter-related activities.

This year DFG is celebrating the birth of a pup to “Olive” (the once-oiled otter). This is a milestone in oiled wildlife rehabilitation because it is believed to be the first time a previously oiled sea otter in California has given birth to a pup. About half of all pups don’t make it to weaning, so scientists won’t call it a true success until this pup is a weaned, healthy thriving sea otter. DFG staff have been monitoring Olive ever since she was rescued, cleaned, rehabilitated and released in spring 2009 and will continue to do so from a safe distance, without disturbing mother and pup. DFG’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) has created a Facebook page to follow her progress (

Specific upcoming events related to Sea Otter Awareness Week include the following:

  • Wildlife Veterinarian Melissa Miller will make a Sea Otter Awareness Week presentation at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. Dr. Miller will explain how DFG scientists use “CSI” procedures to identify the diseases, parasites and environmental problems affecting sea otters in California’s waters.
  • DFG Biologist Colleen Young will demonstrate the equipment she uses to track sea otters in Capitola from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25 and 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27. Meet her at the picnic tables at “The Hook” (the corner of East Cliff Dr. and 41st Ave.).
  • On Sept. 27, two otter lectures will be held at the Seymour Center at Long Marine Lab in Santa Cruz. Stori Oates, who works for DFG and the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, will present The Land-Sea Connection: What Southern Sea Otters Can Tell Us About Coastal Health. Lectures begin at 7 p.m.

Other events celebrating the Central Coast’s most famous marine residents include free public lectures at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center at Long Marine Lab in Santa Cruz (, a kayak tour at Elkhorn Slough, and otter-themed activities at the Marine Mammal Center, California Academy of Sciences, Estuary Nature Center in Morro Bay, the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, the Aquarium of the Pacific and Sea World San Diego. The Friends of the Sea Otter website provides further details and dates at!events/cmm9.

Sea Otter Awareness Week serves to remind people to watch out for –­ and keep their distance from ­– sea otters when boating, paddling, or surfing on the Central Coast. Be especially careful in kelp beds, as otters wrap themselves and their pups in kelp on the surface to sleep and keep from drifting away. The Marine Mammal Protection Act requires people on the water to stay far enough from the animals (at least 50 yards) to not cause them to change their behavior. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides a handbook for ocean users at

Sea otters are an indicator species – that is, their health and population reflect the health of our nearshore ecosystem, from kelp forests to fisheries. They once numbered between several hundred thousand and more than a million, worldwide. The fur trade of the 18th and 19th centuries caused sea otter populations to collapse, and by the early 1900s, the California sea otter population was thought extinct. In 1938 a small remnant population of otters was discovered off the Big Sur coast. Protection under the Endangered Species Act and the efforts of many Californians have helped increase that population, but they are far from full recovery. The 2012 spring population survey by DFG-OSPR, the U.S. Geological Survey and Monterey Bay Aquarium produced a population index of 2,792 sea otters in California. This indicates their population  growth is much slower than it should be after years of no growth and decades of slow recovery.

DFG scientists are working to identify the cause of this plateau and find solutions to get the sea otter population growing again. California taxpayers can support DFG’s sea otter program by making voluntary contributions to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 of their state income tax returns. More information on this program is posted at

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Please do not reply to this is for outgoing messages only and is not checked for incoming mail. For questions about this News Release, contact the individual(s) listed above. Thank you.

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Otter Pup Is First In California Born To Previously Oiled Sea Otter

Media Contacts:
Mary Fricke, OSPR, (916) 327-9948
Eric Laughlin, OSPR, (916) 323-6286

Facebook followers of “Olive the Oiled Otter” received long-awaited news:

Rescued sea otter, Olive, with pup

Scientists spotted her with what they believe is her first pup. The birth of Olive’s pup is a milestone in oiled wildlife rehabilitation as this is the first pup born to a previously oiled sea otter in California.

In early August, researchers from the Department of Fish and Game’s (DFG) Santa Cruz-based Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center brought Olive into a mobile veterinary lab posted at the Santa Cruz Harbor for her first veterinary exam since her release. The team determined she was about half-term pregnant. She was given new flipper tags and released back to her capture site.

“Olive,” who was estimated to be a year old at the time of her rescue in February 2009, earned her name during rehabilitation at the facility funded through DFG’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR), when researchers used olive oil as part of the intensive bathing process.

“After being rehabilitated, she was released back into the wild on April 7, 2009, and we’ve followed her since,” said Laird Henkel, manager of the Santa Cruz-based research center. “In recent months, she’s been known to frequent a surf spot in Capitola known to locals as ‘The Hook’. Olive has successfully re-integrated back into the wild, socializing with other otters and foraging normally.”

DFG scientists made a visual observation of Olive (without a pup) on Aug. 18, 2012, and then she took a short vacation from her normal resting area in Capitola, making her difficult to find for a few weeks.  Her transmitter was heard back in Capitola on Sept. 7, 2012, and Olive was spotted swimming on her back clutching a newborn pup tightly to her chest. Initial observations indicate that Olive is an attentive mother, frequently grooming, nursing and holding her pup.

DFG biologists will continue monitoring Olive and her pup at a safe distance to document her success in the wild while minimizing disturbance to the new family.

DFG teams with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the U.S. Geological Survey to study the ecology and population trends of the Southern Sea Otter, which is listed as a federally threatened species. Results of the 2012 sea otter survey listed a population index of 2,792, which represents a very small increase in number and reverses the downward trend of the last few years.

This month also marks the 10th anniversary of Sea Otter Awareness Week on Sept. 23 – 29, which provides the opportunity to educate the public about sea otters, their natural history and the conservation issues they face. The public also has the opportunity to donate to the Sea Otter Tax Check-off Fund to help fund sea otter research when filing in October for late and quarterly income tax. 

For information on Sea Otter Awareness Week, visit and for information on the Sea Otter Tax Check-off Fund visit  Additional information on Olive’s progress and photos are available at
General information on sea otter research is also available at

 Photos for media use provided by US Geological Survey and DFG:


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