All posts by kmacinty

Threatened Green Sturgeon Rescued from Fremont Weir, Returned to Sacramento River

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Biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently saved a Sacramento River green sturgeon trapped in the Fremont Weir. The five-and-a-half-foot long fish was stranded in the nearly two-mile-long concrete weir when Sacramento River floodwaters receded. Sturgeon in this area are migrating up the Sacramento River to spawn above Red Bluff.

Sacramento River green sturgeon were listed as threatened by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under the Endangered Species Act in 2006.

“Rescuing adult fish is always important, but because this year’s high flow conditions are optimal for sturgeon, every sturgeon saved is in a good position to spawn,” said CDFW Fisheries Branch Chief Kevin Shaffer. “Every rescue contributes to a brighter future for the species.”

Captured on March 15, the sturgeon was estimated at more than125 pounds and over 50 years of age. Its large size required biologists to encircle it with a net rigged to poles. It was caught by slipping a hoop net over its head and unraveling a sock-like netting down the length of its body to subdue it. The fish was then placed in a specially-designed cradle for transport back to the main channel of the Sacramento River. Biologists took DNA samples, surgically implanted a sonic tracking tag and measured it prior to releasing it.

Rescuing breeding adults is vitally important to the future of the green sturgeon population. This individual’s opportunity to spawn in the future supports the genetic diversity and integrity of the population. Over the last few years, a number of green sturgeon have been acoustically tagged in the greater Sacramento-San Joaquin River system and are being tracked to better estimate population size, distribution and migration patterns.

Recent efforts to assist green sturgeon appear to be helping, according to NOAA green sturgeon recovery coordinator Joe Heublein. He recently stated that he is “cautiously optimistic” that production may start to increase with improvements to spawning habitat accessibility.

Under Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s “California Eco Restore” initiative, a $4.5 million construction project to improve Fremont Weir is slated to start this summer. The changes will improve fish passage back to the Sacramento River as bypass flows recede, reducing the risk of stranding for endangered and threatened salmon and sturgeon.

Recent rescue efforts have saved green and white sturgeon, young fall-, winter- and spring-run Chinook salmon, young and adult steelhead, a lamprey, two species of bass and a host of other native fish.

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Media Contact:
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478

CDFW Releases First Million of Evacuated Fish into Feather River

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released one million state and federally listed threatened spring-run Chinook salmon into the Feather River on Monday, March 20.

These were the first fish to be released that were evacuated from the Feather River Hatchery in Oroville on Feb. 9, when the water became dangerously murky following the failure of the Oroville Dam spillway. The fish were moved to the Feather River/Thermalito Annex Hatchery and held there until conditions improved.

“Based on the weather forecast and current reservoir storage, we are anticipating high flows in the Feather River for some time,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Colin Purdy. “Releasing these fish now should allow them to imprint on Feather River water and move downstream before flows drop back down to normal levels.”Annex release 2

Central Valley spring-run Chinook are a state and federally listed species and their abundance has declined considerably during the recent drought. The Feather River Fish Hatchery plays a key role in the state’s efforts to propagate this unique run of Chinook salmon.

“Today’s fish release marks the success of federal and state agencies coordinating and managing valuable resources while ensuring public safety during a crisis situation,” said Howard Brown, NOAA Sacramento River Basin Branch Chief. “NOAA Fisheries remains deeply concerned with the damage of the Oroville spillways and is committed to reducing further threats to California communities and ecosystems.”

“This is another example of the extraordinary multi-agency effort to respond to this unfortunate incident,” said California Department of Water Resources Acting Director Bill Croyle. “We will continue to work closely to protect the Feather River and its fisheries.”

Of the fish that were evacuated, another million spring-run Chinook and three million fall-run Chinook remain at the Annex Hatchery. CDFW and NOAA fisheries staff will continuously evaluate the remaining salmon and begin planting them in northern California Rivers when the fish are mature enough.

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Media Contacts:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958
Jim Milbury, NOAA Fisheries, (562) 980-4006

 

2017 Invasive Species Youth Art Contest Kicks Off with “Don’t Let it Loose” Theme

Young artists and future biologists are invited to enter this year’s California Invasive Species Art Contest, sponsored by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). This year’s theme is “Don’t Let it Loose!”

Youths in grades 2 through 12 are eligible to enter. Entries should depict invasive species that might be released into California’s waters, parks and wildlands, along with appropriate messaging such as (but not limited to) the following:2017 CISAW Youth Poster Contest Announcement Flier

  • Releasing invasive species into the wild can harm the environment and California’s native plants and animals
  • Description(s) of one or more species that are commonly released into waters, parks or wildlands
  • Explanations or illustrations showing other ways to rehome unwanted pets or plants

All types of media are welcome and encouraged – drawings, paintings, animations, comic strips, videos, public service announcements, etc. Submissions must be received no later than May 5, 2017, and may be submitted by email or regular mail.

Winners will be chosen in three age divisions: grades 2-4, 5-8 and 9-12. Winners from each division will receive awards and have their posters displayed on CDFW’s Invasive Species Action Week webpage. The submission judged to be the best overall will also receive the “Invasive Species Program Choice” Award.

The entry form and a pdf of the contest announcement flyer can be found online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/CISAW.

The contest is sponsored by CDFW’s Invasive Species Program as part of the 2017 California Invasive Species Action Week, June 3-11. The goal of the Action Week is to increase public awareness of invasive species issues and encourage public participation in the fight against California’s invasive species and their impacts on our natural resources.

Many people don’t realize the potential implications of very simple acts. For example, the release of non-native crayfish used as fishing bait has likely resulted in the decline of California’s native crayfish and impacted other species dependent on the habitat. The dumping of aquarium plants can ultimately end up destroying the quality of our waterways and lands. Red-eared sliders, aquarium fish, and Nerodia watersnakes are other examples of released species that can become invasive and negatively impact native species.

California Invasive Species Action Week activities around the state will include presentations on aquatic and terrestrial invasives, guided outings to observe and assess infested areas, invasive species removal efforts, habitat restoration projects and the announcement of the winners of the youth poster contest. Opportunities for youths and adults to participate or volunteer will be available across the state through participating agencies, organizations and volunteer groups, with information and details to be provided on the Action Week webpage.

More information about CDFW’s Invasive Species Program, including examples of invasive species currently affecting California’s wild lands, can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/invasives.

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Media Contacts:
Rachael Klopfenstein, CDFW Invasive Species Program, (916) 651-3122
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

Recent Urban Coyote Death Linked to Restricted Rodenticides

The carcass of a young and otherwise healthy coyote found in a San Francisco park has tested positive for four different types of rat poison – all of which are illegal for non-professional use in California.

The body of the female coyote was found in Douglass Park in February. Lab test results, recently received by WildCare, prove that the coyote’s death was caused by the consumption of rats that had in turn been poisoned by rodenticide.

Most urban coyote deaths are caused by cars, but radiographs (x-rays) and a postmortem exam at WildCare showed that this coyote had no external injuries.

“If an animal the size of a coyote can ingest enough poisoned rats to kill her, there is no arguing about the prevalence of rodenticides in our environment, and the extreme danger of using these poisons,” said Kelle Kacmarcik, Director of Advocacy at WildCare.

Regulations enacted in 2014 restrict the usage of the most toxic anticoagulant rodenticides to only licensed pest control operators. Homeowners and residents facing pest problems should properly dispose of any previously purchased pesticides containing the active ingredients brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone or difenacoum. A list of statewide facilities that are authorized to dispose of household hazardous waste can be found here. 

In addition to the state regulations, the city of San Francisco maintains a strong anti-rodenticide stance. City and county entities are required to use less toxic alternatives to manage rodents and only use poison as a last resort. Rodenticides are not used in city parks, including Glen Canyon, Douglass and Christopher parks.

The coyote’s necropsy report showed the cause of death to be massive internal bleeding due to rat poisoning. Four different types of rat poisons were detected in her liver. Since each brand of commercially available rat poison only carries one of the available rodenticide compounds, the coyote must have eaten rats poisoned from at least four different sources.

It is impossible to determine the exact sources of the poisons. This otherwise healthy coyote died as a result either of residents and local businesses hiring pest control operators or illegal use of rodenticides by consumers.

“These poisons are everywhere, and ironically, they are killing the very animals nature provides to control rodent populations,” Kacmarcik said.

WildCare has been actively testing rodent predators since 2006. Over the last 11 years, 76 percent of predatory animals tested have been found to carry one or more rat poisons in their blood.

For more information about alternative methods of controlling pests, please see www.wildlife.ca.gov/Living-with-Wildlife/Rodenticides and www.wildcarebayarea.org/rodenticide.

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Media Contacts:
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988
Alison Hermance, WildCare, (415) 453-1000, ext. 24
WildCare logo

 

 

Feather River Hatchery Closed Until Further Notice

Due to recent flooding from the Feather River, the Feather River Hatchery in Oroville will remain closed to the public until further notice.

The hatchery’s infrastructure and public viewing areas were damaged by high flood waters, silt and debris, making it unsafe for the public to be on the grounds or access the river via hatchery property.

“Our staff is focused on keeping the hatchery salmon and steelhead alive, and facility cleanup efforts won’t be completed for some time,” said Anna Kastner, Feather River Hatchery Manager. “We appreciate the public’s patience and support of our efforts to preserve these critical stocks under unusual and challenging circumstances. We’ll be very happy when all operations are back to normal.”

On Feb. 9 and 10, more than 60 people from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and other agencies successfully transferred more than five million Chinook salmon to an annex hatchery nine miles away. Fisheries staff also constructed an emergency filtration system for the remaining salmon and steelhead at the Oroville facility.

To date, losses at the hatchery have been minimal.

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Media Contacts:
Anna Kastner, CDFW Feather River Fish Hatchery, (530) 538-2222

Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958