Category Archives: Endangered Species

Public Meeting to be Held on Proposed Sacramento River Fishing Closure Alternatives

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is holding a public meeting to solicit comments on proposed fishing closure alternatives for 5.5 miles of the Sacramento River above the Highway 44 Bridge in Redding to the Keswick Dam. CDFW has determined a potential closure may be necessary to protect endangered winter-run Chinook salmon.

The meeting will be held Monday, Nov. 14, from 5-7 p.m. at the Redding Public Library, 1100 Parkview Ave., Redding (96001).

CDFW is proposing a suite of closure alternatives in this critical holding and spawning area to ensure added protection for the federal and state endangered winter-run Chinook, which face high risk of extinction. Given the gravity of the current situation, it is imperative that each and every adult fish be given maximum protection. Current regulations do not allow fishing for Chinook, but incidental catch by anglers who are targeting trout could occur.

This reach is the principal spawning area for winter-run Chinook, with an estimated 98 percent of 2014 and 2015 in-river spawning occurring in the 5.5 mile stretch under consideration for closure. This section represents only 10 percent of the waters currently open to fishing upstream of the Red Bluff Diversion Dam.

In 2014 and 2015, approximately 95 percent of eggs and young winter-run Chinook were lost due to elevated river temperatures.

CDFW works with the California Fish and Game Commission to determine whether fishing restrictions in certain areas are necessary.

Persons with disabilities needing reasonable accommodation to participate in public meetings or other CDFW activities are invited to contact CDFW’s Accessibility Coordinator Melissa Carlin at (916) 651-1214 or melissa.carlin@wildlife.ca.gov.

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Media Contacts:
Jason Roberts, CDFW Northern Region, (530) 225-2131
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958

Two Gray Wolves Confirmed Present in Lassen County

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has confirmed the presence of two gray wolves in western Lassen County.

After a wolf-like canid was photographed by trail cameras in Lassen County in fall 2015 and spring 2016, CDFW began operating additional trail cameras in the area and regularly searching for wolf scat and tracks. This summer, photographs, tracks and eyewitness sightings suggested the presence of two canids frequently traveling together.

Numerous scat samples were collected by CDFW scientists and submitted to the University of Idaho’s Laboratory for Ecological, Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics. Genetic analysis of the samples confirmed the presence of a male and a female gray wolf.  There is no current evidence — such as trail camera images, tracks, scat or reported observations — suggesting the wolves produced pups this year.

Analysis of scat indicates that the male wolf was born into the Rogue Pack in 2014, and most likely dispersed to Lassen County in late 2015 or 2016. The founder of the Rogue Pack is the well-known gray wolf OR7 (collared in Oregon by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife) who dispersed from northeast Oregon and traveled around northern California in 2011 and 2012 before eventually finding a mate and establishing a territory in southern Oregon in 2013.

The DNA of the female wolf does not match that of any known individual wolves from Oregon, and initial analyses indicates she is not a close relative of current Oregon wolves. Dispersing wolves have commonly been documented to travel great distances, and it is possible that she dispersed from another western state. The collection of higher-quality genetic samples may eventually lead to a better understanding of her origin.

Gray wolves were eliminated from California more than 100 years ago, until the return of OR7 in 2011. In May and July 2015, a trail camera in Siskiyou County captured images of a single adult, black wolf. Additional cameras were placed in the vicinity and in August 2015 images of two separate adult black wolves and five pups were captured. CDFW designated these animals the Shasta Pack. Until confirmation of the pair of wolves in Lassen County, these were the only wolves known to occur in California.

According to strategies identified within CDFW’s draft Conservation Plan for Gray Wolves in California, CDFW will continue to assess and monitor gray wolves in California. If the pair documented in Lassen County continues to stay in the region, monitoring may include capturing at least one of the two and fitting it with a satellite-based GPS transmitter.

“The purpose of collaring gray wolves is to understand some key biological parameters such as habitat use, prey preferences and reproduction, as well as to potentially minimize wolf-livestock conflicts” said Karen Kovacs, a CDFW Wildlife Program Manager who has studied the wolves. “Due to concerns for the welfare of wolves, capturing them is generally not feasible in cold weather. Therefore, we would not attempt to capture and collar the wolves until late spring at the earliest.”

Gray wolves are currently listed as endangered both federally and within the state of California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and CDFW have no plans to reintroduce gray wolves into California. CDFW’s draft Conservation Plan for Gray Wolves is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/mammals/gray-wolf.

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Media Contacts:
Karen Kovacs, CDFW Northern Region, (530) 225-2312

Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 212-7352

Sea Otter Survey Encouraging, but Comes Up Short of the “Perfect Story”

The southern sea otter, Enhydra lutris nereis, continues its climb toward recovery, according to the annual count released by the U.S. Geological Survey and partners today. For the first time, southern sea otters’ numbers have exceeded the threshold required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider de-listing the species as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. The annual count will need to surpass this threshold for the next two years for USFWS to review the otters’ listed status. However, localized population declines at the northern and southern ends of the range continue to be a cause for concern among resource management officials.

This year’s survey results suggest an increasing trend over the last five years of more than 3 percent per year. The population index, a statistical representation of the entire population calculated as the three-year running average of census counts, has climbed to 3,272, up from 2,939 in 2013. The growth is accounted for by an unexpected jump in numbers in the center of the sea otter’s range, an area that spans the Californian coast from Monterey south to Cambria.

“We believe the high count this year is partly explained by excellent viewing conditions, but it also appears to reflect increased food availability in the range center,” says Dr. Tim Tinker, a research ecologist who leads the USGS sea otter research program. “The boom in sea urchin abundance throughout northern and central California has provided a prey bonanza for sea otters, and that means more pups and juveniles are surviving to adulthood.”

While the overall population index continues to trend upward, the northern and southern subsets of the population continue a negative five-year decline, dropping 2.5 percent and 0.6 percent per year. “We are still seeing large numbers of stranded otters near the range peripheries, a high percentage of which have lethal shark bite wounds,” says Mike Harris, a biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “These deaths may explain the lack of population growth in those areas.”

Declines at the range ends have implications for the long term outlook for sea otter recovery. “Negative population trends at the edges of the range are probably responsible for the lack of range expansion over the last decade,” explained Tinker. “These are the portions of the population that typically fuel the colonization of new habitats.”

In addition to the sea otter population along the mainland coast, the USGS also surveys the distinct population at San Nicolas Island in the southern California Bight. This population, established by translocation in the late 1980s, struggled at low numbers through the 1990s, but over the last decade has been growing rapidly with a mean growth rate of 13 percent per year. “The sea otters at San Nicolas Island continue to thrive, and some may eventually emigrate to and colonize other Channel Islands in southern California,” says Brian Hatfield, the USGS biologist who coordinates the annual census.

Since the 1980s, USGS scientists have computed the annual population index and evaluated trends in the southern sea otter. For sea otters to be considered for removal from threatened species listing under the Endangered Species Act, the population index would have to exceed 3,090 for three consecutive years, according to the threshold established under the Southern Sea Otter Recovery Plan by the USFWS. To reach the optimum sustainable population level under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which is the number of animals that will result in the maximum productivity of the population while considering carrying capacity and ecosystem health, the southern sea otter population would likely have to reach as many as 8,400 animals in California.

“The population index has exceeded 3,090 for the first time, and that’s encouraging,” said Lilian Carswell, Southern Sea Otter Recovery Coordinator for USFWS, “but sustained population growth will require range expansion, which means that sea otters will somehow have to get past the shark gauntlets near the ends of the current range. Over the longer term, it’s not just sea otter numbers we’re after, but the restoration of ecological relationships in the ecosystems where sea otters and other nearshore species coevolved.”

The sea otter survey and stranding programs are just one part of a larger research program investigating sea otters and their role as predators in coastal ecosystems. In Elkhorn Slough, located between Santa Cruz and Monterey, a recent study suggests that sea otters’ appetite for crabs can improve the health of seagrass beds, and USGS scientists are collaborating with biologists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, University of California, Santa Cruz and CDFW to study the population in this unique habitat. A new study from UCSC, USGS and the Monterey Bay Aquarium is investigating how sea otters near Monterey are responding to the increase in sea urchins, which may be in part a result of loss of predatory sea stars from wasting disease. The scientists are studying whether sea otters play a key role in preventing urchins from over-grazing kelp forests in the absence of sea stars.

Survey Methodology

  • The annual population index is calculated from visual surveys conducted via telescope observations from shore and via low-flying aircraft along the California coastline by researchers, students, and volunteers from USGS, CDFW’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, Monterey Bay Aquarium, UCSC, USFWS and U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
  • This year, the surveyed coastline spanned from Pillar Point in San Mateo County, south to Rincon Point near the Santa Barbara/Ventura County line, and also included San Nicolas Island.

Sea Otter Facts

  • Sea otters were presumed extinct in California after the fur trade years, but were rediscovered in the 1930s, when about 50 animals were documented persisting near Bixby Creek north of Big Sur.
  • Sea otters are considered a keystone species of rocky sub-tidal ecosystems because they prey on sea urchins that, if left unchecked, can decimate kelp beds.
  • Scientists also study sea otters as an indicator of nearshore ecosystem health, since sea otters feed and live near the coast and often are the first predators exposed to pollutants and pathogens washed down from coastlands, such as the microbial toxin microcystin.
  • The public can report sightings of stranded sea otters to institutions listed on this webpage.

More detailed survey results and maps are available in the full report “Spring 2016 California Sea Otter Census Results,” which is available online.

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Media Contacts:
Tim Tinker, USGS, (831) 254-9748
Suzanna Soileau, USGS, (406) 994-7257
Ashley Spratt, USFWS, (805) 320-6225
Dana Michaels, CDFW, (916) 322-2420

Fusilamientos de nutrias marinas en el condado de Santa Cruz

Funcionarios del U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service y del California Department of Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Solicitan Información para Ayudar en la Investigación

El U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) y el California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) solicitan información que lleve a la detención y convicción de la(s) persona(s) responsible(s) por las muertes por fusilamiento de tres nutrias marinas sureñas al final de julio o a principios de agosto.  Se ofrece una recompensa de la menos $10,000 por esta información.

Los tres nutrias marinas machas se hallaron muertas, dos aproximando la madurez y una ya adulta, en el trayecto entre el puerto de Santa Cruz y Seacliffe State Beach en Aptos entre las fechas del 12 al 19 de agosto.  Las nutrias marinas sureñas son protegidas como una especie en peligro de extinción conforme al Endangered Species Act federal.  Se las protege también por el Marine Mammal Protection Act y la ley estatal de California.  Matar una nutria marina sureña se penaliza por una multa de hasta $100,000 y posible condenación a la cárcel.

Los resultados de la necropsia inicial indican que las nutrias marinas recibieron heridas de balas y murieron entre varios días a varias semanas antes de que llegaran arrastradas a la orilla.  El Laboratorio Forense del U.S. Fish and Wildlife dirige unas pesquisas exhaustivas para ayudar en la investigación.

Persona con información en relación con éstos u otros fusilamientos de nutrias marinas debería contactarse con el California Department of Fish and Wildlife por la línea de CalTIP en 1-888-334-2258 (las comunicaciones pueden ser por anonimato) o con el agente especial del U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service al 1-650-876-9078.

Al encontrar una nutria marina muerta en el condado de Santa Cruz, se debería dejarla sin mover, tomar una foto si le sea posible, y denunciarlo de inmediato al CDFW en el 1-831-212-7010.

Las nutrias marinas sureñas, también conocidas como nutrias marinas californianas, se registraron como amenazadas en 1977.  Las nutrias marinas sureñas aparecían en tiempos anteriores en zonas que sobrepasaban los límites de California, sin embargo actualmente se extiende su hábitat entre el condado de San Mateo al norte y el condado de Santa Bárbara al sur con una pequeña agrupación alrededor de la isla de San Nicolás en el condado de Ventura.

El Acuario de Monterey, el California Department of Fish and Wildlife y un donante particular aportaron fondos para la recompensa.

Los objetivos del U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service se constan de elaborar junto con otros la conservación, la protección y el mejoramiento de los peces, la vida silvestre, las plantas y sus hábitats para el beneficio continuo del pueblo de Estados Unidos.  Formamos los líderes y socios confiados en la conservación de los peces y la fauna, reconocidos por la excelencia científica, fideicomiso de la tierra y los recursos naturales, profesionalismo dedicado y compromiso con el servicio al público.  Para más información sobre nuestro encargo y el personal que lo realice, visite www.fws.gov.  

 Los objetivos del California Department of Fish and Wildlife se constan de administrar los diversos recursos de peces, vida silvestre y plantas, y el hábitat del que ellos dependen, para sus valores ecológicos y su disfrute por el público.  Para más información, visite www.wildlife.ca.gov.

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Contactos mediáticos: 
Ashley Spratt, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Ashley_spratt@fws.gov, 805-644-1766 ext. 369

Max Schad, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Max.schad@wildlife.ca.gov, 408-210-5718

Imágenes de nutrias marinas sureñas disponibles para los medios:  https://flic.kr/s/aHsjDh2fwN

Sea Otter Shootings in Santa Cruz County

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Officials Seek Information to Aid in Investigation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are looking for information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the shooting deaths of three southern sea otters in late July or early August. A reward of at least $10,000 is being offered for this information.

The three male sea otters, two sub-adults and one adult, were found dead between the Santa Cruz Harbor and Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, between August 12 and 19.  Southern sea otters are protected as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. They are also protected under Marine Mammal Protection Act and by California state law.  Killing a southern sea otter is punishable by up to $100,000.00 in fines and a possible jail sentence.

Initial necropsy results indicate the otters sustained gunshot wounds and died several days to several weeks prior to washing ashore. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory is conducting a thorough examination to aid in the investigation.

Anyone with information about these or any sea otter shootings should contact the CalTIP line at 1-888-334-2258 (callers may remain anonymous) or the Special Agent of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 650-876-9078.

Anyone who finds a dead sea otter in Santa Cruz County should leave it in place, take a photo if possible, and report it immediately to CDFW at 831-212-7010.

Southern sea otters, also known as California sea otters, were listed as threatened in 1977. Southern sea otters once occurred in areas well outside of California, but currently range from San Mateo County in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south, with a small subpopulation around San Nicolas Island in Ventura County.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, CDFW, and a private donor are contributing to the reward.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

 The mission of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is to   manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public. For more information, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov.

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Media Contacts:
Ashley Spratt, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Ashley_spratt@fws.gov, 805-644-1766 ext. 369
Max Schad, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Max.schad@wildlife.ca.gov, 408-210-5718

Southern sea otter images available for media: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjDh2fwN