Category Archives: Endangered Species

CDFW Seeks Information Related to Flat-tailed Horned Lizard

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking information relevant to a proposal to list the flat-tailed horned lizard as an endangered species.

The flat-tailed horned lizard (Phrynosoma mcallii) inhabits desert habitats in southeastern California, the extreme southwestern portion of Arizona and the adjacent portions of northeastern Baja California Norte and northwestern Sonora, Mexico. This species has the smallest range of any horned lizard in the United States. Approximately one-quarter of the flat-tailed horned lizard’s range is in California, where it is confined to lower elevations throughout much of the Salton Trough, sections of eastern San Diego County, central Riverside County and western and south-central Imperial County.

In June 2014, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) submitted a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) to formally list the flat-tailed horned lizard as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. The listing petition described a variety of threats to the survival of flat-tailed horned lizards in California. These include direct and indirect impacts associated with agricultural, urban and renewable energy development, on- and off-road vehicles, habitat fragmentation, barriers to movement, military training and border activities, nonnative plants and climate change. CDFW recommended and the Commission voted to advance the species to candidacy on February 12, 2015. The Commission published findings of this decision on February 24, 2015, triggering a 12-month period during which CDFW will conduct a status review to inform the Commission’s decision on whether to list the species.

As part of the status review process, CDFW is soliciting information from the public regarding the species’ ecology, genetics, life history, distribution, abundance, habitat, the degree and immediacy of threats to reproduction or survival, adequacy of existing management and recommendations for management of the species. Comments, data and other information can be submitted in writing to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Nongame Wildlife Program
Attn: Laura Patterson
1812 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95811

Comments may also be submitted by email to wildlifemgt@wildlife.ca.gov. If submitting comments by email, please include “flat-tailed horned lizard” in the subject heading.

All comments received by September 14, 2015 will be evaluated prior to submission of the CDFW report to the Commission. Receipt of the report will be placed on the agenda for the next available meeting of the Commission after delivery and the report will be made available to the public at that time. Following the receipt of the CDFW report, the Commission will allow a 30-day public comment period prior to taking any action on CDFW’s recommendation.

CBD’s listing petition and CDFW’s petition evaluation for the flat-tailed horned lizard are available at fgc.ca.gov/regulations/2014/index.aspx#fthl.

Media Contacts:
Laura Patterson, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 341-6981
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

May 15 is the 10th National Endangered Species Day

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recognizes the 10th National Endangered Species Day with a focused environmental concern. The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to conserve imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend to prevent extinction. Special activities are scheduled at the zoos in San Diego, Santa Ana, Los Angeles and San Francisco, at Yosemite National Park, San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, San Diego Botanic Gardens, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro, Buena Vista Audubon Society Nature Center, San Francisco Zoo and Sacramento’s Beach Lake Park. Visit www.endangeredspeciesday.org to learn more. California, with all its geographic variety, has tremendous biological diversity. Our state supports more than 5,000 native plants and more than 1,000 native animal species. At least one third of the plants and two thirds of the animals here are endemic species that occur nowhere else in the world. Of all these species, more than 300 are designated by the state as rare, threatened or endangered. There are 133 species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act in California. Loss of habitat, water management conflicts, invasive species, poaching and climate change are the greatest threats to their long-term survival. The combination of wildfires and extreme drought conditions in most of the state add to the pressures on our already-stressed wild plants and animals. CDFW is paying special attention to priority listed species and other sensitive native wildlife that are in areas most severely affected by the drought. Emergency drought funds support projects that transferred water to critical fish and wildlife populations that might not have survived the continuing severe dry conditions without it. Examples of actions taken last year include the flooding of wetland habitats for giant garter snakes in State Wildlife Areas and the relocation of stranded salmon and steelhead. CDFW is establishing fish and wildlife stressor monitoring to assess the drought’s effects and identify key support projects for high-priority listed species such as Amargosa vole, tri-colored blackbird, salmon and species that occur in the San Joaquin Valley. One endangered plant is Butte County meadowfoam (Limnanthes floccosa ssp. californica), a small annual plant that only occurs at the bottom of rocky vernal pools in Butte County. The species has been protected at CDFW’s Stone Ridge and North Table Mountain Ecological Reserves, and although several thousand plants were observed at Stone Ridge this year, only 107 plants were counted at North Table Mountain, which is open to the public and offers fantastic spring wildflower viewing. Endangered Species Day was started in 2006 by the U.S. Senate to raise awareness of and celebrate these disappearing plant and animal species, and draw attention to successful recovery programs and opportunities for the public to get involved. It also honors the people who uphold the legacy of the Act while inspiring the next generation of conservation leaders. To learn more about CDFW’s drought-related actions to protect California’s fish and wildlife, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/drought.

Gray owl on tree branch
A great gray owl in Sierra National Forest near Oakhurst. Chris Stermer/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.
A red fox with black legs and ears, sitting in snow
Sierra Nevada red fox, in Sonora Pass area, Mono County. CDFW photo
A light brown vole in a gloved hand
Captive Amargosa vole. Don Preisler/UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
Western pond turtle on dry gravel
Western pond turtle. Christina Sousa/CDFW photo
a dark gray salamander on wet dirt
Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander. David Laabs photo.
Tan and brown giant garter snake
Female, standard brown giant garter snake. Eric Hansen photo

Media Contacts: Daniel Applebee, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (209) 588-1879 Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

You Can Help Something Wild When You File!

There’s still time to help endangered species on your California income tax return, if you haven’t yet filed it. Near the end of Form 540 there is a section called Voluntary Contributions where you can donate one dollar or more to the Rare and Endangered Species Fund (line 403) and/or the California Sea Otter Fund (line 410). If you itemize deductions, the amount you donate this year will be tax-deductible next year.

With more than 200 species of plants and 80 species of California’s animals listed as rare, threatened or endangered, a great deal of work is needed to recover them. Donations on Line 403 help pay for essential California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, and critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat.

Tiburon mariposa lily, California tiger salamander, giant garter snake, yellow-billed cuckoo and island fox are among the species CDFW is currently working on to ensure they survive well into the future.

California’s southern sea otter population remains below 3,000, so Enhydra lutris is still a fully protected species under state law and listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Donations to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 support research by CDFW scientists, who are currently studying 15 years of sea otter mortality information and recently discovered viruses not previously known in this species. These studies should help us better understand the causes of mortality and contribute to population recovery efforts.

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please let him or her know you want to donate to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 or the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program on line 403. If you use Turbo Tax, when you’re near the end of your tax return it should ask if you want to make a voluntary contribution to a special fund. Click “Yes” and go to lines 403 and 410.

CDFW scientists work with their counterparts in other government agencies, nonprofit organizations and the private sector to achieve important recovery milestones to conserve vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers like you. More information about how CDFW uses funds in the Rare and Endangered Species Protection and Sea Otter programs is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Tax-Donation and www.facebook.com/SeaOtterFundCDFW.

Media Contacts:
Laird Henkel, CDFW Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726
Esther Burkett, CDFW Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Help Endangered Species With Your Tax Return

Would you like to help protect California’s rare, threatened and endangered species? The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites you to do that by making a voluntary contribution to the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program and/or the

two sea otters floating on their backs, touching forepaws, with caption "Will U Be My Valentine?"
California Sea Otter Fund Valentine. Joe Robertson photo used with permission.

California Sea Otter Fund on your California income tax return. Just enter the dollar amount you wish to donate on lines 403 and/or 410 of your tax return (form 540). If you itemize deductions, you can deduct the amount you donate on next year’s return.

“Donations to these funds have helped CDFW study species that are in trouble, determine what they need to thrive and develop ways to improve their health and populations,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Californians continue to show they understand and care about threatened and endangered species, and the need to protect their habitat.”

One of CDFW’s tax donation funds facilitates recovery of the southern sea otter, which is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act and as a Fully Protected Species under state law. A 2014 survey indicated there are fewer than 3,000 sea otters in California waters – a fraction of their historic numbers. This small population is vulnerable to oil spills, environmental pollution, predation by white sharks and other threats.

Donations to the California Sea Otter Fund support research by CDFW scientists, who are currently studying 15 years of sea otter mortality information and recently discovered viruses not previously known in sea otters. These studies should provide a better understanding of mortality causes and contribute to population recovery efforts.

Donations to the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program support numerous conservation projects for California’s rare, threatened and endangered species, including:

a dark gray salamander on wet dirt
Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander. David Laabs photo.
  • Santa Cruz long-toed salamander: Known to exist in only a few locations in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. CDFW works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Santa Cruz County Resource Conservation District to create and enhance habitat for this species on preserves that have been set aside for its conservation.

    Small island fox pup held in gloved hands
    Island fox pup. Deana Clifford photo
  • Island fox: Small foxes that live on the Channel Islands off of Southern California. CDFW has worked with public and private partners to increase the number of foxes on all of the islands from a few hundred to more than 5,800 foxes.
  • Yellow-billed cuckoo: Rare and secretive birds that have declined markedly with the destruction of riparian habitat in California. CDFW is working with multiple partners to survey and monitor them and to implement recovery actions.

    Brown and orange giant garter snake
    Female orange giant garter snake. Eric Hansen photo
  • Giant garter snake: A highly aquatic snake whose marsh habitat in the Central Valley has likely been further reduced in some areas by drought. CDFW has been working with the multiple partners to ensure water is delivered to important areas for the species’ survival.

    Tan and brown giant garter snake
    Female, standard brown giant garter snake. Eric Hansen photo
  • California tiger salamander: The vernal pools that this species typically breeds in have also likely been impacted by the drought in some areas. CDFW is working with multiple partners to coordinate studies of these colorful salamanders and to protect their habitat.

    a dark gray salamander on wet dirt
    Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander. David Laabs photo.

CDFW biologists have been able to achieve important recovery milestones to conserve vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers like you. More information about how CDFW uses funds in the Rare and Endangered Species Protection and Sea Otter programs is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Tax-Donation and www.facebook.com/SeaOtterFundCDFW.

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please let him or her know you want to donate to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 or the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program on line 403. If you use Turbo Tax, when you’re near the end of your tax return it should ask if you want to make a voluntary contribution to a special fund. Click “Yes” and go to lines 403 and 410.

The state has listed more than 200 species of plants and 80 species of animals as rare, threatened or endangered. Money raised through the tax donation program helps pay for essential CDFW research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, and critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat.

Media Contacts:
Laird Henkel, Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726
Esther Burkett, CDFW Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Scientists work to save endangered desert mammal

Amargosa voles, small rodents that inhabit rare marshes of the Mojave Desert, have faced dire circumstances in recent years. Loss of habitat, extreme drought and climate change brought this subspecies of the California vole to near extinction, leaving only a few hundred clinging to existence. It is now one of the most critically endangered mammals in North America. Its luck may be changing with the birth of the first set of pups from a new captive breeding program at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

An interdisciplinary research team is working to study the vole and ultimately shore up the population so that it doesn’t go extinct. As part of that effort, the team began a captive breeding program. Ten females and 10 males, all about five weeks of age, were removed from the wild in mid-July and brought to UC Davis.

The research team includes members from UC Davis, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and UC Berkeley.

In the field, researchers have observed fluctuations in the size of the Amargosa vole population.

“The numbers are at their highest just after breeding in the spring when the vegetation is still good,” said project lead Janet Foley, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “But as the summer wears on and the limited marsh habitat dries up, the population may crash. This year, we saw their main marsh shrinking fast and we knew a large number would die in the coming months. If we wanted to save the species, we had to act quickly.”

During the first few weeks in captivity at Davis, the voles remained quarantined in individual enclosures. They underwent full diagnostic testing for pathogens and genetic analysis to ensure the most diverse breeding pool possible before placed together in breeding pairs.

By October, all three of the pairs produced pups. There are four healthy pups now. Eventually, the animals will be placed outside in large escape-proof tubs in a secure location. The tubs will be planted with bulrush to mimic their native habitat.

Researchers aren’t sure how long it will take the captive population to build. They also hope to learn about optimal breeding conditions – such as food, shelter, length of daylight and temperature – for the voles. Once a few hundred voles have been born in captivity, researchers plan to reintroduce them to the marsh areas in their home range.

“We know the population is already inbred, but we don’t know whether that has affected them as a species,” Foley said. “There’s so much we have yet to learn about this subspecies. This is a great opportunity to understand population genetics, basic ecology and behavior. Previously, we’ve made assumptions about those things, but now we can verify them.”

Taking a toll on the vole

The Amargosa vole (Microtus californicus scirpensis) inhabits sparsely located wetlands just east of Death Valley National Park. Those marsh habitats, which exist only in a few small, isolated patches throughout the desert, are increasingly threatened by drought, climate change and habitat modification by humans. The current drought has likely exacerbated their dire situation. Low water means fewer bulrushes – the wetland plants this subspecies depends heavily upon for habitat and food.

Once thought to be extinct, the Amargosa vole was rediscovered in the late 1970s by a state fish and wildlife biologist. It was listed as an endangered species in 1980 by the state and in 1984 by the federal government. Recent BLM research indicates an 82 percent chance that the species could go extinct within five years if immediate management action is not taken.

In the past few years, the research team has worked to update information about the number of voles and where they live. Researchers have looked at additional factors impacting the Amargosa vole, including infectious diseases, competition with other rodents, predation, and other environmental pressures.

“The commitment and collaboration demonstrated by the inter-agency/academia vole working group is a great example of what can be accomplished in a short time to conserve not only the Amargosa vole, but also its unique desert marsh habitat that other species also depend on,” said program co-lead Deana Clifford, CDFW wildlife veterinarian and assistant clinical professor at UC Davis. “By pooling our resources and working together we can increase the chances that healthy populations of Amargosa voles will persist well into the future.”

Funding for the research and captive breeding colony comes from BLM, CDFW, USFWS and the State Office of Emergency Services (drought funding). UC Davis and CDFW are donating personnel time, and a private landowner has been providing free field housing for the research crews.

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

About the School of Veterinary Medicine

Leading Veterinary Medicine, Addressing Societal Needs: The School of Veterinary Medicine serves the people of California by providing educational, research, clinical service and public service programs of the highest quality to advance the health of animals, people and the environment, and to contribute to the economy. For further information, please visit www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/.

About the California Department of Fish and Wildlife

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife works 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.

Media Contacts:
Deana Clifford, CDFW/UC Davis, (916) 358-2378; Deana.Clifford@wildlife.ca.gov
Janet Foley, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, (530) 754-9740, jefoley@ucdavis.edu
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420, Dana.Michaels@wildlife.ca.gov
Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-7704, kekerlin@ucdavis.edu

CDFW Seeking Research Projects on Watershed Predation of Threatened and Endangered Species

Contacts:
Marty Gingras, CDFW Bay-Delta Region, (209) 234-3486
Kevin Fleming, CDFW Water Branch, (916) 445-1739
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is announcing the public release of a proposal solicitation package (PSP) titled Research Regarding Predation on Threatened and/or Endangered Species in the Delta, Sacramento and San Joaquin Watersheds. CDFW has approximately $1 million available to award to grantees to conduct research as outlined in the PSP.  As a condition of funding, grantees must issue a publication-worthy final report at the conclusion of the three-year grant term.

Eligible research projects must present an experimental design that:

Tests explicit alternative hypotheses about the role(s) of predation as it may affect the demographic status and trends of one or more of the Bay-Delta listed species;

  • Samples across salient spatial and temporal gradients in the Delta and/or the anadromous waters of the Sacramento River and San Joaquin River watersheds; and
  • Does not direct funding to an activity or activities that CDFW or any consortium with which CDFW is affiliated is already undertaking or obligated to undertake.

The grant priorities, guidelines and application can be found in the PSP which posted on CDFW’s Grant Opportunities website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Explore/Grant-Opportunities.

Eligible grant proposals must be postmarked no later than Nov. 10, 2014 and be sent to:

CDFW Water Branch
Attn: Predation Research PSP
830 S Street
Sacramento, CA, 95811

Joint Release of Federal Recovery Plan for Salmon and Steelhead and Conservation Strategy for California’s Ecosystem Restoration Program

noaa cdfw logos

SACRAMENO, Calif. – NOAA Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today jointly released two plans to restore populations of salmon and steelhead in California’s Central Valley: NOAA Fisheries’ Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Plan and CDFW’s Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP) Conservation Strategy.

The two plans are complementary in that CDFW’s conservation strategy presents a broader framework for restoring aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems throughout the Central Valley, while the federal recovery plan focuses on the recovery of endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, threatened Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, and threatened Central Valley steelhead.

A shared goal of both plans is to remove these species from federal and state lists of endangered and threatened species. The recovery plan provides a detailed road map for how to reach that goal. It lays out a science-based strategy for recovery and identifies the actions necessary to restore healthy salmon and steelhead populations to the Central Valley.

“Establishing clear priority watersheds, fish populations and actions is essential to achieve recovery,” said Maria Rea, NOAA Fisheries Assistant Regional Administrator for California’s Central Valley Office. “Implementation of this plan will depend on many parties working collaboratively to pool resources, expertise and programs to recover Chinook salmon and steelhead populations that are part of California’s natural heritage.“

Recovery plans required by the Endangered Species Act are guidance documents, not regulatory requirements, and their implementation depends on the voluntary cooperation of multiple stakeholders at the local, regional, state and national levels.

“The Sacramento Valley joins together a world-renowned mosaic of natural abundance: productive farmlands, meandering rivers that provide habitat and feed salmon and steelhead, wildlife refuges and managed wetlands, and cities and rural communities,” said David Guy, President of the Northern California Water Association. “The recovery plan is a positive step forward–through efficient management of the region’s water resources, water suppliers throughout the Sacramento Valley will continue to work with our conservation partners to help implement the recovery plan and improve ecological conditions in the Sacramento River for multiple species and habitat values.”

The ERP conservation strategy was developed by CDFW collaboratively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries to help guide environmental restoration and establish adaptive management to improve restoration success in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its watershed. The approach of conservation strategy is to restore or mimic ecological processes and to improve aquatic and terrestrial habitats to support stable, self-sustaining populations of diverse and valuable species.

“It is critical we make strategic investments in our natural resources,” said Charlton H. Bonham, Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The funding of these high-priority restoration projects is not only an example of the coordinated effort between state and federal governments, but an example of California’s continued efforts to minimize the effects of drought on fish and wildlife. Central Valley salmon and steelhead deserve nothing less.

California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.’s 2014-15 budget provided CDFW with $38 million to implement enhanced salmon monitoring, restore sensitive habitat, improve water infrastructure for wildlife refuges, expand the fisheries restoration grant program, and remove barriers for fish passage. Some of that money will be used on projects recommended by the federal recovery plan.

Dick Pool of the Golden Gate Salmon Association said, “We thank and congratulate the scientists of NOAA Fisheries for their outstanding work in developing the Central Valley Recovery Plan. GGSA and the salmon industry particularly appreciate the fact that the plan includes both short range and long range actions that can reverse the serious salmon and steelhead population declines. GGSA has identified a number of the same projects as needing priority action. We also commend the agency for its diligent efforts to engage the other fishery agencies, the water agencies and the salmon stakeholders in the process. We look forward to assisting in finding ways to get the critical projects implemented.”

The federal recovery plan and state conservation strategy work together as a blueprint of how at-risk species can be restored to sustainable levels.Restoring healthy, viable salmon and steelhead runs will preserve and enhance the commercial, recreational and cultural opportunities for future generations. As the fish populations grow and recover, so too will the economic benefits and long-term fishing opportunities for everyone.

“The Recovery Plan provides a clear framework to better coordinate and align restoration projects in the Delta, the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries to achieve greater conservation outcomes,” said Jay Ziegler, Director of External Affairs and Policy for The Nature Conservancy. “We are pleased to see the integration of multiple habitat values in the Plan including the importance of expanding lateral river movements to enhance floodplain habitat and recognition of the importance of variable flow regimes to benefit multiple species.”

The development of a recovery plan is an important part in the successful rebuilding of a species because it incorporates information from a multitude of interested parties including scientific researchers, stakeholders and the general public. Since 2007, NOAA Fisheries has held 14 public workshops, produced a draft for public comment, and met with strategic stakeholders to guide the plan’s development and ensure a comprehensive and useful document.

CDFW will be investing considerable resources in improving water conservation on public wildlife refuges in the Central Valley and protecting important salmon stocks that contribute to the state’s fishery. The department has also recently released a restoration grant solicitation which includes salmon and steelhead watersheds in the Central Valley. The solicitation can be found here. Applications are being accepted until August 12, 2014.

More on the NOAA Fisheries Recovery Plan and the CDFW Ecosystem Restoration Program

Contact:
Jim Milbury, NOAA Fisheries Communications, (562) 980-4006
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Communications, (916) 651-7824

Yolo County Jury Convicts Sturgeon Poachers

A Yolo County jury convicted a repeat sturgeon poacher and his accomplice of multiple felonies and poaching charges stemming from a 2010 poaching investigation. They were convicted June 19, with sentencing scheduled for Aug. 1.

In Feb. 2010, Nikolay Krasnodemskiy, 41, of North Highlands, and his partner Petr Dyachishin, 54, of Citrus Heights, were observed catching and retaining oversized sturgeon and processing their eggs into caviar. An extensive investigation conducted by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers from the Delta Bay Enhanced Enforcement Project and the Special Operations Unit proved the two were selling the sturgeon and their eggs on the black market for personal profit. Sale of sturgeon, their parts, or any fish caught with a recreational fishing license is illegal.

Krasnodemskiy and Dyachishin were each convicted of two felonies related to conspiracy, in addition to multiple counts of commercial sales of sturgeon, possession of oversized sturgeon, failure to tag sturgeon and possession of sturgeon over the annual limit.

California’s sturgeon population is on the edge of sustaining a recreational fishery. As a result, sturgeon anglers must adhere to strict size, limit and tagging requirements to help wildlife officers distinguish between honest anglers and poachers, and to help CDFW biologists maintain adequate scientific data on the fishery and protect the larger breeding adults.

“Taking these poachers out of business will help ensure a healthy sturgeon population into the future,” said CDFW Captain David Bess, who participated in the investigation.

Nikolay Krasnodemskiy was the subject of multiple sturgeon poaching investigations including Operation Delta Beluga II in 2005, which culminated in a conviction and revocation of his fishing license. Soon after his fishing license was reinstated in 2009, he became the subject of another sturgeon poaching investigation. By Feb. 2010, wildlife officers had observed him continue his sturgeon poaching activities, including commercial sales.

Wildlife officers will seek a permanent revocation of Krasnodemskiy’s fishing license and forfeiture of all fishing gear seized during the investigation.

CDFW appreciates legitimate sturgeon anglers for their patience with sturgeon tagging and recordkeeping requirements, which were integral to making the case as well as the long-term management of the sturgeon fishery. CDFW also thanks the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office for their dedication and successful prosecution of the case.

Media Contact:
Lt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095

California Fish and Game Commission Votes to Add Gray Wolf to State Endangered List

Media Contacts:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958

The California Fish and Game Commission has voted to move forward with listing the gray wolf as an endangered species under California law.

The vote took place at the regularly scheduled Commission meeting in Fortuna on June 4. Commissioners Richard Rogers, Jack Baylis and Michael Sutton voted for listing, while Commissioner Jacque Hostler-Carmesin voted no. Commissioner Jim Kellogg was not present.

“No land animal is more iconic in the American West than the Gray Wolf,” said Sutton, who is also president of the Commission. “Wolves deserve our protection as they begin to disperse from Oregon to their historic range in California.”

The new regulatory language will take several months to complete and approve. However, today’s decision provides permanent protection for the gray wolf, and immediate protection under the California Endangered Species Act. That protection will remain in place throughout the required regulatory process.

The gray wolf is already federally listed as an endangered species and is therefore protected by the federal Endangered Species Act in California. The federal Endangered Species Act makes it unlawful to take any listed wildlife unless permitted by regulation. The term “take” means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect or attempt to engage in any such conduct. The protection provided under federal law overlaps, but does not supersede, protection provided by listing under California law.

At this time, there are no gray wolves known to be in California. A male wolf that originated in northeastern Oregon – known as OR7 – has crossed the Oregon/California state line several times since December 2011. At this time, OR7 is in southwestern Oregon, where he has found a mate. On Monday, June 2, biologists from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife captured photographs of two wolf pups in the vicinity.

For more information about gray wolves, including OR7’s travels in California, please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/nongame/wolf/FAQ.html.

 

Recognizing California’s Heroes in a Half-Shell: Our Resident Turtles and Tortoises

A pond turtle with a small transmitter on its back, in someone's hand
Head-started western pond turtle with radio-transmitter at Sycuan Peak Ecological Reserve. Laura Patterson photo
a desert tortoise blends in with rocky ground
Threatened desert tortoise. Laura Patterson photo

Today is World Turtle Day, created to celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) takes this opportunity to remind people that all our native wildlife have their own intrinsic value, even the species that seldom make headlines.

“Oftentimes reptiles like turtles and tortoises don’t get as much attention in the media as their furry and feathery counterparts do, but aside from their intrinsic value, they play a critical role in ecosystem health by their position in the food web,” said Laura Patterson, CDFW statewide coordinator for amphibian and reptile conservation.

Pond turtles, for example, eat aquatic invertebrates and vegetation. In turn, they and their eggs are eaten by raccoons, coyotes and skunks. Hatchlings are eaten by bullfrogs, largemouth bass and large birds such as herons and egrets. A lucky pond turtle can live 70 years in the wild.

The western pond turtle, a Species of Special Concern found primarily west of Sierra-Cascade crest, is California’s only native freshwater turtle species. Once widespread in California, Oregon and Washington, they are now especially uncommon in Southern California due to habitat loss resulting from development and water diversion for urban and agricultural uses. Their populations have also been decimated by invasive, non-native predators like bullfrogs and largemouth bass that devour the tiny hatchling turtles. The introduction of non-native, aggressive “dime store turtles” such as red-eared sliders may also contribute to the western pond turtles’ decline because they occupy similar ecological niches, but the red-eared sliders get much bigger and produce many more offspring, making them superior competitors for limited habitat and food resources.

Many non-native species of turtles are imported and sold as pets when they are very small. When they grow larger, they require a lot more space, they can lose their attractive coloration, and they can become aggressive, leading some people to set them free, assuming they will be fine in the wild. Many die, but enough survive to establish wild populations here that now compete with our native pond turtles.

For that reason, if you have a fishing license, there is no bag or possession limit for the legal take of any subspecies of pond slider (red-eared, yellow-bellied and Cumberland sliders), painted or spiny soft-shelled turtles, all of which are non-native.

Most western pond turtles travel a long distance (546 yards) to upland habitat to lay eggs and even farther sometimes to overwinter. People may encounter turtles during these travels and think they are lost or sick, since they are quite some distance from water. CDFW receives many phone calls from well-meaning people who report that they have found and collected what they believe to be a sick turtle, when in reality the turtle was traveling to upland habitat. People must understand that these turtles do travel away from water during a portion of their life cycle and should be left alone.

It is illegal to capture, collect, intentionally kill or injure, possess, purchase, propagate, sell, transport, import or export any native reptile or amphibian, or part of one, with very few exceptions in the law. That includes western pond turtles and desert tortoises. (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 40)

The desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), California’s only native tortoise, is listed as threatened under both state and federal Endangered Species Acts. It is the California state reptile. As with most endangered species, habitat loss and degradation has led to their decline. In addition, desert tortoise populations have been severely impacted by Upper Respiratory Disease Syndrome, which is contracted through contact with people. The best thing you can do to help conserve our desert tortoises is leave them alone, unless you see one trying to cross a road. In that case, you can help by gently moving it to the side of the road in the direction it was going. As with our native pond turtles, don’t ever remove a tortoise from the wild, and never release one that has been a “pet” into the wild. It also helps to dispose of all trash in appropriate receptacles because if left lying around, it attracts animals that eat small tortoises and turtles. A desert tortoise can live to 150 years.

There are also four species of sea turtle that spend at least part of each year in our waters: Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), Olive (Pacific) Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), and the Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). They are all listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. In October 2012, the leatherback was designated the official state marine reptile and given its own special day last October 15.

Last year CDFW biologists worked with U.S. Geological Survey, the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Association of Governments to reintroduce western pond turtles to Sycuan Peak Ecological Reserve. A video is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEShMdU4L2E.

To learn more about California’s turtles and tortoises, visit www.californiaherps.com/.

Media Contacts:
Laura Patterson, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 341-6981
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420