Category Archives: Endangered Species

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.

###

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.

###

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.

# # #

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

California Ivory Ban Now in Effect

Signed by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. last October, a new law banning the sale of nearly all ivory in the state of California is effective as of July 1, 2016. The ban, which can be found in California Fish and Game Code, section 2022, encompasses teeth and tusks of elephant, hippopotamus, mammoth, mastodon, walrus, warthog, whale and narwhal, as well as rhinoceros horn, regardless of whether it is raw, worked or powdered, or from a store or a private collection. Under the law, advertising the sale of any items containing ivory is also strictly prohibited.

“The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) continues its active role with our federal partners to end wildlife trafficking, which poses a critical threat to conservation throughout the world,” said David Bess, Chief of CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division. “This law provides another tool to aid in this effort.”
Under the new law, raw ivory and most crafted items that include ivory may no longer be purchased, sold or possessed with the intent to sell, with limited exceptions, including the following:
  • Ivory or rhino horn that is part of a bona fide antique (with historical documentation showing the antique is at least 100 years old) provided the item is less than 5 percent ivory or rhino horn by volume;
  • Ivory or rhino horn that is part of a musical instrument (with documentation of pre-1975 construction) provided the instrument contains less than 20 percent ivory or rhino horn by volume; and
  • Activities expressly authorized by federal law, or federal exemptions or permits.
California has a long history in the legal and illegal trafficking market of ivory within the United States. Although the sale of ivory and elephant parts has been illegal in California since 1977, the new law closed a loophole that allowed the continued sale of ivory that was imported into the state before 1977.
The sale of ivory, rhino horn or products that contain ivory will be a misdemeanor, punishable by fines up to $50,000 and one year of incarceration.
###
Media Contacts:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

June 2016 California Department of Fish and Wildlife Calendar

Weekends — Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve. Volunteer-led walks are scheduled every Saturday and Sunday, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Binoculars and bird books are available for the public to borrow at no cost. The visitor center and main overlook are fully accessible. The day use fee is $4.12 per person, ages 16 and older. Groups of five or more need to notify staff that they are coming and groups of 10 or more can request a separate tour. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/lands/places-to-visit/elkhorn-slough-er.

Various Days — Guided Wetland Tours, By Reservation, at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, 3207 Rutherford Road, Gridley (95948). A wildlife naturalist will lead your group, school or organization on a half-mile route through the diverse wetlands of the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. General information includes wildlife identification, behavior patterns and conservation efforts. Your experience can be customized to include requested information. The minimum group size is 18 people. For more information, please call (530) 846-7505 or email lori.dieter@wildlife.ca.gov.

Various Days Bat Talk and Walk Events. The Yolo Basin Foundation’s Bat Talk and Walk events run from mid-June through mid-September and begin at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Headquarters, 45211 County Road 32B (Chiles Road), Davis (95617). The cost is $12 for adults, and youths 15 and under are free. For more information and to register, please visit http://yolobasin.org/battalkandwalks2016/.

Various Days Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Access Permit Application Deadline for Multiple Hunting Opportunities. Wild pig, turkey, dove, waterfowl and quail hunts are available through the SHARE program. A $10.50 non-refundable application fee (plus handling fees) will be charged for each hunt choice. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/share.

1 — Recreational Pacific Halibut Season Opens for All Boat-Based Anglers in California on June 1, 2016. For more information please call (800) 662-9825 or visit the Pacific Halibut webpage at http://wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/pacific-halibut#31670771-pacific-halibut-regulations.

1 — Environmental Enhancement Fund Request for Proposals Process Begins. Applications for projects are due Aug. 31 by 5 p.m. Details are available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/ospr/science/environmental-enhancement-fund/about. Funding will begin no earlier than July 1, 2017 after CDFW reviews, scores and ranks the proposals and they are voted on by the Environmental Enhancement Committee. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/ospr/science/environmental-enhancement-fund or contact Bruce Joab at (916) 322-7561 or bruce.joab@wildlife.ca.gov.

1 — Water Conservation Effort Meeting, 6:30 to 8 p.m., Resource Center for Non Violence, 612 Ocean St., Santa Cruz (95060). CDFW, in collaboration with the Santa Cruz and San Mateo Resource Conservation Districts and the State Water Resources Control Board, is holding a public meeting to address how residents can contribute to water conservation efforts that will help save native fisheries. The streams in this area are home to the last remaining coho salmon populations south of the Golden Gate Bridge. For more information, please contact Andrew Hughan at andrew.hughan@wildlife.ca.gov.

2 — Wildlife Conservation Board Meeting, 10 a.m., Room 437 of the California State Capitol in Sacramento. For more information, please visit https://wcb.ca.gov/.

2 — Big Game Drawing Deadline. The deadline to submit applications for elk, antelope, bighorn sheep and premium deer tags is June 2. Sales transactions must be completed before midnight. Hunters may apply at a CDFW license agent, CDFW license sales office, online at www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/internetsales or through telephone sales at (800) 565-1458. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/hunting/big-game.

2 — Water Conservation Effort Meeting, 6:30 to 8 p.m., Pescadero Native Sons Community Hall, 112 Stage Road, Pescadero (94060). CDFW, in collaboration with the Santa Cruz and San Mateo Resource Conservation Districts and the State Water Resources Control Board, is holding a public meeting to address how residents can contribute to water conservation efforts that will help save native fisheries. The streams in this area are home to the last remaining coho salmon populations south of the Golden Gate Bridge. For more information, please contact Andrew Hughan at andrew.hughan@wildlife.ca.gov.

4-12  —  California Invasive Species Action Week Begins. CDFW) will kick off the third annual California Invasive Species Action Week on  June 4. The goal of Action Week is to promote public awareness of invasive species issues and to encourage public participation in the fight against California’s invasive species and their impacts on our natural resources. CDFW will be partnering with other departments, agencies, organizations and volunteer programs across California to host more than 45 educational and “action” events including invasive species removals, habitat restoration projects, quagga mussel surveys, field outings, public presentations and youth activities. All events are open to the public, although some require registration. A calendar of events planned for around the state can be found at http://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/filehandler.ashx?documentid=123891&inline.

16 — Recreational Ocean Salmon Season Opens from the California-Oregon Border to Horse Mountain. For more information, please visit the Ocean Salmon webpage at www.wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon or call the Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (707) 576-3429.

16 — Recreational Pacific Halibut Season Closed for All Boat-based Anglers in California Beginning on June 16. The fishery is expected to reopen on July 1. For the latest information on the season status please call (800) 662-9825 or visit the Pacific Halibut webpage at wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/pacific-halibut#31670771-pacific-halibut-regulations.

21 — California Fish and Game Commission Tribal Committee Meeting, time to be determined, Bakersfield Elks Lodge #266, 1616 30th St., Bakersfield (93301). For more information, please visit www.fgc.ca.gov/meetings/2016/index.aspx.

22-23 — California Fish and Game Commission Meeting, time to be determined, Bakersfield Elks Lodge #266, 1616 30th St., Bakersfield (93301). For more information, please visit www.fgc.ca.gov/meetings/2016/index.aspx.

25 — Trout Fest 2016 at the Hot Creek Hatchery, 121 Hot Creek Hatchery Road, Mammoth Lakes (93546). Trout Fest is a free event that introduces youths to the basics of trout fishing. Youths can learn how to tie basic fishing knots, rig a pole, cast, handle trout, and how to clean and cook trout. All equipment is provided and no outside gear is allowed. Fishing is for youths 15 and under. For more information, please e-mail troutfest@wildlife.ca.gov or visit CDFW’s website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/hatcheries.

27-29 SHARE Wild Pig Hunts Offered in Southern California. CDFW is accepting applications for semi-guided wild pig hunts on Tejon Ranch in Kern County (93243), which is located 60 miles north of Los Angeles and 30 miles south of Bakersfield. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/share.

30 — Recreational Ocean Salmon Season Closes from the California-Oregon Border to Horse Mountain. For more information, please visit the Ocean Salmon webpage at www.wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon or call the Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (707) 576-3429.

Media Contact:
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958