Tag Archives: nature

Registration Now Open for Fall Sandhill Crane Tours in San Joaquin County

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting online reservations for docent-led tours of sandhill cranes and their wetland habitat at the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, just west of Lodi in San Joaquin County.

The late-afternoon tours run from Oct. 6 through February 2019. They are offered the first, second and third Saturdays and Sundays of each month for the five-month duration of the cranes’ fall-winter stay. Online registration is required and is available as early as eight weeks prior to tour dates.

Registration began in mid-August for October tour dates. November tour dates will become available starting Sept. 15. Registration and additional information is available at the CDFW Bay Delta Region’s Sandhill Crane Wetland Tour page. Please note that purchase of a one-day Lands Pass for a nominal fee is required with registration.

“We are very pleased to offer public tours at the reserve and to showcase the benefits of the restored wetlands,” said CDFW Bay Delta Region Manager Gregg Erickson. “These natural resources belong to everyone. All of us have a part in taking care of them as well as enjoying them.”

The Woodbridge Ecological Reserve is accessible at any time for self-guided tours. A series of informative, interpretive panels are located at the reserve’s southern unit at 11154 W. Woodbridge Road, Lodi, CA  95242. Staying through sunset is recommended to witness the sights and sounds of “fly-over” as groups of sandhill cranes return to roosting spots for the evening.

CDFW is also proud to co-sponsor the Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival scheduled for Nov. 2-4. Information about festival tours and activities is available at www.cranefestival.com/index.php.

Media Contacts:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908
David Moore, CDFW Bay Delta Region, (707) 766-8380

Californians Can Help Save Wildlife at Tax Time

You don’t have to own hiking boots or a fishing pole, or have a degree in environmental science to help wildlife. A click of your mouse or a stroke of your pen can help the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) protect—or even save—California’s native sea otters and other rare, threatened and endangered animal and plant species.

When you prepare your California individual income tax return, make a voluntary contribution to California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 or the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation on line 403. Enter any dollar amount you wish. Money donated by California taxpayers supports state programs that benefit these at-risk species.

Southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) once lived in the nearshore waters all along California’s coast and in estuaries such as San Francisco, Tomales and Morro bays. Reliable sources estimate there were as many as 16,000 individual otters in California at one time. Their extremely thick fur pelts were coveted for coats, and fur traders hunted them until they were believed extinct in the late 1800s.

A few sea otters survived and were discovered in the 1930s. Legal protection gave the species a chance to survive. The 2017 sea otter survey counted fewer than 3,000 individuals, and was a slight decrease from the 2016 count.

Donations to the California Sea Otter Fund are split between CDFW and the State Coastal Conservancy. CDFW’s half supports scientific research on the causes of mortality in Southern sea otters. Through a better understanding of the causes of death, it may be possible to work more effectively to recover the sea otter population here. The Southern sea otter is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and fully protected by the State of California.

“These donations provide important funding that helps us to recover the Southern sea otter population,” said CDFW sea otter program lead Laird Henkel. “Through this program, we have learned an incredible amount about sea otter health and the health of the ecosystems upon which they depend.”

The Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program has supported work benefiting California’s native at-risk fish, wildlife and plants since 1983, thanks to the generosity of California taxpayers. Donations to this fund have enabled CDFW to obtain matching funds from the federal government and collaborate with numerous stakeholders and organizations—including other government agencies—to conserve native wildlife.

For example, with such partners we are currently:

  • conducting surveys and helping to restore giant garter snake habitat at Cosumnes River Preserve near Lodi, a population that suffered significant declines during the recent drought.
  • developing conservation strategies that lay the groundwork to help conserve and recover imperiled species such as Mohave ground squirrels, willow flycatchers, great gray owls, western pond turtles and mountain yellow-legged frogs.
  • studying the dietary preferences of endangered marbled murrelets—forest-nesting seabirds of the north coast—to better understand factors that affect their survival and reproduction, and how changes in the climate may affect them.

The Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program also recently helped biologists learn about survey methods for the beautiful western yellow-billed cuckoo, and helped CDFW biologists monitor populations of invasive pennyroyal that are encroaching on the tiny and unique many-flowered navarretia (Navarretia leucocephala ssp. plieantha) at Loch Lomond Ecological Reserve in Lake County.

CDFW biologists have achieved important recovery milestones and protected vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers. There is no upper limit to voluntary contributions and any dollar amount is appreciated. More information about how CDFW uses funds in the Rare and Endangered Species and Sea Otter programs is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Tax-Donation and at 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 Preservation Program on line 403. If you use TurboTax, step-by-step instructions to help you find the California Contribution Funds are posted in the CDFW Document Library.

California has 219 species of plants and 83 species of animals listed 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. Habitat conservation and restoration for the most vulnerable species also protects many other plants and animals, helps recover ecosystem function and enhances the outdoor experience for all Californians.

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Media Contacts:
Jeb Bjerke, Habitat Conservation Planning Branch (plants), (916) 651-6594
Esther Burkett, Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Laird Henkel, Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Coho Salmon Released in Marin County’s Redwood Creek to Boost Spawning of Endangered Fish

In an effort to boost the population of spawning coho salmon in Marin County’s Redwood Creek, biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the National Park Service (NPS) today released nearly 200 adult coho salmon in the creek at Muir Beach.

The released coho salmon were collected as juveniles from Redwood Creek in the summer of 2015 at an age of 6 to 8 months and reared to adulthood at the Warm Springs Fish Hatchery in Geyserville at the base of the Lake Sonoma Dam.

The release of coho salmon this winter is the culmination of the Redwood Creek Coho Salmon Rescue and Captive Rearing Project. This project, a collaborative effort by CDFW, NPS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Parks and Recreation, was initiated in 2014 with the goal of preventing the extinction of the coho salmon, which is listed as an endangered species under both the California Endangered Species Act and the federal Endangered Species Act.

Prior to 2014, fewer than 10 adult coho salmon were estimated to have returned to Redwood Creek annually to spawn. The long decline of coho salmon in Redwood Creek has been accelerated by recent periods of poor ocean survival combined with the prolonged California drought. Coho salmon are more sensitive to habitat degradation and poor water quality than other Pacific salmon species since they rear as juveniles in freshwater for a year or more.

Biologists hope that the released fish will migrate upstream and spawn in the creek. NPS monitoring staff will survey the creek in the summer of 2018 and collect tissue samples from juvenile fish. Genetic analysis of the tissue samples will indicate how many of the released adult fish produced viable offspring.

The first major release of adult coho salmon in Redwood Creek occurred in the winter of 2016. A third and final release of adult coho salmon is planned for the winter of 2018-19.

More information about the Redwood Creek Coho Salmon Rescue and Captive Rearing Project can be found on the CDFW website at wildlife.ca.gov/Drought/Projects/Redwood-Creek-Coho. The Redwood Creek coho restoration project is part of a broader effort to sustain and restore coho salmon runs along the central and northern California coast.

Media Contacts:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908
Manfred Kittel, CDFW Bay Delta Region, (707) 944-5522

Dana Polk, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, National Park Service, (415) 786-8021
Darren Fong, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, National Park Service, (415) 289-1838

CDFW Photo by Peter Tira

Registration Is Open for Sandhill Crane Tours: New Requirement in Late Fall

The online registration period is now open for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) popular Sandhill Crane Wetland Tours at the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve near Lodi in San Joaquin County.

Online registration is required to participate in these late-afternoon guided tours, which start in October and run through February. The tours take place the first through third Saturdays and Sundays of each month for five months during the cranes’ fall and winter stay in California’s Central Valley. Online registration is available up to eight weeks in advance. Registration opened in mid-August for October tour dates and in mid-September for November dates. More information about the tours is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Regions/3/Crane-Tour.

After Nov. 13, 2017, those 16 and older attending the tours will be required to purchase and possess a CDFW lands pass in order to participate. Visitors carrying a valid hunting or fishing license will be exempt from this new requirement. Signs will be posted at the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve notifying visitors of the need for a lands pass, and tour docents will be checking for lands passes or licenses at the start of each tour.  A daily lands pass costs $4.32 and an annual lands pass costs $24.33.  Lands passes may be purchased online at www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/internetsales/, by phone at (800) 565-1458, and in-person wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold (locations at www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing). Lands pass fees will be used for the management of this and other CDFW lands. For more information about lands passes, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/Lands-Pass.

The Woodbridge Ecological Reserve, northeast of Lodi, is a popular spot for viewing the Pacific Flyway’s greater and lesser sandhill cranes returning to California’s Central Valley. The reserve is also known as the Isenberg Crane Reserve, named after former Congressman Phil Isenberg, who was instrumental in conserving the land.

The Woodbridge Ecological Reserve is also accessible to the public at any time for self-guided tours. A series of informative interpretive panels at the reserve’s south unit at 11154 W. Woodbridge Road in Lodi offers good visitor support. Staying until sundown is recommended for witnessing the sights and sounds associated with “fly-over” and the cranes’ return to their evening roosting spots.

CDFW is also proud to co-sponsor the Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival scheduled for Nov. 3-5. Information about festival tours and activities is available at www.cranefestival.com/index.php.

Media Contacts:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communication, (916) 322-8908
David Moore, CDFW Bay Delta Region, (707) 766-8380

Earth Day Reminder: Everything We Do Affects Wildlife

Saturday, April 22 is Earth Day, a good time to remember what John Muir said so eloquently: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” That fact influences nearly everything the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does to manage and protect the state’s native plants, invertebrates, fish, wildlife and habitats.

Twenty million people in the U.S. participated in the first Earth Day in 1970, to increase public awareness of the damage humans were doing to the environment. People used the day to educate themselves and others about the relationship we have with the world’s natural resources. That year, California was one of the first states to enact statutes protecting rare and endangered animal species, and it remains a world leader in environmental protection. Now, Earth Day is celebrated every year by more than a billion people in 192 nations.

CDFW sees the effects of human behavior on wildlife and ecosystems every day. As the public steward for California’s wildlife and habitat, CDFW practices conservation and restoration statewide with considerable success. California tule elk (Cervus elaphus nannodes) provide a good example.

By 1870 very few individual tule elk were known to exist; they were closely related and on the verge of extinction. When the state Legislature banned elk hunting in 1873, it was unclear if any even remained. One pair was discovered by a local game warden near Buttonwillow, and nurtured to save the species. In 1977, seven elk were reintroduced to their former native habitat at Grizzly Island in Solano County. Since then, this herd has not only flourished, but provided seed stock for CDFW to establish new herds. Statewide, tule elk populations have expanded to 5,100 animals in 21 herds.

Two charismatic birds that were once endangered have recovered well enough to be de-listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act: the Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum) and California brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus). By 1969 both species’ breeding populations had plummeted, primarily because of organochlorine pesticides like DDT. The chemicals made the birds’ eggshells too thin and fragile to withstand the parents’ weight in the nest, so multiple generations were crushed during incubation. Recovery began when the state and federal governments and Canada banned the use of those pesticides. Reducing human disturbance of nesting and roosting sites aided the pelicans’ recovery, and a captive breeding program supported recovery of the falcon population. Along with landowners and other scientists, CDFW scientists’ research and monitoring provided the facts needed to list both species, make their recovery possible, and determine when it was time to de-list them. CDFW continues to work with many partners to monitor de-listed species to ensure their populations remain healthy.

The endangered Light-footed Ridgway’s Rail (Rallus longirostris levipes, formerly known as light-footed clapper rail) is slowly recovering, thanks to CDFW and other scientists and partners, and because of habitat acquisition by the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB), which purchased land for the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve. There, and in other coastal marshes of Southern California, these secretive birds are protected, and a captive breeding program is underway to supplement the wild population. A population decrease in 2008 is believed to have been weather-related, and could be a harbinger of what’s in store if climate change predictions come to pass. The consistent management and captive breeding program have brought the population back up to more than 600 pairs.

Eighty years ago people thought Southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) were extinct. A small colony was discovered at Big Sur in 1938 and given legal protection. The combined efforts of local, state and federal governments, nonprofit organizations and individuals have nurtured the population to around 3,000. That’s only a fraction of historic numbers, but a step in the right direction.

In 1994 CDFW’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response and UC Davis created the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) to rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife injured in oil spills. OWCN quickly became the world’s premier oiled wildlife rescue organization and pioneered research in the subject to develop the best achievable care using the best available technology. Since 1995, the OWCN has responded to more than 75 oil spills throughout California and has cared for nearly 8,000 oiled birds and mammals.

“Working in the oil spill response field for over 25 years, I have seen how our community quickly responds to a detrimental environmental incident,” CDFW Environmental Program Manager Randy Imai said. “So, I know we can all do this at a much smaller scale in our everyday lives. Every one of us can make a difference.”

The WCB supports projects that benefit wildlife with bond money approved by California voters for environment-related projects. In 2016 alone, the WCB allocated approximately $93 million to more than 100 projects. That money bought more than 8,000 acres of wildlife habitat, conservation easements on more than 33,000 acres of habitat, restoration and enhancement of more than 17,000 acres, public access rights, stream flow enhancement studies and infrastructure improvements, and it helped develop Natural Community Conservation Plans that protect multiple species.

You don’t have to be a scientist, wildlife officer or legislator to protect California’s wildlife and ecosystems. There are many things most anyone can do, including:

  • Pick up litter. Wildlife often mistake trash for food and die because of it, and wild birds can become entangled and die in abandoned fishing line.
  • Don’t use rat poison. Let rodents’ natural predators—coyotes, foxes, bobcats, raptors (owls, hawks) and snakes—control their population. See our Rodenticides webpage for details.
  • Replace your lawn with native plants to help conserve water and our native pollinators. Locally native plants can thrive in both dry and wet years.
  • Conserve water.  Conservation is the way of life in California. Use as little water as possible to prevent shortages and assure sufficient water for food crops and for ecosystem protection.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle. Most California cities and counties have recycling programs for both residents and businesses. Visit CalRecycle Earth Day.
  • Buy in bulk and use recyclable materials. Compost veggie scraps and yard clippings in gardens. Landfills destroy valuable wildlife habitat, so think about that each time you make a trip to your garbage containers. The cumulative impacts are enormous.
  • Use biodegradable soaps. They pollute less than other soaps.
  • Drive less. Plan your errands to reduce the number of car trips. Walk, bike, carpool or take public transit. Spare the Air! If you can, make your next car electric or hybrid to help slow climate change.
  • Never dump oil, chemicals, or any other waste into a storm drain or gutter.
  • Take children out for nature walks and teach them about the local plants and animals. They can’t be stewards of the future without understanding and caring for nature. We’re all in it together on this one planet Earth.
  • Volunteer at nature centers, ecological reserves, or for a government-led program like the Natural Resources Volunteer Program. Volunteer at schools or recreation centers, and create nature and ecology programs.
  • Go Birding! Share bird identification books and binoculars with others who may not have them. Visit California Audubon for information.
  • Keep dogs on a leash in wild places, even on beaches. Don’t let dogs flush birds! Birds need undisturbed time to nest successfully, to forage, and then to rest and preen and conserve energy.
  • Keep cats indoors. Cats kill millions of birds each year, not out of malice, but because they’re wired to kill and eat them. A clean litter box is not difficult to maintain. Just be sure to bag the waste in biodegradable material and dispose of it in your garbage can.
  • Go Solar! Utilities offer rebates, and if you can afford a solar energy system, you’ll help reduce the rate of climate change. If you can’t, let the sun warm your home through windows on sunny days.
  • Conserve electricity, use natural light as much as possible, and turn off all lights when not in use. It takes natural resources to create energy and wildlife habitat is compromised or destroyed in the process. Energy production pollutes the air and produces greenhouse gases, contributing to the climate change problem and respiratory ailments. Use thermal drapes and energy-efficient windows to keep your home warm or cool as needed, and dress for the temperature, so you use the heat or air conditioner less. Use a clothes line outdoors or hang clothes to dry indoors. You’ll save money as well as energy!

There are many entertaining and informative Earth Day events planned throughout California. Here’s a small sample:

Earth Day Festival at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, April 22, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3842 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach (92647). The free event will include educational activity booths and guided tours of the reserve. Exhibitors include CDFW, Bolsa Chica State Beach, Wetland and Wildlife Care Center, Native People of SoCal, Orange County Coastkeeper, Shipley Nature Center, Air Quality Management District, Wyland Foundation, Shed Your Skin, and co-host Amigos de Bolsa Chica. Enjoy the Windows to Our Wetlands bus, interactive booths, native plant stations, a craft booth, food for sale, and more. The event is handicap accessible, held in the north parking lot. For more information, call (714) 846-1114.

CDFW will be at the U.S. Forest Service’s Kern River Valley Bioregions Festival at Circle Park in Kernville April 22, to explain the Kern River Hatchery renovation project and the new Kern River Rainbow program with the Friends of the Kern River Hatchery. The CDFW Natural Resource Volunteer Program will provide a booth with information on volunteer opportunities.

CDFW will host booths at three Sacramento area events: the Roseville Celebrate the Earth Festival and Sacramento Zoo Earth Day on April 22, and the ECOS Sacramento Earth Day on April 23. Ask staff about California wildlife, Watchable Wildlife locations in the greater Sacramento area and Nimbus Fish Hatchery, which is open to visitors year-round. Enjoy a variety of hands-on activities, including the Salmon Survival Wheel, where players learn about the obstacles that salmon must overcome in order to spawn.

Volunteer Work Day at Friant Interactive Nature Site, April 21 and 22, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 17443 N. Friant Rd, Friant (93626). Spend a fun day outdoors, doing trail maintenance (pulling weeds, raking, pruning) in a lovely setting for outdoors education. For more information, please call (559) 696-8092.

Gray Lodge Clean-up and Field Day and Public Meeting, April 22, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3207 Rutherford Road, Gridley (95948). The event is in partnership with California Waterfowl Association (CWA), and will include habitat and maintenance projects, followed by a lunch sponsored by CWA. The day will be informative and will help improve the quality of wildlife habitat. At 1:30 p.m., CDFW will hold an annual public outreach meeting regarding the Gray Lodge and Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Areas at the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area’s main office building. For more information, please call (530) 846-7500 or email GLWLA@wildlife.ca.gov.

Los Banos Wildlife Area will have a hands-on activity booth at the Modesto Earth Day Festival in Graceda Park.

Many more events are listed at CalRecycle and EarthDay.org.

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Media Contact:
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420