CDFW Offering Free Tundra Swan Tours This Fall and Winter

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is offering free swan tours in Yuba County near Marysville on Saturdays beginning in November and extending through January.

Co-hosted by local rice farmers, the naturalist-led tours will focus on tundra swans in one of the premier locations for viewing swans in California. Ducks, geese, ibis, shorebirds, herons, egrets and raptors are also commonly seen in this area, which contains 23,000 acres of flooded rice fields.

Tours will be held on Saturdays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 to 3 p.m, beginning Nov. 16. The driving tours also involve walking short distances. Carpooling is encouraged.

Pre-registration is required at www.wildlife.ca.gov/regions/2/swan-tours. Up to 30 people may register for each tour.

The tours are part of CDFW’s wildlife viewing services program, which includes outdoors opportunities at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, Woodbridge Ecological Reserve and the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve.

For more information, please call (916) 358-2869 or email interpretiveservices@wildlife.ca.gov.

Also mark your calendar for the 2019 California Swan Festival Nov. 8-10 in Yuba City. For more information, please visit www.yubasutterchamber.com/swan-festival.html.

Media Contacts:
Laura Drath, CDFW North Central Region, (916) 591-1161
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

 

Nimbus Hatchery Fish Ladder to Open Nov. 4

The salmon ladder at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Rancho Cordova will open Monday, Nov. 4, signaling the start of the spawning season on the American River. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hatchery workers will open the gates in the ladder at 10:30 a.m. and will take more than a half-million eggs during the first week alone in an effort to ensure the successful spawning return of fall-run Chinook salmon.

The three major state-run hatcheries in the Central Valley – Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Sacramento County, and hatcheries on the Feather River in Butte County and the Mokelumne River in San Joaquin County – will take approximately 24 million eggs over the next two months to produce Chinook salmon for release next spring.

Each hatchery has a viewing area where visitors can watch the spawning process. The visitors’ center at Nimbus Hatchery includes a playground with replicas of giant salmon. Nimbus Hatchery is open to the public free of charge from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. For more information about spawning schedules and educational opportunities at each hatchery, please visit the CDFW website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/hatcheries.

There are eight state-run salmon and steelhead hatcheries, all of which will participate in the salmon spawning effort. These spawning efforts were put in place over the past half century to offset fish losses caused by dams that block salmon from historic spawning habitat.

Once the young salmon reach 2 to 4 inches in length, one-quarter of the stock will be marked and implanted with a coded wire tag prior to release. CDFW biologists use the information from the tags to chart their survival, catch and return rates.

Media Contacts:
Laura Drath, CDFW North Central Region, (916) 591-1161
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

Paiute Cutthroat Trout Reintroduced to Native Habitat in High Sierra Wilderness

California’s native Paiute cutthroat trout, the rarest trout in North America, swims once again in its high Sierra home waters for the first time in more than 100 years.

California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham and representatives from the USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Golden Gate Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Little Antelope Pack Station joined biologists to release 30 Paiute cutthroat trout of varying sizes into Silver King Creek in Alpine County, Calif., Sept. 18, 2019.

“You’ve got to celebrate good times. That’s what we’re doing here today,” said CDFW’s Bonham from the banks of Silver King Creek within the remote Carson-Iceberg Wilderness area of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. “If you forget to celebrate, you’re overlooking a remarkable success story – bringing these fish back home and celebrating a better California.”

Not since the early 1900s have genetically pure Paiute cutthroat trout occupied the 11-mile stretch of Silver King Creek between Llewellyn Falls and Snodgrass Creek that represents almost the entirety of the fish’s historic range.

“This is a lifetime achievement for those working to recover the rarest trout in North America,” said Lee Ann Carranza, acting field supervisor for the USFWS Reno office. “This remarkable partnership has allowed Paiute cutthroat trout to be returned to their entire native range without threat from non-natives.”

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The Paiute cutthroat trout was one of the first animals in the nation listed as endangered in 1967 under the federal Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, now known as the Endangered Species Act. In 1975, the species was downlisted to federally threatened to allow for a special rule that would facilitate management of the species by the State of California.

A small native range, habitat degraded by historic sheep and cattle grazing, and competition from and hybridization with non-native trout introduced into Silver King Creek threatened the species with extinction.

Only a fortuitous turn of events saved the species from disappearing altogether. In the early 1900s, Basque sheepherders moved some of the fish outside of their native range, upstream of Llewellyn Falls. The waterfalls served as a barrier to the non-native trout below and safeguarded a genetically pure population of Paiute cutthroat trout above the falls, providing government agencies and advocates the chance to recover the species in the future.

Efforts to save and restore the species have spanned several decades and involved removing non-native fish and restocking Paiute cutthroat trout from source populations.  Recreational fishing was closed within the Silver King Creek drainage in 1934. Later, grazing allotments were administratively closed so habitat could be restored.

At one time, only two small tributaries above Llewellyn Falls held genetically pure Paiute cutthroat trout. CDFW, the Forest Service and USFWS transferred some of these fish to other fishless, protected streams within the Silver King Creek watershed as well as four watersheds outside of the basin to create additional refuge populations to stave off extinction.

The effort to reintroduce Paiute cutthroat trout back into their historic home – the 11-mile main reach of Silver King Creek – began in 1994 when CDFW biologists explored Silver King Canyon and identified a series of waterfalls that served as historic barriers to upstream fish migration, isolating the Paiute cutthroat trout. The barriers could once again insulate Paiute cutthroat trout from encroachment from non-native trout if the non-native trout in Silver King Creek could be removed.

Wildlife officials prevailed over a decade of legal challenges to treat Silver King Creek and its tributaries with rotenone, a natural fish poison, to eliminate non-native trout and prepare Silver King Creek for the eventual return of Paiute cutthroats.

Silver King Creek and its tributaries were chemically treated from 2013 to 2015. State and federal partners monitored the creek for three years following the treatment to make sure all non-native fish were removed. Wildfires, floods and drought over the decades further complicated recovery efforts.

“The commitment of Forest Service, CDFW, USFWS, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, Trout Unlimited Golden Gate Chapter and Little Antelope Pack Station to move this project forward in the face of numerous challenges has been incredible,” said Bill Dunkelberger, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest supervisor. “A project of this magnitude that took over several decades could not have been completed without state, federal and other partners working tirelessly together.”

The fish reintroduced into Silver King Creek on the afternoon of Sept. 18 were collected that morning from a source population in Coyote Valley Creek about 2 miles away and transported by mules to the banks of Silver King Creek. The fish were deposited into buckets filled with water from Silver King Creek to acclimate for several minutes before being released among cheers and applause – and a few tears – by biologists and others, some of whom have spent decades working toward the historic homecoming.

Restoring Paiute cutthroat trout to their native Silver King Creek nearly doubles the amount of habitat available to the fish and is considered key to their long-term survival and potential delisting.

Monitoring of the reintroduced fish and additional restocking of Paiute cutthroat trout into Silver King Creek from other refuge populations is planned in future years to aid genetic diversity and introduce different age classes into the creek to help natural reproduction.

Photos and video of the Sept. 18 reintroduction are available here: ftp://ftp.wildlife.ca.gov/OCEO/Paiute%20Cutthroat%20Trout/

Registration Now Open for San Joaquin County Sandhill Crane Tours

Each September, more than 10,000 sandhill cranes descend upon the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta where they spend five months roosting and foraging in a protected wetlands area just west of Lodi.

During their stay at the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve and surrounding areas, the birds captivate onlookers with expressive song and unique social behavior, including a “dance” thought to be connected with courtship and bonding.

Registration is now open for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Sandhill Crane Wetland Tour, which offers guided tours of sandhill cranes in their fall-winter habitat. Guided tours, which begin Oct. 5, are offered mid-to-late afternoon during the first three weekends of each month from October through February.

“The sandhill cranes’ fly-in around sundown can be nothing short of spectacular. It’s a very worthwhile tour,” said CDFW Interpretive Services Supervisor David Moore.

Registration and additional information can be found at the CDFW Bay Delta Region’s Sandhill Crane Wetland Tour page.

The Woodbridge Ecological Reserve is also accessible at any time for self-guided tours. A series of informative displays are located at the reserve’s southern unit at 11154 W. Woodbridge Road in Lodi. Reserve staff recommend that guests stay through sunset to witness the sights and sounds of groups of sandhills returning to their roosting spots for the evening.

Please note that visitors who are age 16 or older must purchase a one-day Lands Pass or have a current hunting or fishing license in possession in order to access the reserve. Proceeds from Lands Pass purchases (which are less than $5) go toward wildlife conservation.

CDFW is also proud to co-sponsor the Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival from Nov. 1-3.

Media Contacts:
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958
David Moore, CDFW Bay Delta Region, (707) 766-8380

 

Tax Time is the Right Time to Help California’s Endangered Wildlife

As you gather your W-2 and other income tax paperwork, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hopes you will consider helping our state’s endangered plants, animals and fish when you file your state return.

The California Individual Income Tax Form 540 gives us all an opportunity to help our native wildlife—including plants and fish—by donating to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program and the California Sea Otter Fund in the Voluntary Contributions section of your state return. Any amount you contribute will support programs that benefit California species at risk of extinction. For most people, donations are tax-deductible the following year.

We live and work in one of the most biologically and geographically diverse states in North America—one reason California is such a nice place to live. But it is also the state with the largest human population, and many of our activities are detrimental to wildlife.

California has 220 plant species and 87 animal species listed as rare, threatened or endangered. Money raised through the tax contribution program helps pay for essential CDFW research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, as well as 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.

The Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program (RESP) on line 403 of yourtax return, has supported work benefiting California’s native at-risk fish, wildlife and plants since 1983. Donations to this fund by California taxpayers has enabled CDFW to obtain grant money from the federal government and collaborate with numerous stakeholders, agencies and other organizations to conserve native wildlife.

For example, with such partners we are currently:

  • investigating the impact that a deadly new fungus may have on native salamanders and ways to potentially manage infections,
  • reintroducing critically endangered mountain yellow-legged frogs to historically occupied areas,
  • assisting with development of a 10-year Recovery Action Plan for the San Francisco gartersnake and plans for future reintroductions,
  • investigating the impacts of insecticides on food resources, and breeding success of the threatened tricolored blackbird,
  • assisting with Mohave ground squirrel population monitoring at a long-term monitoring site near the Coso Range of Inyo county, and
  • coordinating development of a plan for the release of California condors into the Klamath region of northern California to help increase the breeding population and species distribution.

In 2018, the RESP voluntary donations helped provide endangered species protection for two species of plants, one bird and one mammal at risk of extinction: the tiny coast yellow leptosiphon (Leptosiphon croceus), known from only one population in San Mateo County; the beautiful Lassics lupine (Lupinus constancei), known from only two populations in the remote Lassics mountains of Humboldt and Trinity counties; the uniquely colonial tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor), which is restricted almost entirely to California; and a small forest carnivore, the Humboldt marten (Martes caurina humboldtensis).

The RESP donations are also helping biologists evaluate whether two species of frogs warrant protection under the California Endangered Species Act.

Contributions to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 of your tax return are split between CDFW and the State Coastal Conservancy to benefit our Southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) population. The smallest marine mammal once lived in nearshore waters all along California’s coast and in estuaries such as Humboldt, San Francisco, Tomales and Morro bays. Reliable sources estimate there once were as many as 16,000 sea otters in California before fur traders hunted them to near-extinction in the 19th century. A few survived, were discovered in the 1930s, and quickly given legal protection. They are federally listed as threatened.

The Coastal Conservancy uses most of your donations for grants supporting research and conservation actions that facilitate recovery of California’s sea otter.  Research funded through this program has investigated factors limiting population growth and opportunities for range expansion to facilitate population recovery. Conservation actions funded have reduced threats to sea otters including:

  • reducing cyanobacteria blooms affecting otters, through management of water chemistry at Pinto Lake in Watsonville,
  • reducing vehicle strikes on otters, through installation of speed humps and signage on a coastal road in Moss Landing, and
  • reducing disturbance to sea otters by marine recreationists, through the Sea Otter Savvy

CDFW uses Sea Otter Fund donations for scientific research on the causes of death in California’s sea otters to help inform management actions like those listed above.

More than 16 million Californians file state tax returns each year. If each one donated just one dollar, we could solve many problems for our wildlife and ecosystems. It doesn’t take a large donation (although we dearly appreciate those!) to make a difference. The average voluntary contribution in 2018 was $15.

CDFW biologists have achieved important recovery milestones and protected vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers. More information about how CDFW uses donated funds is 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 Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program on line 403 or the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410. If you use TurboTax, step-by-step instructions to help you find the California Contribution Funds are posted in the CDFW Document Library.

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