Tag Archives: threatened species

Tax Donations Help to Prevent Wildlife Extinction

Extinction is forever, but you and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) can join forces to prevent it. Help save California’s native plant and animal species when you file your state income tax return by making a voluntary contribution to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program (RESPP) and/or the California Sea Otter Fund.

Just enter any dollar amount you wish on line 403 for rare and endangered species and on line 410 for southern sea otters. Money donated by California’s taxpayers supports programs that benefit these at-risk species.

“Taxpayers’ donations make more of a positive difference than one might think,” CDFW Wildlife Branch Chief T.O. Smith said. “Voluntary contributions also help CDFW acquire federal matching funds, increasing the actions we can take for threatened and endangered species and their habitat.”

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. Endangered species face many different threats, such as the unprecedented tree die-off occurring in the Sierra Nevada mountains due to a combination of past forest management practices, warming climate, severe drought and bark beetles capitalizing on the dying trees.

Past donations to the RESPP have enabled biologists to analyze data on the Tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor) – North America’s most highly colonial land bird – to assess factors that may be affecting the species’ ability to survive and reproduce. Ninety-nine percent of the world’s Tricolored blackbird population lives within the State of California and statewide surveys have revealed that the species has declined by more than 60 percent in the past decade.

CDFW has been working with multiple stakeholders to study the current distribution and status of the Giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas) – a highly aquatic threatened species – and to improve habitat suitability and stability in areas hardest hit by the drought.

Staff have participated in the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) Science Advisory Committee’s efforts to recover the threatened species, beginning with tackling the issue of how to reduce their hybridization with non-native tiger salamanders.

CDFW is in the final stages of completing a conservation strategy for the state-listed Mohave ground squirrel (Xerospermophilus mohavensis), which will guide conservation and research projects to help ensure recovery of the species.

With the assistance of biologists from other agencies, CDFW biologists have been monitoring endangered Desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius) populations and water quality in natural and artificial habitats. Pupfish have been rescued from natural habitats that have dried during summer months and have been relocated to other areas. Recovery actions have included identification of habitat in need of restoration.

RESPP funds supported the review of Livermore tarplant (Deinandra bacigalupii), which informed the Fish and Game Commission’s decision to protect the species under the California Endangered Species Act. Funds were also used to monitor several endangered plant species, including the critically endangered Slender-petaled mustard (Thelypodium stenopetalum), found only near Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains.

The past five drought years have put endangered species at even greater risk as rivers and creeks have been impacted and seasonal and some permanent aquatic habitats dried up. CDFW has documented extremely low numbers and/or reproductive rates for winter-run Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), Delta Smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus), Mohave ground squirrel, Giant kangaroo rat (Dipodomys ingens), Giant garter snake, Santa Cruz long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum; drought rescue story on our website), California tiger salamander and Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae), among others.

There is no upper limit to voluntary contributions; any dollar amount is welcome. These plants and animals are part of our heritage and need your support to survive and thrive.

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 sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis). In addition to working on a large analysis of 15 years of mortality data, CDFW scientists are conducting research on little-known viruses, parasites and biotoxins that may be harming sea otters. Through a better understanding of the causes of mortality, 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.

“This voluntary contribution program provides important funding for understanding sea otter health and implementing programs to help recover the Southern sea otter population,” said CDFW Sea Otter Program Manager Laird Henkel. “Our team and collaborators are currently in the final stages of summarizing 15 years of sea otter post-mortem investigations, largely supported by this tax check-off program. We’re excited that we’ll have this information to share later this year.”

CDFW is also collaborating with Friends of the Sea Otter and others on the ‘Sea Otter Savvy’ program. Also supported primarily by tax check-off contributions, this program is designed to reduce human disturbance to sea otters.

In 2016, $5,000 of the fund was offered as part of a larger reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) who shot four sea otters near Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, CDFW has not yet received such information.

CDFW biologists have achieved important recovery milestones and protected vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers. 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 RESPP 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.

green and brown plant with small yellow flowers in a gold field of dead grass and weeds
Livermore tarplant, of the sunflower family, only exists in a few locations in Alameda County. Jeb Bjerke/CDFW photo
A brown and yellow-striped giant garter snake in grass and dirt
Giant garter snake. Courtesy of Eric Hansen
A California tiger salamander, brown with yellow spots, standing in mud
California tiger salamander. Courtesy of Jack Goldfarb Photography
Two sea otters with head and shoulders visible ablve water
California sea otters

Media Contacts:
Jeb Bjerke, Habitat Conservation Planning Branch (plants), (916) 651-6594
Russ Bellmer, Fisheries Branch, (916) 327-8850
Esther Burkett, Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Laird Henkel, Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

There’s a Place for Wildlife on Your Tax Return

The deadline to file income tax returns is approaching. If you’re still working on yours, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds you that you can help save endangered plants and animals on your state return. Near the end of form 540, look for the section called Voluntary Contributions. There, you can donate any dollar amount to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 or the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program on line 403.

The Southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) 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. It is illegal to harass, pursue, hunt, catch, capture or kill, or attempt any of those actions on such listed species.

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 sea otters, including a large analysis of 15 years of sea otter mortality data with critical support from the California Sea Otter Fund. CDFW scientists and their partners have also initiated a multi-agency outreach program called “Sea Otter Savvy” to educate coastal boaters, kayakers and the public about the impact of repeated human disturbance on sea otter health and survival. More information can be found at www.facebook.com/seaottersavvy.

The annual sea otter survey conducted in 2015 indicated that the population in California may be slowly increasing, to just over 3,000 animals. That is a small fraction of their historic numbers and this population is still vulnerable to oil spills, environmental pollution, predation by white sharks and other threats. You can help spread the word by liking and sharing the Sea Otter Fund Facebook page.

Since 1983, California taxpayers have voluntarily supported the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program by donating more than $21 million. That money has provided critical support for many state-listed species, including Butte County meadowfoam (Limnanthes floccose ssp. californica), Pacific fisher (Pekania pennanti), Shoshone pupfish (Cyprinodon nevadensis Shoshone), Scripps’s murrelet (Synthliboramphus scrippsi), Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae), and many-flowered navarretia (Navarretia leucocephala ssp. plieantha).

“From Death Valley National Park to North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, many parts of California are exploding with amazing wildflower displays right now, but California’s native plants don’t usually get as much attention as animals,” said Jeb Bjerke, an environmental scientist with CDFW’s Native Plant Program. “Although many people think of California’s endangered species as animals, there are about twice as many listed plants. In addition, more than 1,000 plant species in California are rare but not listed. Our botanical diversity is astounding, and we are trying to protect that heritage from extinction.”

Voluntary contributions also help CDFW acquire federal matching funds, increasing the positive actions that can be done for rare, threatened and endangered species and the ecosystems that support them. Support from California taxpayers has enabled wildlife biologists to achieve important recovery milestones to conserve vulnerable species. Past contributors can take credit for helping the Peregrine falcon and California brown pelican enough to be removed from endangered species lists.

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 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.

What you donate this year is tax deductible on next year’s return. More information on both the California Sea Otter Fund and the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation tax donation program is available on our Tax Donation webpage.

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

Reward Offered for Return of Satellite Tags from Federally Protected Green Sturgeon

State and federal fisheries officials are asking for public assistance and offering a $20 reward for the return of each satellite tag from green sturgeon. The satellite tags, which are programmed to release from the fish after a predetermined time, are most likely to be found along the open ocean coastal portions of San Francisco and San Mateo counties, and the shores and waters of San Francisco Bay, San Pablo Bay, Suisun Bay and the Delta.

Biologists use the tags to gather information on the Southern Distinct Population Segment of green sturgeon, a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The tag rewards are being offered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), in collaboration with the West Coast Groundfish Observer Program, UC Davis and central California commercial halibut trawl fishermen.

If you see a live fish with a tag attached, do not remove the tag from the fish. Instead, note the tag number and call or email the point of contact printed on the tag. If you find a detached tag, please pick it up for return and contact Kristine Lesyna , CDFW Marine Region, (650) 631-6742, or Ethan Mora, NOAA Fisheries, (831) 420-3663.

More information about the tagging study can be found on the NOAA Fisheries Green Sturgeon Bycatch Project webpage.

Media Contacts:
Kristine Lesyna, CDFW Marine Region, (650) 631-6742
Ethan Mora, NOAA Fisheries, (831) 420-3663
Carrie Wilson, CDFW Communications, (831) 649-7191
Jim Milbury, NOAA Fisheries, (562) 980-4006

Elkhorn Slough OtterCam Goes High Definition

The Elkhorn Slough OtterCam has been upgraded from standard to high-definition, and there is now a second HD video camera focused on sea otters, thanks to the generous support of the Acacia Foundation and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Now anyone can watch California’s adorable sea otters in HD by going to www.elkhornslough.org/ottercam.

Located in areas of the Elkhorn Slough Reserve’s salt marshes where sea otters often congregate, the two new cameras offer great image clarity and fine detail for viewing this iconic Monterey Bay marine mammal and a teeming cast of other Elkhorn Slough wildlife. Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve is managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

The Elkhorn Slough OtterCam HD video streams will be featured as part of the PBS/BBC Big Blue Live television and online event, Aug. 31 through Sept. 2 (at www.pbs.org/big-blue-live/live-cams/elkhorn-slough-otter-cam). Anchored from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the three-day, live televised event will highlight the amazing marine life that converges off California’s central coast. The Big Blue Live website links to live cameras, including the Elkhorn Slough OtterCam.

Elkhorn Slough is home to the largest concentration of endangered southern sea otters (enhydra lutris nereis) on the California coast, and the first webcam dedicated to streaming live video of wild southern sea otters in their natural habitat. The Elkhorn Slough OtterCam has been streaming live video online from the tidal salt marshes of the Elkhorn Slough Reserve since 2012. The upgrade to high-definition enhances the OtterCam for both researchers and visitors.

For almost two years, researchers have used the Elkhorn Slough OtterCam to observe sea otter behavior such as foraging, grooming and raising pups. Stationed on the edge of the slough, the camera looks across pickleweed marsh and tidal channels of the slough. These channels are frequented largely by female otters and appear to be used as a nursery, as sea otters with pups are regularly seen in the meandering channels. During the past three years, the camera has provided video and still photographs documenting the growth of otter pups, interactions with harbor seals and other wildlife, and the movement of otters throughout the slough.

“The OtterCam has opened a unique window on the lives of sea otters. There are times we are seeing 25 or more otters in the protected channels of the slough’s marsh,” Elkhorn Slough Foundation (ESF) Executive Director Mark Silberstein said. “This suggests there may be more otters residing in the slough than previously thought. We’ve witnessed some unique behaviors, such as hauling out of the water, resting and grooming in the pickleweed marshes.”

Research is underway to better understand how sea otters are using the estuary, with the hope of helping southern sea otters recover in other parts of their historic range. In turn, recent evidence suggests that sea otters may yield important ecological benefits to the estuaries they inhabit. A study published by reserve researcher Brent Hughes in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that sea otters enhance the health of subtidal seagrass beds, as they do in kelp forests.

“We are pleased to present these remarkable images from the Elkhorn Slough Reserve, and shine a light on sea otter use of the estuary,” Reserve Manager Dave Feliz said. “The behavior of these animals in a salt marsh is little understood, yet the story is unfolding before the eyes of the world on ElkhornSlough.org. CDFW is happy to be a part of this new chapter in sea otter life history.”

Elkhorn Slough, in the central Monterey Bay area, encompasses a wide variety of habitats – oak woodlands, maritime chaparral, coastal prairie and the largest tract of tidal salt marsh in California south of San Francisco Bay – that support an incredible abundance and diversity of life. Elkhorn Slough hosts 550 species of marine invertebrates and 100 species of fish, as well as resident sea lions, harbor seals and the highest concentration of southern sea otters on the West Coast. On the Pacific flyway, Elkhorn Slough bird numbers can soar during migration seasons, nearly doubling the resident bird counts. The slough is designated a Globally Important Bird area, with more than 340 species identified in and around the slough.

ESF is a community-supported non-profit land trust whose mission is to conserve and restore the Elkhorn Slough and its watershed. ESF protects 4,000 acres of rare habitat including oak woodlands, maritime chaparral and wetlands. Since 1982, ESF has been the non-profit partner of the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (ESNERR).

ESNERR is managed by CDFW with administrative assistance from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ESNERR is one of 28 reserves established nationwide to support long-term research, water-quality monitoring, environmental education and coastal stewardship.

For information about ESF and ESNERR, and to support the conservation of Elkhorn Slough, please visit ElkhornSlough.org and CDFW Elkhorn Slough.

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Media Contacts:
Dave Feliz, CDFW Elkhorn Slough Reserve, (831) 728-2822
Scott Nichols, Elkhorn Slough Foundation, (831) 728-5939
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