Tag Archives: wildlife

CDFW Completes Update to the State Wildlife Action Plan

Media Contacts:
Carol Singleton, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8962
Armand Gonzales, SWAP Project Lead, (916) 616-0691

Western Pond Turtle
Western Pond Turtle

After a multi-year effort involving conservation groups, agencies, tribes, private landowners and other stakeholders, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed the 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) Update. The action plan is now under review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and should receive final approval in February 2016.

“The State Wildlife Action Plan is a vital planning tool for resource conservation managers and land managers across the state,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “This revision will ensure the plan contains the most up-to-date and scientifically-sound information on the status of California’s wildlife.”

The action plan identifies and prioritizes at-risk species and habitats, and provides conservation strategies to help protect and conserve these species. The plan is not a regulatory document. Rather, it is meant to build consensus and collaboration by identifying best management practices for conserving the state’s most vulnerable wildlife species. Once the action plan is approved, it will open up millions of dollars in federal grant funding for programs that benefit at-risk species such as the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, coho salmon and others.

“The revision process mirrored our department’s core values of collaboration, transparency and public participation,” said Bonham. “We worked closely with partner agencies, nonprofit groups and the public to ensure every effort was made to provide updates along the way and solicit feedback.”

As mandated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, CDFW revises the State Wildlife Action Plan every 10 years. The action plan focuses on a regional approach to conservation, one that takes into consideration the complexity inherent to every unique ecosystem. In addition to the conservation strategies addressed for each ecosystem, the plan also contains companion plans to address key overarching issues such as agriculture, energy development, land-use planning and water management.

In a separate but related action, CDFW and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today signed an agreement highlighting the use of innovative wildlife conservation tools on public lands managed by the BLM in California. These tools provide for actions on public lands that improve wildlife habitat conditions and better align California and federal conservation goals. The agreement recognizes that the 15 million acres of BLM lands in California are critically important for sensitive species. The agencies have agreed to cooperatively identify public lands where more lasting wildlife conservation would meet mutual goals. As such, the agreement will accelerate and facilitate delivery of conservation efforts highlighted in the State Wildlife Action Plan and at the same time provide for addressing threats and stressors in a targeted way.

California is home to 197 mammal species, 433 species of birds, 84 reptiles, 67 species of freshwater fish and 5,047 native plants. It has more species than any other state. However, population growth, increased development, water management conflicts, invasive species and climate change are putting tremendous stress on these natural resources.

For more information on the State Wildlife Action Plan, visit www.dfg.ca.gov/SWAP/

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Caltrans and Fish and Wildlife Urge Motorists to Be Alert During Watch Out for Wildlife Week

Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) remind motorists to remain alert for wildlife near roadways during Watch Out for Wildlife Week, which runs September 14-20.

“Motorists need to be alert when traveling through wildlife areas,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “This will protect the public and animals, while helping reduce tragedies.”

Defenders of Wildlife, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting native species and their natural communities, reports more than 200 people are killed nationally in collisions with deer, elk and other large mammals each year and estimates 1.5 million animals are hit each year.

The Watch Out for Wildlife campaign is supported by Caltrans, CDFW, Defenders of Wildlife and the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis.

“Drivers may see more animals crossing roads and highways this year, as they need to travel farther than usual to find adequate food and water,” said Marc Kenyon, CDFW’s Human-Wildlife Conflict Manager. “This is just one of many reasons to give driving our complete attention when we’re on the road. Only drivers can prevent collisions with animals, by being careful and paying attention.”

Caltrans, CDFW and Defenders of Wildlife offer a few tips for motorists:

  • Be especially alert when driving in areas frequented by wildlife, and reduce your speed so you can react safely.
  • Pay particular attention when driving during the morning and evening, as wildlife are most active during these times.
  • If you see an animal cross the road, know that another may be following.
  • Don’t litter. The odors may entice animals to venture near roadways.

Here are a few examples of what Caltrans, CDFW and their partners are doing to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve ecological sustainability:

Highway 101, Los Angeles County

Caltrans is currently in the process of partnering to develop a project that will provide a dedicated wildlife passage across Highway 101 near Liberty Canyon Road in Agoura Hills. The proposed structure would traverse an eight-lane freeway and connect the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills, helping to protect the genetic integrity of wildlife in both areas.

Highway 89, Sierra County

Caltrans proposes to construct two wildlife undercrossings and accompanying directional fencing on Highway 89 in Sierra County. This section of highway was identified as a high priority during a wildlife corridor analysis, and data shows that it is within the migratory routes of deer and other wildlife.

Highway 193, Placer County

Caltrans will be starting construction on a mile-long curve correction project on rural Highway 193 in Placer County between Lincoln and Newcastle, including a wildlife undercrossing in the project design.

Highway 246, Santa Barbara County

Highway undercrossings have been designed to facilitate California tiger salamander passage between breeding ponds and upland habitat on opposite sides of Highway 246. Six under-crossings are proposed and will consist of 8-foot corrugated metal culverts spaced approximately 150 feet apart. The California tiger salamander is listed under both the state and federal Endangered Species Acts. In addition to the design and implementation of these six undercrossings, Caltrans has proposed a five-year study to assess their efficacy.

Highway 118 Culverts Project, Ventura County

The proposed project includes the improvement of six undercrossings along Highway 118 which are key for wildlife movement from the Santa Susana Mountains to Las Posas Valley. It also will add rip-rap ramps which allow wildlife to scale the high ledges under culverts which have proved to be barriers for wildlife crossings in the area. Other improvements will also consist of one-way gates for wildlife and fencing.

Highway 126 Wildlife Corridor Study

The study entails identifying likely pathways for wildlife to cross Highway 126 in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, determining how these pathways are negatively affected by the road and surrounding land development and developing options for mitigation of these impacts. This road is critical because it is currently one of the largest obstacles affecting the movement of wildlife between the Santa Monica Mountains to the south, and the Los Padres National Forest to the north. This linkage is one of the most important and imperiled natural connections in Southern California.

Research conducted by U.S. Geological Survey and Western Transportation Institute

Caltrans has contracted with the U.S. Geological Survey and Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University to conduct research that will provide information on the efficacy of wildlife crossings for special-status amphibians and reptiles. This work will help Caltrans practitioners select materials and designs for amphibian and reptile crossings that are durable and promote the sustainability of the transportation infrastructure, as well as ecological sustainability.

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

At its Sept. 3 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $31 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 27 funded projects will benefit fish and wildlife – including some endangered species – while others will provide the public with access to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, landowners and the local community. The funds for all these projects come from initiatives approved by voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources. Some of the funded projects include:

  • A $375,000 grant to the Solano Resource Conservation District for a cooperative project with landowners, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Center for Land-based Learning, to enhance approximately 21 acres of riparian habitat on two privately owned properties – one located approximately five miles north of Rio Vista and the second approximately four miles southeast of Winters, in Solano County.
  • A $510,000 grant to Anza-Borrego Foundation for a cooperative project with the San Diego Association of Governments, the Nature Conservancy, and the Resources Legacy Fund to acquire in fee approximately 1,129 acres of land for the protection of habitat that supports endangered species, habitat linkages and corridors between existing protected lands, and potential wildlife-oriented public use opportunities near Cuyamaca in San Diego County.
  • A $3.4 million grant to the Nature Conservancy for a cooperative project with the State Coastal Conservancy to acquire a conservation easement on approximately 2,554 acres of native forest habitats, including redwood, Douglas fir and Grand fir forest in the upland zones, and mature red alder forest within the riparian zone along the Ten Mile River, near Fort Bragg in Mendocino County.
  • A $1.4 million grant to the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District to acquire approximately 443 acres of land for the protection and preservation of deer, mountain lion and oak woodland habitat, and existing regional wildlife linkages west of Lake Berryessa in Napa County.
  • Authorized a tax credit on behalf of United Technologies Corporation in the amount of $8,607,500, consistent with the Natural Heritage Preservation Tax Credit Act Program and awarded $2.7 million to reimburse the state general fund. This is part of a larger cooperative project with Santa Clara Open Space Authority, USFWS, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, California State Parks, California Coastal Conservancy, the Resources Legacy Fund and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to acquire approximately 1,831 acres of land. Purchasing this land will protect threatened and endangered species, provide movement corridors and connectivity, and provide wildlife-oriented public use opportunities near Morgan Hill in Santa Clara County.
  • A $980,000 grant to the Elkhorn Slough Foundation for a cooperative project with CDFW, the California State Coastal Conservancy, DWR, USFWS and Santa Cruz County Public Works, to restore approximately 46 acres of tidal marsh and five acres of perennial grasses on CDFW’s Elkhorn Slough National Marine Estuarine Research Reserve, two miles east of Moss Landing in Monterey County.
  • A $7.5 million acquisition in fee of approximately 282 acres of land by CDFW and to accept settlement funds from the U.S. Department of the Interior Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Fund for the protection of threatened and endangered species, and riparian and floodplain habitat along the Santa Clara River, and to provide wildlife-oriented public use opportunities associated with CDFW’s Fillmore Fish Hatchery in Ventura County.

For more information about the WCB please visit www.wcb.ca.gov.

Media Contacts:
John Donnelly, WCB Executive Director, (916) 445-0137
Dana Michaels, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 322-2420

Flat, green and gold pasture in Solano County, California
Cronin Ranch pasture, north of Rio Vista. Solano Resource Conservation District photo
weedy stream bank and channel
Weedy stream bank and channel where habitat restoration will occur on Cronin Ranch. Solano Resource Conservation District photo
dirt-covered ridge looks like moonscape under blue sky
Coyote Ridge near Morgan Hill. Santa Clara Open Space Authority photo
pawprint of California black bear in soil
Fresh bear track west of Lake Berryessa in Napa County. Photo used with permission.
a small spring in oak woodland
Partially developed spring in deer, mountain lion, and oak woodland habitat west of Lake Berryessa. Photo used with permission.
view of conifer forest and hills from above the fog
Native forest habitats near Ten Mile River in Mendocino County. Nature Conservancy photo
a fallen log lays across a small stream runs through red alder forest
Mature red alder forest in the riparian zone along the Ten Mile River in Mendocino County. Nature Conservancy photo

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

Knoxville Wildlife Area Reopened

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced today that Knoxville Wildlife Area will reopen for public use Sunday, Aug. 9 at 5:00 a.m. Because of successful efforts by fire personnel from multiple agencies on the Rocky Fire, CDFW considers conditions to be safe for public access. The public is reminded that campfires are not allowed on the wildlife area at any time.

Because of the Rocky Fire in neighboring Lake County, Knoxville Wildlife Area was closed to all public use on Aug. 3. The general deer season opener began today, and Knoxville is a popular hunting area.

The public can monitor the status of the Rocky Fire at www.fire.ca.gov/general/firemaps.php.

Media Contacts:
Conrad Jones, Knoxville Wildlife Area, (707) 944-5544
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937