Tag Archives: Wildlife Research

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

There’s Still Time to Help Wildlife With Your State Income Tax Return

With tax returns due April 18, time is running out, but you can still help California’s rare, threatened and endangered species when you file your state return. In the Voluntary Contributions section you can donate any dollar amount to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 and the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program on line 403. These special funds help support California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) endangered species research and conservation programs.

California’s sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) were driven nearly to extinction, then given legal protection that has allowed the population to grow. In recent years, that growth stagnated, and is just starting to grow again, to a few more than 3,000 sea otters in California waters. This small population is vulnerable to oil spills, chemicals and other pollutants in road and agricultural run-off, predation by white sharks and other threats.

Donations to the California Sea Otter Fund (line 410) are split between CDFW and the State Coastal Conservancy. Those contributions have funded studies that link many sea otter deaths to polluted runoff, including fecal parasites, bacterial toxins and chemicals related to coastal land use.

The Southern sea otter is fully protected by the State of California, and take is not allowed except for scientific research and recovery purposes. Additionally, the sea otter is federally listed, and it is illegal to harass, pursue, hunt, catch, capture or kill, or attempt any of those actions on such listed species. Yet, just last year, four were shot and many others were intentionally harassed by people. The California Sea Otter Fund also supports a growing program to reduce human disturbance to sea otters.

Another 83 species of animals and 219 plants are listed by the state as rare, threatened or endangered. Donations to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program (line 403) pay for essential CDFW research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, and critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat.

Past donations to this program have enabled biologists to study the Livermore tarplant (Deinandra bacigalupii) and the critically endangered Slender-petaled mustard (Thelypodium stenopetalum), and implement conservation efforts for the Mohave ground squirrel (Xerospermophilus mohavensis), California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense), Giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas),Tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor) and Desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius).

“There is no upper limit to voluntary contributions; any dollar amount is welcome. But, with so many species in need of conservation efforts and given the size of the Golden State, we’d like to encourage higher donations,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Esther Burkett. “Can Californians beat last year’s average of $15 per household? These plants and animals are part of our heritage and need your support to survive and thrive.”

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 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.

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 Preservation Program and Sea Otter program is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/tax-donation and at www.facebook.com/seaotterfundcdfw.

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

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

CDFW and Partners Investigate Decline in Pheasant Population

pheasantThe California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently hosted a pheasant ecology workshop to examine possible causes of a decline of the state’s pheasant population over the last 25 years.

Held in cooperation with Pheasants Forever, the workshop convened more than 45 state and federal scientists, public and private land managers, and representatives from Ducks Unlimited and the California Waterfowl Association.

Participants reviewed research from scientists at the US Geological Survey and heard from pheasant experts from across the nation. Data collected showed that contributing factors to the decline include changes in agricultural practices, growth of forested habitats in historic wetland and grassland environments, climate change and predation from increasing raven populations.

“The combination of modern analysis tools and on-the-ground land management techniques helped us chart a map forward, which is especially important during the drought,” said CDFW Upland Game Program Scientist Matt Meshriy. “We look forward to collaborating with Pheasants Forever and other conservation partners interested in this species.”

The workshop, held on April 30 and May 1, included presentations by Dr. Les Flake of South Dakota State University and Senior Research Biologist Dave Musil of Idaho Fish and Game. CDFW managers from six state wildlife areas and federal partners from the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complexes also presented reports on site-specific conditions that described the breadth of habitat challenges facing pheasants and other upland nesting bird species throughout the state.

Pheasants were introduced in California in the 1890s and adapted well in the agricultural regions of the state. By the mid-1960s, about 250,000 hunters were spending about 800,000 days afield in pursuit of this game bird. Since the mid-1990s, populations have been steadily declining. In 2010, only about 30,000 pheasant hunters spent about 100,000 days afield.

Pheasants Forever is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 140,000 members and 700 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent; the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure. Since its creation in 1982, Pheasants Forever has spent $577 million on 475,000 habitat projects benefiting 10 million acres nationwide.

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Media Contacts:
Scott Gardner, Wildlife Branch, Upland Game Program, (916) 801-6257

Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

You Can Help Something Wild When You File!

There’s still time to help endangered species on your California income tax return, if you haven’t yet filed it. Near the end of Form 540 there is a section called Voluntary Contributions where you can donate one dollar or more to the Rare and Endangered Species Fund (line 403) and/or the California Sea Otter Fund (line 410). If you itemize deductions, the amount you donate this year will be tax-deductible next year.

With more than 200 species of plants and 80 species of California’s animals listed as rare, threatened or endangered, a great deal of work is needed to recover them. Donations on Line 403 help pay for essential California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, and critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat.

Tiburon mariposa lily, California tiger salamander, giant garter snake, yellow-billed cuckoo and island fox are among the species CDFW is currently working on to ensure they survive well into the future.

California’s southern sea otter population remains below 3,000, so Enhydra lutris is still a fully protected species under state law and listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Donations to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 support research by CDFW scientists, who are currently studying 15 years of sea otter mortality information and recently discovered viruses not previously known in this species. These studies should help us better understand the causes of mortality and contribute to population recovery efforts.

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 Protection Program 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.

CDFW scientists work with their counterparts in other government agencies, nonprofit organizations and the private sector to achieve important recovery milestones to conserve vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers like you. More information about how CDFW uses funds in the Rare and Endangered Species Protection and Sea Otter programs is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Tax-Donation and www.facebook.com/SeaOtterFundCDFW.

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