Category Archives: Wildlife

Northern California commercial crab season delayed a second time

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

California Fish and Wildlife officials have delayed the start of commercial Dungeness crab fishing north of Sonoma County for a second time this year after routine testing showed the crab aren’t meaty enough to be harvested yet.

It will be at least New Year’s Eve before crabbers can range north of the Sonoma-Mendocino county line in search of the lucrative crustaceans already being caught in areas to the south, the agency said.

The highly regulated fishery opens to commercial crabbers Nov. 15 most years off the Sonoma Coast and in more southerly waters off San Francisco to Half Moon Bay, though the past two seasons have been disrupted by an algae-related toxin. This fall was the first time in three years that the season opened on time.The northern season was scheduled to open Dec. 1, conditional upon a minimum meat recovery rate from tested samples of Dungeness crab.

Underweight samples checked in November prompted a 15-day delay in the Northern California season. Additional samples tested Dec. 5 weren’t sufficiently filled out either, officials said.

Read more at: Northern California commercial crab season delayed a second time

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Sonoma Coast, Wildlife

Abalone diving banned next year to protect population on brink of collapse

Tara Duggan, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

Sport abalone diving in Northern California, a tradition going back generations, will not be allowed next year in the region because biologists say the state’s population is on the brink of collapse.

Thursday’s decision came at a meeting of the California Fish and Game Commission in San Diego after a warning from scientists at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that the population is in severe decline.The commission voted unanimously to close the fishery for one year, which has not happened since it closed the abalone fishery in the southern part of the state in 1997. The Northern California season would normally be open from April to November.

“There are multiple indications that this fishery is collapsing,” said Cynthia Catton, an environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “There’s no sign that it’s even hit the bottom yet. We’re seeing continuing active mortality. We’re seeing continued starvation conditions.”

Read more at: Abalone diving banned next year to protect population on brink of collapse – San Francisco Chronicle

Filed under Sonoma Coast, Sustainable Living, Wildlife

Fate of troubled abalone fishery in hands of California Fish and Game Commission

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

California fish and game commissioners will decide Thursday if there is to be an abalone season next year in a much-anticipated vote with far-reaching ramifications for the popular but imperiled North Coast fishery and the economy it supports.

Under a plan that has framed red abalone hunting regulations since 2005, state fish and wildlife officials have urged the commission to suspend the 2018 season in hopes of preventing further depletion of the stock.

But the commission’s five appointed members are clearly interested in a compromise that would allow divers and rock-pickers some opportunity, however limited, to participate in a beloved tradition that draws thousands of people and their families to the Sonoma and Mendocino coast each year.

“It’s an iconic fishery,” said Napa County vintner Eric Sklar, president of the state Fish and Game Commission. “There’s so many people who find real joy in abalone fishing, and we hate to shut it down. That’s a given.”

The stakes are high and the future uncertain amid an unprecedented, three-year decline in the North Coast kelp forest, which provides critical food and habitat for the succulent mollusks hunted off the California coast for generations.

What agency scientists have called “a perfect storm” of environmental factors in play over the past six years has killed off large numbers of red abalone, starving many of those that remain and drastically reducing their reproductive fitness. One of those factors is the explosion of tiny, purple urchins that have decimated kelp and other abalone food supplies.

Read more at: Fate of troubled abalone fishery in hands of California Fish and Game Commission

Filed under Habitats, Sonoma Coast, Wildlife

Butterfly migration is a Thanksgiving tradition on Sonoma Coast

Gaye LeBaron, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

There was a wire service news story in the paper a couple of weeks ago about monarch butterflies.

It seems that in late October, some of the eastern monarchs, which are supposed to migrate south to Mexico each fall, were still hanging out in Canada’s Point Pelee National Park on a northern flank of Lake Erie. They should have been “on the road,” so to speak, at least six weeks earlier.

This is scary stuff for the lepidopterists who study butterflies and are already concerned about the effects of climate change on the insects.

Monarchs, they know, don’t do well when the temperature drops below 50 degrees — the muscles that make them flutter apparently stiffen in the cold.

Some consider this another reason to declare the big orange and black butterflies that are the undisputed sovereigns of the butterfly world an endangered species. Some will go further, taking this new glitch in the ecosystem as a warning that the apocalypse draws closer. The optimists say, let’s wait and see what happens next year before we panic.

I am not versed in lepidoptery or entomology. But I do know a little something about monarchs — western monarchs, that is — the ones who live west of the Rocky Mountains in both the U.S. and Canada.

Their southbound migration route hugs the Pacific Coast and can go all the way to Mexico every winter. They have a lot of choices, in California’s temperate coastal climes, as to where to spend their winters.

Read more at: Gaye LeBaron: Butterfly migration is a Thanksgiving tradition on Sonoma Coast

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Wildlife

Students work to protect environment

John Jackson, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

The success of the United Anglers of Casa Grande High School program has created the program’s greatest challenge.

The United Anglers of Casa Grande is a nonprofit educational organization located on the Casa Grande High School campus. Members of the organization are students who learn about fisheries, especially salmon and steelhead, and promote environmental awareness and activism through hands-on habitat restoration. United Anglers students operate and maintain a state-of-the-art conservation fish hatchery on the campus.

Interest in the program has exploded in recent years from around 30 students to more than 100, and now includes participants from Petaluma High School as well as Casa Grande.

Since the United Anglers program is a nonprofit and must raise all its own funds, the challenge comes in raising enough money to support the increase in membership, particularly at a time when the recent fires and disasters in other parts of the country are vying for benevolent contributions.

“I’m torn,” said program director and teacher Dan Hubacker. “We depend on support from families and businesses, but at the same time how do you ask them for donations after so many people have been affected by the fires?”

But Hubacker also said he feels an obligation to honor those, like himself, who have benefited by the program by keeping it going.

Read more at: A popular program

Filed under Water, Wildlife

At Santa Rosa’s Pepperwood Preserve, nature rebounds from massive wildlfire

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Green stalks of redwood lilies grow beneath the giant trees at Pepperwood Preserve, but no one has seen the colorful, trumpet-shaped blossoms in decades.

They likely haven’t bloomed since 1964, when powerful winds pushed the Hanly fire from Calistoga to Santa Rosa, following much the same path of the deadly Tubbs fire three weeks ago. Both blazes scorched a broad swath across the 3,200-acre preserve in the Mayacamas Mountains northeast of Santa Rosa.

Redwood lilies are a fire-dependent species that require wildfire heat to reproduce, said Michael Gillogly, the preserve manager, who lived on the property for 23 years. His was one of two homes on the preserve destroyed by the conflagration that wiped out nearly 7,000 Sonoma County dwellings.

“I can’t wait to see them,” he said.

The redwood lilies fit well in Pepperwood’s rugged landscape, evolved over thousands of years not only to survive but to thrive in the Mediterranean climate of the Coast Range, where oak, fir and redwood forests, shrubs and grasslands are baked dry every summer, vulnerable to natural or human ignition.

“There is beauty in the Pepperwood landscape now,” said Lisa Micheli, president of the foundation that operates the facility located off Porter Creek Road. “It is in a renewal process.”

The property, which includes the headwaters of three creeks that flow into the Russian River, is home to 750 varieties of native plants and 150 species of wildlife, including birds, reptiles and mammals.

The fire also wrought a significant new direction for Pepperwood’s role as a scientific research facility, “perfectly positioned,” she said, to document wildland fire recovery and possibly to develop new strategies for forest management and firefighting.

Read more at: At Santa Rosa’s Pepperwood Preserve, nature rebounds from massive wildlfire | The Press Democrat –

Filed under Habitats, Wildlife

First freeze of winter coming ever later

Seth Borenstein, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Related story: Misplaced monarchs stuck too far north

Winter is coming … later. And it’s leaving ever earlier.

Scientists say it is yet another sign of the changing climate, and that it has good and bad consequences for the nation. There could be more fruits and vegetables — and also more allergies and pests.

“I’m happy about it,” said Karen Duncan of Streator, Illinois. Her flowers are in bloom because she’s had no frost this year yet, just as she had none last year at this time either. On the other hand, she said just last week it was too hot and buggy to go out — in late October, near Chicago.

The trend of ever later first freezes appears to have started around 1980, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data from 700 weather stations across the U.S. going back to 1895 compiled by Ken Kunkel, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

Read more at: Science Says: Jack Frost nipping at your nose ever later

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Wildlife

Flying insects have been disappearing over the past few decades, study shows

Ben Guarino, THE WASHINGTON POST

Helping these tiny helpers can take only a small effort, he said. Habitat restoration can be as simple as a garden with plants that flower throughout the year. Unlike mammals, insects don’t require vast tracts of land to be satisfied — a back yard blooming with native flowers will do.

Not long ago, a lengthy drive on a hot day wouldn’t be complete without scraping bug guts off a windshield. But splattered insects have gone the way of the Chevy Nova — you just don’t see them on the road like you used to.

Biologists call this the windshield phenomenon. It’s a symptom, they say, of a vanishing population.

“For those of us who look, I think all of us are disturbed and all of us are seeing fewer insects,” said Scott Black, executive director of the Portland, Ore.-based Xerces Society, a nonprofit environmental group that promotes insect conservation. “On warm summer nights you used to see them around streetlights.”

The windshield phenomenon is not just a trick of Trans Am nostalgia. A small but growing number of scientific studies suggest that insects are on the wane.

“The windscreen phenomenon is probably one of the best illustrative ways to realize we are dealing with a decline in flying insects,” said Caspar Hallmann, an ecologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands. Hallmann is part of a research team that recently waded through 27 years’ worth of insects collected in German nature preserves.

Between 1989 and 2016, according to a report published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One, the biomass of flying insects captured in these regions decreased by a seasonal average of 76 percent.

Read more at: Flying insects have been disappearing over the past few decades, study shows – The Washington Post

Filed under Wildlife

PG&E project blamed for harming endangered fish in Eel River

Nicholas Iovino, COURTHOUSE NEWS

Pacific Gas and Electric’s operation of dams, tunnels and a 109-year-old power plant on Northern California’s Eel River harms endangered salmon and steelhead, two conservation groups claim in a new lawsuit.

California River Watch and Coast Action Group sued the utility giant in federal court Friday, claiming its management of the Potter Valley Project in Mendocino County threatens endangered Coho salmon, Chinook salmon, and steelhead trout in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

“The project water diversions have reduced flows and increased water temperatures in various parts of the Eel River, in addition to altering important environmental cues that, for example, tell fish when to spawn or begin their outmigration,” the 12-page complaint states.

The groups claim the project also creates conditions that are beneficial to the predatory Sacramento pike minnow, which further threatens the endangered fish.

Earlier this year, PG&E filed its intent to renew its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license to run the 109-year-old irrigation and hydropower system. Its existing license expires in April 2022.

Read more at: PG&E Project Blamed for Harming Endangered Fish in NorCal River

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Wildlife

Tule elk put on dramatic displays in Point Reyes National Seashore 

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

It’s tempting to cast into human terms what goes on this time of year on the windswept bluffs of Tomales Point.

There’s a lot of posing, teasing and strutting about that’s somehow reminiscent of individuals we’ve all known.But when the bugling starts, and the male tule elk begin calling to one another with a sound that blends a horse’s neigh with the scream of an eagle and the guttural roar of an elephant seal, all thoughts return to the mysteries of the animal world.

Amid the coastal scrub and folded landscape of Tomales Point, a narrow promontory between Tomales Bay and the great Pacific, a once dominant species nearly hunted to extinction a century and a half ago continues to reproduce and flourish within the safety of the Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County.

Read more at: Tule elk put on dramatic displays in Point Reyes National Seashore | The Press Democrat –

Filed under Wildlife