California Dolphin: statewide California news

Success and failure of protected species in California

The 2019 theme for Earth Day is ‘protect our species’ so today we look at some that are threatened or near extinction in California.
The California flag features a grizzly bear that roamed the state, stood 8 feet and weighed more than a ton. The bear was considered a threat to livestock and people and has been extinct since the 1920s. The California grizzly was designated the official state animal in 1953, 30 years after it was killed off. Gray wolves were the other large mammal to join the path of extinction in the 1920s but now are moving back in from other states to Northern California.
Giant of the skies
California condors were listed as endangered in 1967 and were nearly extinct by 1987, when all of the wild birds (22-27) were captured to save the population. The birds were kept in breeding facilities at the Los Angeles Zoo and the San Diego Wild Animal Park.
The captive breeding of the birds was a gamble that paid off. Condor recovery is slow because their reproductive rate is one egg laid every year or two. By 1992, several of the birds were released back into the wild in Ventura County and by 1994, captive condors had laid more than 100 eggs.
Biologists have released California condors from captivity every year since 1996.

Getting the lead out
Condors’ food includes animals that were shot, and lead poisoning from spent ammunition was found to be partially responsible for the population’s decline.
California bans lead ammunition in the outlined area shown on the map, but as of July 1, the prohibition will be statewide.
The ban only applies to hunters; target shooting and personal protection are not impacted. Many shooting ranges will recycle lead ammo shot by customers.

The list of fully protected animals
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife issues citations to those suspected of breaking laws protecting wildlife. Violations involving endangered species can bring fines up to $50,000 and up to a year in jail, while crimes against threatened species can result in a $25,000 fine and six months behind bars.
Some species listed are extremely rare in California, such as the wolverine, whose numbers were thought to be as low as eight 10 years ago in the Tahoe National Forest and which have not been seen much since.
Check this nest
The Institute for Wildlife Services has a high-definition cam giving a live online view of a massive bald eagle nest at Big Bear Lake . Two chicks have hatched and the mother and father are taking turns watching them.
Back from the brink
Two other California species that have bounced back from near extinction are the sea otter and the Channel Islands dwarf fox. Sea otters were hunted down to about 2,000 by 1911. Their worldwide population is about 100,000 today.
The foxes’ numbers were down to about 100 in 1999. The foxes were mostly hunted by golden eagles, which resulted in some birds being relocated. Some foxes were bred in captivity and now there are more than 2,000 on the islands.

Morro Bay kangaroo rat
Bighorn sheep
Northern elephant seal
Guadalupe fur seal
Ring-tailed cat
Pacific right whale
Salt-marsh harvest mouse
Southern sea otter


Colorado River squawfish
Thicktail chub
Mohave chub
Lost River sucker
Modoc sucker
Shortnose sucker
Humpback sucker
Owens River pupfish
Unarmored three-spine stickleback
Rough sculpin


Santa Cruz long-toed salamander
Limestone salamander
Black toad
Blunt-nosed leopard lizard
San Francisco garter snake


American peregrine falcon
Brown pelican
California black rail
California clapper rail
California condor
California least tern
Golden eagle
Greater sandhill crane
Light-footed clapper rail
Southern bald eagle
Trumpeter swan
White-tailed kite
Yuma clapper rail

Sources: California Fish and Wildlife, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, NatureServe, National Geographic Photos: SCNG, NOAA

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