Banding Northern Spotted Owls to Conserve a Threatened Species

In August 2015, members of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Northern Region Interior Timber Conservation Planning Program assisted in the location, capture and banding of northern spotted owls (NSO). Timber Program members met up with Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) Wildlife Biologist Brian Dotters and drove to remote parts of the Northern Cascade Range to band juvenile owls.  Banding is the process of attaching a metal or plastic tag around a bird’s leg in order to allow identification in the future and also allow biologists to track its movements.

Photo_Banding NSO Aug 2015

CDFW staff watch and learn as SPI Wildlife Biologist Brian Dotters bands a juvenile northern spotted owl.

The first pair of juveniles were too hard to capture, so after an hour of trying to entice them to come closer using a toy rat attached to a fishing line and, later, live mice, the banding team decided to move on to the next site and return later.

Photo_Andy Yarusso and NSO Aug 2015

CDFW Environmental Scientist Andy Yarusso bonding with a recently banded juvenile northern spotted owl.

The next pair of owls were farther from the road. Hiking down a steep slope, the team reached a forest stand that contained the marked owl nesting site, a large tree with a broken top and excavated cavities most likely resulting from a pileated woodpecker.  When SPI Wildlife Biologist Brian Dotters played Northern Spotted Owl calls, eventually a female NSO called back from across the creek. Timber Program members and the SPI wildlife biologist traveled further downhill across rough terrain and over the creek in search of the owls.  The team eventually located two juveniles after traversing a steep slope covered in leaf litter. Though the pair were tough to reach, Brian used a hook and noose, widely agreed the most effective way to capture NSO juveniles, to capture, band, and take measurements of a NSO juvenile while the adult female watched aggressively.  This juvenile was minimally handled and released as quickly as possible.

Photo_David Haynes and NSO Aug 2015

CDFW Environmental Scientist David Haynes holds a camera-shy juvenile northern spotted owl.

Back at the first site, the young had moved lower in the trees while the team was away.  These juveniles were promptly captured with the hook and noose. This capture was quicker and allowed photographs to be taken following the banding process.

Photo_Michael Jee, Brian Dotters SPI with NSO Aug 2015

CDFW Scientific Aid Michael Jee and SPI Wildlife Biologist Brian Dotters with a newly banded NSO juvenile.

Marking the owls creates an opportunity to collect data on their movements and longevity.  This important information aids in the conservation of the northern spotted owl species.  It also tells us if they have been displaced by the barred owl, a native North American owl that has moved into old-growth coniferous forests and competes for habitat with the threatened Northern Spotted Owl.

~Photos contributed by Robert Hawkins, CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist (Supervisor)      ~Text contributed by Micheal Jee, former CDFW Scientific Aid

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TNC Marijuana Study: High Time for Conservation

Mike Sweeney, Executive Director of the California Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), believes that some of the most important work they do is provide the science necessary to drive change across the state and nation.  You can access TNC’s recently published study via the link below.


High Time to Clean Up Marijuana’s Environmental Mess
Marijuana. Pot. Weed. Cannabis. Mary Jane.

So many ways to talk about it, but no one knows what pot really means for California.

California grows 60 to 70 percent of all the pot in the U.S. and the $16 billion harvest often comes from illegal grow farms in Northern California where forests are cleared, rivers are sucked dry or tainted with chemicals, and animals are poisoned. Take the Pacific fisher, a member of the weasel family that looks like a bear cub, which dies when rodenticide liquefies its insides (bottom right photo). Pot growers use pounds of this stuff, which has killed animals as big as a black bear.

Marijuana is a thirsty crop – it uses twice as much water as wine grapes – and most of this water is being illegally diverted from streams during the worst drought in recorded history. Meanwhile, there is not enough funding for restoration, regulation or enforcement of environmental laws, and growers often try to protect their crops with military-grade weapons and booby traps. This makes it difficult for scientists to understand the full scope of the problem and what needs to be done to fix it.

With legalization on the horizon, and demand for weed growing, we need to get a handle on this before the “green rush” leaves California high and dry.

Today we released a study in the journal BioScience that addresses this issue: High Time for Conservation: Adding the Environment to the Debate on Marijuana Liberalization.

In the coming weeks, you’ll hear more as we promote this study. Read more on conserveca.org.

Mike Sweeney
Executive Director, California Chapter
The Nature Conservancy

Photos, from left: A marijuana grow site discovered on public lands; Trash from marijuana cultivation pollutes land and water; Sheriff Mike Downey with a Pacific fisher that died from rodenticide. © Department of Fish and Wildlife and Humboldt Sheriff's Department.

Photos, from left: A marijuana grow site discovered on public lands; Trash from marijuana cultivation pollutes land and water; Sheriff Mike Downey with a Pacific fisher that died from rodenticide.
© Department of Fish and Wildlife and Humboldt Sheriff’s Department.

Northern Region designs fair booths the old-fashioned way: Homegrown and Homemade

Each year the Education and Outreach Team receives assistance with booth design and staffing from one of the CDFW Northern Region programs.  This year I’d like to commend the Inland Fisheries Program for their creative and enthusiastic help designing exhibits for our booths at the 2015 Boat, Sport and RV Show and Shasta District Fair.  Many thanks to our faithful crew of Natural Resource Volunteers who load and unload the transport vehicles and assemble and disassemble all the backdrops and tables.  Lastly, I want to thank all of the staff and volunteers who worked one or more shifts at the booth and did your best to make sure visitors enjoyed our booth and took some CDFW knowledge away with them.

~Eda Eggeman, Education and Outreach Team Chairperson

Our new banner was designed by Graphic Designer Meredith Fleener with the Office of Communication,  Education and Outreach in Sacramento.

After CDFG became CDFW, Graphic Designer Extraordinaire Meredith Fleener with the Office of Communication, Education and Outreach in Sacramento designed our new banner.

The 2015 Boat, Sport, and RV Show booth featured photos and text about the Redband Trout Rescue and Restoration Program.

The 2015 Boat, Sport, and RV Show booth featured photos and text about our Northern Region Redband Trout Rescue and Restoration Program.

The CDFW booth is a good place to hob-nob with local celebrities.  Author Steve Callan and the Coleman National Fish Hatchery mascot pose with a poster of Steve's book,

The CDFW booth is a great place to hob-nob with local celebrities. Author Steve Callan and the Coleman National Fish Hatchery mascot pose with a poster of Steve’s book, “Badges, Bears, and Eagles” at the 2015 Boat, Sport and RV Show.

Elk antler headbands donated by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation were a big hit with children and our booth workers!

Elk antler headbands donated by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation were a big hit with children and our booth workers!

The 2015 Shasta District Fair booth featured 'homegrown' salmon and redband trout, and 'homemade' fish screen, ladders and back-flooding weirs.

Each year the Shasta District Fair staff chooses a theme and challenges exhibitors to use that theme in their booth design.  The CDFW design team addressed this year’s theme, “Homegrown and Homemade,” by featuring ‘homegrown’ salmon and redband trout, and ‘homemade’ fish screens, ladders and back-flooding weirs.

Fisheries Scientific Aid Torry Zimmerman and Outreach Coordinator Eda Eggeman put the finishing touches on the Shasta District Fair booth.  Outreach Team member Samantha Reece was also a key booth installer.

Fisheries Scientific Aid Torry Zimmerman and Outreach Coordinator Eda Eggeman put the finishing touches on the Shasta District Fair booth. Education and Outreach Team member Samantha Reece was also a key booth installer.

Reservoir Biologist Monty Currier assembled a very informative and creative slide show of Inland Fisheries Program activities.  If you look closely at the photo above the TV, those are his children displaying their catch at a Mt. Shasta Hatchery Kids Fishing Day.

Reservoir Biologist Monty Currier assembled a very informative and artistic slide show of Inland Fisheries Program activities.  Those are Monty’s son and daughter displaying their catch at a Mt. Shasta Hatchery Kids Fishing Day in the photo above the TV.

Last but not least, it wouldn't be a district fair without a blue ribbon or two!  This is our fourth award for

Last but not least, it wouldn’t be a district fair without a blue ribbon or two! This is our fourth award for “Best Use of Theme,” selected and awarded by the Shasta District Fair staff.

CDFW Scientists Publish Groundbreaking Work on Marijuana’s Effect on the Environment

Environmental scientists with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently published a first-of-its-kind study that clearly shows that water used for growing marijuana has a devastating effect on fish in the state.

The study showed that during drought conditions, water demand for marijuana cultivation exceeded stream flow in three of four study watersheds. The resulting paper, entitled “Impacts of Surface Water Diversions for Marijuana Cultivation on Aquatic Habitat in Four Northwestern California Watersheds,” concludes that diminished stream flow from this water-intensive activity is likely to have lethal to sub-lethal effects on state and federally listed salmon and steelhead trout and will cause further decline of sensitive amphibian species.

The study was published online in the scientific journal PLOS One and can be found   here.

By using online tools to count marijuana plants and measure greenhouses, and conducting inspections of marijuana cultivation sites with state wildlife officers and local law enforcement, CDFW scientists quantified plant numbers and water use. Utilizing stream flow data provided by staff at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), CDFW determined water demand for cultivation could use more than 100 percent of stream flow during the summer dry season in three of four study watersheds. Stream flow monitoring conducted by CDFW in the summer of 2014 appeared to verify these results.

“All the streams we monitored in watersheds with large scale marijuana cultivation went dry,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Scott Bauer, lead author of the research paper. “The only stream we monitored that didn’t go dry contained no observed marijuana cultivation.”

Additional negative impacts of trespass grows include wildlife poisoning, human waste and trash, and soil and water pollution.

Trespass grows also contribute human waste and trash, pollute soil and water, and poison wildlife.

CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division works closely with dozens of other state and federal agencies to eradicate illegal marijuana grows on public, tribal and private lands as well as protect the state’s natural resources.

“This research paper demonstrates the importance of greater regulatory efforts by state agencies to prevent the extinction of imperiled fisheries resources,” said CDFW Assistant Chief Brian Naslund. “CDFW’s new Watershed Enforcement Team (WET) was created with just that in mind.”

The WET program works with agency partners to protect public trust resources from the negative effects of marijuana cultivation, which include both excessive water use and pollution.

CDFW will continue to monitor the effects of water diversion for marijuana cultivation on stream flow through the summer of 2015.

Marijuana cultivation is legal in California if growers have the proper CDFW lake and streambed alteration permits. Responsible growers help conserve the state’s natural resources and are less likely to be subject to enforcement action.

Safety Snippet: Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Program

AEDs are simple to operate.

AEDs are simple to operate.

According to the American Red Cross, “Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Over 350,000 people will suffer from sudden cardiac arrest this year. It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere and at any age. An AED is the only effective treatment for restoring a regular heart rhythm during sudden cardiac arrest and is an easy to operate tool for someone with no medical background.”

Many of you have already received AED training as part of the Basic First Aid and CPR class, so you know AEDs are simple to operate.

In accordance with State Administrative Manual Management Memo MM 07-03, the Safety Committee is pleased to announce we are in the process of implementing an AED Program for the Region. Stay tuned for updates! If you are interested in learning more about this program, please contact your Regional Safety Committee.

~Contributed by the Northern Region Safety Committee

CDFW Program Manager will speak at third Earth, Water, Climate Series Program

The public is invited to the third “Earth, Water, Climate Series” program on Saturday, January 24, 2015, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. in the Redding Library Community Room.

Local community members are presenting the third “Earth, Water, Climate Series” forum on Shasta & Tehama County timber harvest in the Library’s Community Room, 1100 Parkview Avenue, Redding, CA. Local concern stems from the 2013 report by the California Natural Resources Agency that states 25 percent of the non-federal timberland in Shasta County was logged in the years 2003-2012.

Presenters are Marily Woodhouse, Director of the rural grassroots group Battle Creek Alliance, and Joe Croteau, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Timberland Conservation Program Manager. Timber harvest impacts and regulations in our area and some elements of climate change will be explored.

The documentary “Clearcut Nation” produced by the Battle Creek Alliance will be shown. This documentary describes one aspect of timber harvesting and includes interviews with local botanist Julie Kierstead Nelson and former logger Randy Compton. Interviews include Dr. Tom Myers, hydrologist, Dr. Dennis Odion, fire ecologist, and Monica Bond, wildlife biologist. Local artist Chen Compton drew artwork for the film and local musician Matthew Songmaker provided music.

Joe Croteau will provide an overview of CDFW’s role in reviewing and monitoring timber harvesting plans (THPs). He will discuss CDFW’s challenges and priorities for 2015 and beyond. Joe will also discuss how the public can participate in THP review, and provide a walk- through of the “ftp” website that contains timber harvesting documents.

The audience will be invited to participate in a question and answer period after the presentations.

Drought Woes Continue at Shasta Valley Wildlife Area

As of mid-January, the historic drought continues at Shasta Valley Wildlife Area. Last year’s wet season wasn’t very wet, with rain and snowfall at about 20 percent of normal. This was on top of the previous year, 2013, that was also considered dry by regional climatologists. The consecutive dry years resulted in two out of three water storage reservoirs being dry, or nearly so. The third reservoir, Trout Lake, is down about 40 percent. The wildlife area staff was unable to flood seasonal wetlands for the fall migration and had to cancel some public hunting programs.

A very wet December brought hope that this year would be wetter. The Little Shasta River swelled with runoff from the moist Pacific storms. Wildlife area staff took advantage of this opportunity and was able to divert a substantial amount for a few weeks. That flow has subsided now. What’s left is a long range forecast with little hope for significant rain and snow, and still nearly dry reservoirs. On top of that, snow pack in the watershed is only about 30 percent of normal. Typically, the heaviest rainfall occurs in this area in December and January, with February also an important month. Whether or not the drought continues will depend upon what happens in the next six weeks.

~Text and photos contributed by Wildlife Habitat Supervisor R. Robert Smith

Bass Lake Drought November 2014

Bass Lake Drought, November 2014.

Steamboat Lake, January 2015.  The fence post in the foreground marks the lake level when full.

Steamboat Lake, January 2015. The fence post in the foreground marks the lake level when full.

Ash Creek Wildlife Area Restoration Project

Phase I of the Ash Creek Wildlife Area restoration project restored 1,232 acres of wet meadow habitat. Aerial photos show the area before restoration, during, and after Phase I restoration activities. Phase 2 is currently under construction.

~Text and photos contributed by Wildlife Habitat Supervisor James Chakarun

Aerial photo of Ash Creek Wildlife Area in November 2007.

Ash Creek Wildlife Area in November 2007.

Aerial photo of Ash Creek Wildlife Area during restoration in September 2012.

Ash Creek Wildlife Area during restoration in September 2012.

Ash Creek Wildlife Area showing completed Phase I restoration.

Ash Creek Wildlife Area showing completed Phase I restoration in March 2014.

CDFW Offers One-day Waterfowl Hunting Clinic in Redding

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Advanced Hunter Education Program and California Waterfowl Association are sponsoring a waterfowl hunting clinic in Redding on Saturday, Sept. 20. The clinic is designed to teach waterfowl hunting techniques and will accommodate all skill levels.

The clinic will be taught by CDFW’s Chief of Enforcement Mike Carion and Warden Aaron Freitas both experienced hunters. Topics to be covered are decoy placement, blind design, waterfowl calling, duck identification, hunting gear, game care, cooking tips and safety. Information will also be provided on hunting state wildlife areas and federal wildlife refuges. If you want to learn how to hunt waterfowl successfully in northern California, this is the clinic for you.

The clinic will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014.

The cost is $45 and space is limited. Youth 16 years and younger are free but must be accompanied by adult.

Participants must register in advance at: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered/advanced/waterfowl_redding.aspx

After registering, participants will receive an email with a map to the facility and a list of items to bring.

via CDFW Offers One-day Waterfowl Hunting Clinic in Redding.