File this one under "what are they thinking?" An invasive cockroach species first noted in California in 1978 is now well established throughout the cities and towns of the southwestern U.S., and though little is known about its biology or its effect on other wildlife, you can still buy it online.
First seen in California 35 years ago in the town of Lathrop, the Turkestan cockroach (Blatta lateralis) is now rapidly displacing its cousin the oriental cockroach, Blatta orientalis in many parts of California as the cockroach most commonly found in and near human habitations. That may be because Turkestan cockroaches breed faster and lay more eggs than do oriental cockroaches, say entomologists.
It's not likely that anyone will shed a tear of sympathy for displaced oriental cockroaches. But so little is known about the Turkestan cockroaches' biology that the effect the invaders might have on native wildlife is pretty much a mystery. But that doesn't mean you can't order as many of the bugs as you want on the Internet, for delivery across state lines.
The fabled OR-7, the gray wolf that ignited Californians' imaginations in 2011 and 2012 when he wandered through the state for 15 months, stopped by for a quick visit over the weekend, then headed back into Oregon. That's according to California's Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), which is tracking the animal when it ventures into the state.
The wolf's weekend jaunt through Siskiyou County on December 7 is the second short sojourn he's made into California since ending his 15-month visit in March. He made a brief visit in April as well. But December's visit underscores the likelihood that OR-7 sees the far northern reaches of California as part of his range.
The weekend visit adds to pressure on CDFW to list the gray wolf as Endangered under the California Endangered Species Act, to make sure that OR-7 -- and other wolves that may wander into the state -- are protected in case the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service succeeds in depriving the gray wolf of federal protection.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rebuffed an attempt by a conservative organization to reduce protection of an Endangered shrub that survives in only five small populations near the seaside hamlet of Los Osos in San Luis Obispo County.
The Indian Knob mountain balm (Eriodictyon altissimum), a sparse-leaved evergreen shrub in the same botanical family as forget-me-nots, is still in peril of extinction due to residential development, oil drilling, and surface mining, says USFWS. In addition, an exotic grass -- purple veldtgrass -- has been converting the mountain balms chaparral habitat to grasslands, heightening the risk to the shrub.
That's why USFWS is denying a petition by the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) asking that the Indian Knob mountain balm be "downlisted" from Endangered to Threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
A plan to build two tunnels that would divert water from Sacramento to San Joaquin Valley farms poses a dire threat to salmon, according to a Bay Area salmon protection group.
The tunnels are the linchpin of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), a draft of the environmental impact assessment for which was released Tuesday by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR).
DWR is working, along with federal agencies and local water districts, to change the way California diverts Sacramento River water past its natural outflow through the San Francisco Bay to thirsty industrial farms and Southern California cities. And the result, which some are calling a rehash of Governor Jerry Brown's 1980s-era Peripheral Canal proposal, is raising hackles among environmentalists -- including one group concerned that the project could doom California salmon.
Bay Area wildlife fans have long known that Marin County's Lagunitas Creek is a great place to watch wild coho salmon. The creek, which runs from Tomales Bay to the slopes of Mount Tamalpais through undeveloped West Marin, has been home to one of California's healthiest coho runs despite a century and a half of regional development in the Bay Area. The little Lagunitas Creek watershed held between 10 and 20 percent of all remaining coastal California coho.
That was until a few years back, when the Lagunitas Creek watershed's coho numbers cratered. The fish have been steadily regaining ground since, but their protectors fear that sprawling residential development may undo the rebound. Three weeks ago, two environmental groups filed suit against Marin County to block a development plan they say threatens the county's salmon habitat.
And this month, as if to offer a vote of confidence in habitat protection, chinook salmon -- the coho's larger cousins -- are moving into Lagunitas Creek to spawn for the first time in several years.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to protect a vanishing California songbird by listing it as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but a national bird protection group says that doesn't go far enough.
The Washington D.C.-based American Bird Conservancy (ABC) says that USFWS should give the western yellow-billed cuckoo full Endangered status, which would give the bird greater protection.
A subspecies of the far more widespread yellow-billed cuckoo, the western yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus occidentalis), has seen between 90 and 99 percent of its preferred riparian forest habitat destroyed in California. Fewer than 500 breeding pairs of the birds remain in the United States.