'Red Bugs' Confirmed in San Diego County

Scantius aegyptius | Photo: Ferran Turmo Gort/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A red bug native to the eastern Mediterranean that was found in Ramona has been positively identified as Scantius aegyptius, the San Diego County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures said Wednesday.

A woman first noticed the bugs last summer, and county officials recently confirmed their identity. The bugs were first identified in Southern California when one was found in Orange County in 2009.

The winged, black-and-red bugs, distinguished by geometrical markings their backs, are about a third of an inch long. They're known to feed on the seeds of non-native weed plants such as knotweed and mallow, but it's unclear whether they might eat native plant seeds as well.

Good Dog! Sheepdogs Protect Predators as They Protect Sheep

Great Pyrenees like 2-month-old Daisy here are fierce defenders of sheep | Photo: Dave Spencer/Flickr/Creative Commons License

This story has been published in tandem with a segment for KCET's award-winning TV show "SoCal Connected." Watch it on Wednesday, Oct. 1, at 8 p.m.

It's no secret that well-trained sheepdogs do a great job of protecting sheep from wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, and other predators. But what you might not realize is that those sheepdogs can help protect the predators as well.

How do they do that? By providing an effective, cheaper and more humane alternative to more standard methods of predator control. In combination with sensible livestock management techniques such as fencing and corralling, guard dog breeds like Great Pyrenees, Komondors, and Anatolians can reduce sheep losses to predators dramatically -- in some cases to near zero.

And the dogs' effectiveness at protecting sheep from predators means less reason for government agencies to kill those predators, which benefits a surprisingly wide variety of wildlife.

New Study Will Track Bears In Yosemite High Country

A Yosemite bear in the woods. New GPS collars will allow researchers to determine not only if they do but exactly where | Photo: schlissm/Flickr/Creative Commons License

It would be hard to think of a place where black bears have been more closely studied than Yosemite Valley. With millions of human beings crowding into still-intact bear habitat every year, keeping tabs on the effects on wild bears of everything from vehicle traffic to improperly discarded candy wrappers has become crucial.

But outside the seven square miles of Yosemite Valley, in the other 1,182 square miles of Yosemite National Park, not as much is known about the habits of black bears. In part, that's because the old-school radio collars the Valley's black bears wear are hard to track once the bruins head for the high country.

But with help from donors recruited by the non-profit Yosemite Conservancy, that's about to change. Thanks to the Conservancy, the National Park Service will be spending $70,000 on far more trackable GPS collars for the bears, which will give wildlife managers far better information on where bears do go in the backcountry, and what they do when they get there.

Hard Summer Rains Bring Desert Mushrooms

Desert shaggy-mane | Photo: Bryant Olsen/Flickr/Creative Commons License

You expect certain kinds of living things in the desert. Scaly, occasionally venomous reptiles, plants with fierce armor, swift and clever animals accustomed to dealing with heat and drought.

But mushrooms?

That's what KCETLink staff member Jeremy Howard found, much to his surprise, when he went out to check the station's Palm Springs transmitter after a bout of heavy rains had damaged roads leading to the facility.

And poking up through one of those damaged roads was a species you might more easily expect in a soggy redwood forest or coastal prairie.

Groups Push For 'Cougar Crossing' in San Fernando Valley

Mountain lion kitten takes a break from dinner | Photo: Santa Monica Mountains NRA/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The campaign to build a freeway crossing to allow mountain lions and other wildlife to travel safely between the Santa Monica Mountains and other open space got a boost Friday, as elected officials and the National Wildlife Federation joined the effort at a rally in Agoura Hills.

At issue is the Liberty Canyon interchange on the Ventura Freeway -- Route 101 -- which is a dangerous barrier between the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, formerly Ahmanson Ranch, in the Simi Hills. That's a largely undeveloped corridor between the otherwise landlocked Santa Monicas and wildlands to the north, and a vital link between mountain lion populations in the Santa Monicas and the rest of Southern California.

As we reported in the wake of an October mountain lion fatality at the Liberty Canyon crossing, the freeway barrier poses a long-term threat to the mountain lions in the Santa Monicas; without regular influxes of new lions from elsewhere, the Santa Monica lions are already increasingly inbred. A safe wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon would help alleviate that problem.

No Protection for 2 Rare NorCal Plants

Red Mountain stonecrop | Photo: Carex Working Group/CalFlora/Creative Commons License

Two rare plants from Northern California that have been waiting for Endangered Species Act protection for more than 30 years won't be getting that protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will announce Thursday.

The Red Mountain buckwheat (Eriogonum kelloggii) and Red Mountain stonecrop (Sedum eastwoodiae) are being denied listing because USFWS has determined that populations of the two species are stable, despite each having an extremely limited range in Mendocino County. Both are restricted to a few square miles of serpentine soils on and near Red Mountain, just east of the city of Ukiah.

The buckwheat has been a candidate for listing under ESA since 1975, and the stonecrop joined the ranks of candidate species in 1980.

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