State May Declare Unique NorCal Fish Threatened

Clear Lake hitch | Photo: Richard Macedo, California Department of Fish and Wildlife

The California Fish and Game Commission may decide soon whether to add a freshwater fish found in just one Northern California lake to the state's list of Threatened species.

The Clear Lake hitch, Lavinia exilicauda chi, a member of the minnow family that can reach 13 inches in length, is found only in Clear Lake and its tributaries in Lake County. Once so abundant that it was a staple food called "chi" by the local Pomo Indians, the hitch was recommended for listing as Threatened in May by the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife due to the destruction of more than 90 percent of the fish's historical spawning habitat.

That recommendation came as the result of an October 2012 petition by the Center for Biological Diversity to list the fish. Representatives of the group say they'll be at the Fish and Game Commission's August 5 meeting in San Diego to press for full Endangered status for the hitch, based on low spawning numbers in the last few drought years.

Wildlife Bridge Planned for 101 Freeway

Caltrans officials plan to build a bridge for mountain lions and other wild animals to cross the Ventura (101) Freeway west of Los Angeles, officials said last week.

The National Park System has been tracking mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains since 2002, and its biologists worry that the big cats are inbreeding because they are cut off from other lions in the mountains around Simi Valley and further north.

Caltrans officials announced that a $2 million planning and design grant is being sought from the federal government's infrastructure funding program. Earlier estimates for the wildlife corridor crossing cost were about $10 million.

"The new crossing will better integrate the environment and transportation systems, fostering better wildlife connectivity on either side of the 101, and increasing public safety by reducing the risk for collisions between vehicles and wildlife," said Carrie Bowen, the Caltrans director for Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Hundreds of Threatened Frogs Released in Santa Monica Mountains

California red-legged frog | Photo: Charles Peterson/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The Santa Monica Mountains are once again home to California's official state amphibian. After a release of ready and willing tadpoles earlier this week, the mountain range that separates the Los Angeles Basin from the San Fernando Valley has a population of the California red-legged frog for the first time in about 40 years.

The tadpoles were released from protective mesh cages into two unidentified streams in the Santa Monicas, according to wildlife biologists. The cages were placed in the streams in March, along with red-legged frog egg masses biologists collected from an isolated population in the Simi Hills. (We'd written about the Simi Hills frogs a few months earlier.)

The 850 tadpoles now plying those mountain streams make up the first-ever effort to expand the range of the federally Threatened species in Southern California.

New Photos Document OR-7's Wolf Family

One of OR-7's pups | Photo: USFWS

We reported in May that California's wandering part-time wolf, OR-7, was thought by wildlife agency officials to have started a family with a female wolf in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

That suspicion was confirmed in June, as was OR-7's paternity, when biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife purloined pieces of the pups' poop for DNA testing. Though there hasn't been a whole lot of news since then, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has provided us with something even better than news: baby pictures.

Try not to startle your officemates with the squeeing.

Feds to Consider Ban on Bluefin Tuna Fishing

Pacific bluefin tuna in a Tokyo aquarium | Photo: tomosuke214/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The Federal agency that manages marine endangered species announced Wednesday that it's considering a ban on recreational or commercial fishing of a species of tuna that extremely popular among fans of sashimi.

The Fisheries division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA Fisheries) is opening a formal rulemaking process to determine whether it should add Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) to its list of fish species that must be released immediately if caught. The fish is sold in sushi joints as "maguro."

Pacific bluefin catches have dropped dramatically in recent years, to the point where sport fishing now accounts for more of the U.S. catch than commercial fishing. And scientists say the species now stands at less than five percent of its historic numbers.

Walmart Developer Wants Permit to Kill Endangered Insect

The Delhi Sands flower loving fly | Photo: Nelson Marjory, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

An Inland Empire retail plaza developer may receive permission from the federal government to kill an endangered fly in exchange for preserving some of the insect's remaining habitat.

In a notice to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that Woodland Hills-based retail developer NewMark Merrill has applied for a permit that would allow the company to kill or injure federally Endangered Delhi Sands flower loving flies on a proposed Walmart expansion in Rialto.

According to USFWS, the development would alter just under two and a half acres of marginal habitat rarely used by the fly. In exchange for a five year incidental take permit, NewMark Merrill would preserve two acres of what USFWS deems higher quality fly habitat in the vicinity.

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