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Endangered wildlife of California online

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Bfl EH Stale f California
The Resource. Agency


Sacramento, California

Photo credits

p. 10 G. R. Stewart, p. 12 Dave Schaub, p. 14 John Borneman from
National Audubon Society, p. 18 U.S. Forest Service, p.20 Frank
Gress, p.24 Robert Martin, p.26 Herb Clarke, p.28 Dana Echols,
p.30 Dave Dick, p.38 Wayne Deason, p.40 W.I. Follett, p.42 Phil
Pister, p.44 ZX Vanicek, p.46 Z>. Vanicek, p.50 Terry J. Mills, p.52
/o/?/? .fira/e, p. 54/^/7 P/5ter, p.56 Leonard Fisk

Cover Photo: Least and Tern and Chicks

For a complete list of available publications on fish and wildlife in
California, write Conservation Education, Department of Fish and
Game, 1416 Ninth St., Sacramento, CA 95814.


of California


Birds and Mammals

Alan Craig, associate wildlife manager biologist
John Gustafson, assistant wildlife manager biologist
Howard Leach, wildlife management supervisor
Robert Mallette, wildlife management supervisor

Fish, Reptiles and Amphibians

John Erode, associate fishery biologist
Louis Courtois, associate fishery biologist
Steve Nicola, senior fishery biologist

State of California
The Resources Agency


Sacramento, California

From the collection of



Bird Rescue

Research Center

Cordelia, California

in association with


Jr rejinger


San Francisco, California


This booklet is published in response to an increased public interest
in endangered species. The California Department of Fish and Game,
which is responsible for the welfare of more than 1,000 species offish
and wildlife in the state, hopes this publication will stimulate the
reader to join in the effort to protect endangered species.



Introduction 7


Morro Bay kangaroo rat 10

Salt marsh harvest mouse 12


California condor 14

American peregrine falcon 16

Bald eagle 18

California brown pelican 20

California least tern 22

California clapper rail 24

Light-footed clapper rail 26

Belding's Savannah sparrow 28


Blunt-nosed leopard lizard 30

San Francisco garter snake 32


Santa Cruz long-toed salamander 34

Desert slender salamander 36


Colorado squawfish 38

Thicktail chub 40

Tecopa pupfish 42

Bonytail chub 44

Humpback sucker 46

Shortnose sucker 48

Lost River sucker 50

Unarmored threespine stickleback 52

Owens tui chub 54

Owens pupfish 56

Mohave chub 58

List of Rare Species in California 60

List of Extinct Species in California 61

Federal List of California Endangered Species 62



In the long history of Planet Earth, many forms of life have come
and gone. A survey of plants and animals that survive today is like
reading one chapter in the middle of a book. There are hints of what
has gone on before, and signs of what may happen in the future. But
it is not the complete story.

We know from the study of fossils that Earth was a vastly different
place in the past. Great seas once covered what is now desert. Huge
dinosaurs ruled the land and giant winged creatures patrolled the
skies. Glaciers came down from the north, carving giant valleys and
whittling boulders into pebbles. All of this has changed, and in its
unbelievably slow, steady pace, Earth continues to change. The crea-
tures of Earth, totally dependent on their environment, have changed
also. Those able to adapt to great climatic and geologic changes have
survived. Others perished.

The monarch of the world today is man. His ability to alter his
surroundings for his own benefit is unsurpassed by any other form of
life which lives, or has ever lived, on this planet. His capacity to reason
and to communicate appears to be unique and it has been said his
ability to mourn the passing of another life form is something new
under the sun.

Man-made changes

Man has altered his environment by building great cities, convert-
ing arid land to agriculture by irrigation, constructing highways,
dams, shopping centers and sprawling housing projects. In so doing
he has taken a hand at shaping the future of the world's plant and
animal life. Subtle changes in climate and the land continue, but these
are overshadowed by the abrupt and often traumatic changes made
by man.

Plant and animal life has had some difficulty adapting to these
sudden changes in the environment wrought by man. Since 1600,
when accurate record-keeping began, more than 200 animal species
have ceased to exist. The causes of their disappearances are varied, but
nearly all are at least partially related to the activities of man.

This is a book about endangered species animals which are likely
to become extinct if something is not done. More specifically, it is
about endangered species in California. We know of 25 such animals,
ranging from the majestic bald eagle to the tiny blunt-nosed leopard

lizard. There are probably more, because our knowledge of the world
around us is still limited.

To determine the status of a species, there are five questions which
can be applied. If the answer is "yes" to any of the following questions,
the species (or subspecies) under study can be considered endan-

1. Does the mortality rate consistently exceed the birth rate?

2. Is the species unable to adapt to environmental change?

3. Is its habitat threatened by destruction or serious disturbance?

4. Does environmental pollution threaten its survival?

5. Is its survival threatened by the unwanted introduction of other
species through predation, competition or disease?

The term "endangered species" is relatively new. In 1966, the Inter-
national Union for Conservation of Nature met in Switzerland to
publish the first list of rare and endangered animals. Prior to then,
thoughtful men were able to stop the slaughter of buffalo, tule elk and
other animals that were being wiped out by people who felt nature was
an infinite resource. Other creatures, like the passenger pigeon, did
not fare so well. They were extinct before most people had time to
miss them.

We, the people, are still in the process of considering the conse-
quences of making a particular animal extinct. We don't really know
what effect the passing of the leopard lizard, for example, would have
on the rest of the world. Most of us, living in an urbanized society,
have never seen an endangered species. So why should we care?

Why save endangered species?

An argument for protecting endangered species is based on the
"web of life." All plant and animal life is interconnected in complex
ways which man does not yet fully understand. Some people believe
that to remove one or more of the links in the web of life is to threaten
the entire system. Others argue that by the time an animal reaches the
point of being endangered, it no longer has a significant part in
interdependent relationships we call an ecosystem.

Another argument for endangered species is based on the potential
value of animals and plants in medical, agricultural and industrial
operations. Many benefits have been realized and others no doubt will
be found in the future.

A growing number of people support the preservation of endan-


gered species because they feel that wildlife in its natural habitats adds
to the quality of human life. Biologists tell us that the health of wild
animals is a good indicator of the health of the ecosytem. Even man
needs a healthy planet on which to live.

Indeed, the quality of life may be better because we are able to see
deer running through the forest and hawks gliding in circles above the
land. But not everyone has an opportunity to see the deer and the
hawk. Few will ever see a bald eagle or a peregrine falcon. For many
of us, unfortunately, quality of life has nothing to do with nature.

There is also the notion that we have an ethical commitment to
other forms of life. Even if a given species of animal has no value to
humankind, it should be conserved because it exists. In fact, it may
have existed before the coming of man.

Current governmental policy in this country and others is to protect
rather than to deliberately make any species extinct. Human beings
definitely have the ability to eliminate a species forever.

The grizzly bear, the jaguar and the welfare now extinct in Califor-
nia. The California condor is nearly gone and the blunt-nosed leopard
lizard is fighting for survival.

The importance of habitat

Perhaps the best action which can be taken to ensure survival of a
species is to protect its habitat. Without suitable living space, no
animal can survive. To preserve at least some of the land in its natural
state, the California Department of Fish and Game and other public
agencies have been purchasing parcels throughout the state. The es-
tablishment of ecological reserves does much to assure wildlife sur-
vival, expecially in areas of critical habitat which are important to the
survival of rare and endangered species.

Funding for work on endangered species comes from a variety of
sources. Revenue from personalized license plates, special appropria-
tions from the legislature, federal grants, and public donations have
been spent on projects to help endangered species.

There is much work to be done. With continuing public interest and
support, the state and private interests will work together in providing
protection for all wildlife and in conserving habitat essential to the
survival of endangered species in California. This will be our contribu-
tion to the concept of Planet Earth as a place where all life forms may
exist in concert, if not always in harmony.


Dipodomys heermanni morroensis


The Morro Bay kangaroo rat is distinct from the many kangaroo
rats found in the desert and arid areas of California.

Kangaroo rats are so named because they hop about in the manner
of a kangaroo. They are brown and white in color, have large hind
feet, small front feet and an extremely long tail. Dark coloration and
lack of a complete white hip stripe distinguish the Morro Bay kanga-
roo rat from other subspecies of kangaroo rats.


The Morro Bay kangaroo rat, as its name suggests, lives at the south
end of Morro Bay in San Luis Obispo County. Its habitat is a coastal
shrub plant community of sandy open spaces, in which it burrows and
forages for food.


Life History

Kangaroo rats, like many small mammals, remain underground
during the day and come out at night. Frequently, they can be seen
scurrying across the road as one drives through the desert areas at
night. The presence of Morro Bay kangaroo rat is best determined by
finding active burrows, and by tracks and tail markings in sandy

Normally, three or four young are born in May or June. In some
years, the Morro Bay kangaroo rat has two litters. Kangaroo rats feed
largely on seeds, which they collect and put in pouches along either
side of their jaws and then store in caches surrounding their burrows
until food is needed. They are preyed upon by a number of natural
enemies including foxes, bobcats, snakes and owls. Of special threat
to the Morro Bay kangaroo rat are house cats, which are increasing
in numbers as they arrive with families occupying new houses built
near the remaining kangaroo rat habitat.


The Morro Bay kangaroo rat is one of the most endangered species
in California. The rapid growth of the cities of Bay wood Park and Los
Osos is destroying the habitat essential to the survival of this species.

Efforts are being made to acquire and set aside within Montana de
Oro State Park sufficient habitat to assure survival of the Morro Bay
kangaroo rat. Critical habitat bordering the state park has been pur-
chased by the Department of Fish and Game and established as a
reserve for the Morro Bay kangaroo rat.



Reithrodontomys raviventris


The salt marsh harvest mouse is a unique little rodent the size of
a house mouse. It can be distinguished by its beautiful reddish colored
hair, bicolored tail and grooved incisors.


While harvest mice are not uncommon in California, the salt marsh
harvest mouse is found only in salt marshes bordering San Francisco
Bay. In many areas along the bay this habitat is found only as narrow
bands of salt marsh.

Life History

The salt marsh harvest mouse is the only rodent which spends its
entire life in a salt marsh. It evolved to subsist on highly salt-tolerant
plants, to drink salt water, and to exist in a hostile environment
influenced by tides. Here, in dense pickleweed and cordgrass, the salt
marsh harvest mouse has existed, reproduced, and met its life needs
without evolving into a truly aquatic mammal as have other rodents
such as the beaver and muskrat.

Like most small rodents, this harvest mouse has an extended breed-
ing season. Three or four young comprise a normal litter and are cared


for by the female until they leave the nest in a few weeks. Natural
enemies include whitetailed kites, marsh hawks, owls and herons.


Contumal destruction of salt marshes by land fill and diking are
major fo-:tors contributing to decline of this species. However, recent
acquisitions of tidelands by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California
Department of Fish and Game, City of Palo Alto, and independent
conservation organizations are insuring its continued survival.

Preservation of existing salt marshes bordering San Francisco Bay
and mant'.ement of these through normal tidal flows are the keys to
the survi-. al of the salt marsh harvest mouse.



Gymnogyps californianus


The California condor is the largest soaring land bird in North
America. An adult may have a wing span of nine to nine and one half
feet and may weigh more than 20 pounds. The adult condor is distin-
guished from the turkey vulture and golden eagle by the white trian-
gular shaped patch under each wing and its bare orange head.


Once present in much of western North America, the California
condor is now largely confined to the rugged mountains surrounding
the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley in California. During the
summer condors range northward into the Sierra Nevada foothills
and the coast range. There have been unconfirmed reports of condors
being seen in Baja California, Mexico.


Life History

The California condor is a relic of the ice age, probably never very
numerous. Their numbers are dwindling slowly to a point of near-
extinction. While condors live as long as 45 years, they have an
extremely low reproductive rate. They mature at five to six years and
are thought to mate for life.

In early February a nest site is selected on a remote cliff. The female
lays a pale green egg which is incubated for 42 days. It is five to seven
months before the young bird is fledged and even then it depends on
its parents for food for another five to seven months. Because of the
long period of incubation and parental care of the young, a pair of
condors normally nest only every other year.

Like other vultures, condors eat carrion. They feed chiefly on dead
livestock, deer, and even ground squirrels which they search out by
flying long distances from preferred roosting sites. An unforgettable
sight is an effortlessly soaring condor, riding the thermal currents, as
it must have done long before man trespassed on its territory.


Unfortunately, the California condor appears incapable now of
producing a sufficient number of young to maintain even its present
population of less than 30 birds. Scientists feel that four to six young
birds must fledge each year in order for the condor to survive. Current
production is less than two birds each year.

Considerable effort has been devoted to preserving the condor.
Important nesting and roosting areas have been acquired or set aside
in condor sanctuaries through the cooperative efforts of the U. S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, U. S. Forest Service, California Department of
Fish and Game, and National Audubon Society. U. S. Forest Service
regulations protect known nest sites and areas of condor concentra-
tions from human disturbance and discharge of firearms. Condors
may have to be bred in captivity to assure continued survival and to
produce young which can be returned to the wild.



Falco peregrin us an a turn


The peregrine falcon, or duck hawk, is a member of the falcon
family. It is larger than the familiar American kestrel or sparrow
hawk, having a wing span of slightly more than three feet. The adult
has slate-gray upper body feathers, narrow barring on the belly, breast
and flanks, and black cap and cheek patches, which distinguish it
from other hawks, including its close relative, the prairie falcon.
While in flight, peregrine falcons can be identified by their wing beats
and pointed wings.


The American peregrine falcon is one of three races, or subspecies,
native to North America. No longer breeding east of the Rocky
Mountains, its numbers also are severely reduced in the western
states. In California, peregrines occur seasonally throughout the state
but are seen most commonly along the coast, in the Central Valley and
in surrounding mountains. In 1979, 21 pairs of peregrine falcons were
known to have nested in California.


Life History

The peregrine falcon can fly at great speeds, often reaching 175
miles per hour in a stoop, or dive. It feeds primarily on birds ranging
in size from a small warbler to a mallard duck. Observing a peregrine
falcon chasing a teal or a shorebird can be a dramatic experience.

Peregrines mate for life. They return each year to the same nest site,
or eyrie, on a rocky cliff. One such site is Morro Rock, overlooking
Morro Bay in San Luis Obispo County. This is the only place in North
America where nesting peregrines can be viewed from a parking lot!
Morro Rock has been declared an ecological reserve for the peregrine
falcon, and the area has been posted to prohibit public access.

Nesting activity begins in early February and by April the female
has laid two to four eggs. The eggs hatch in 28 to 31 days and the
young fledge in four to four and one-half weeks. During this time, the
adult male is busy hunting and bringing food to the female and young.
Upon fledging, the young birds are closely attended by their parents
who teach them to hunt and care for themselves.


The American peregrine falcon is one of the most endangered
species. The decline in its numbers since the 1940's has been attributed
to reproductive failure caused by the widespread use of the pesticide
DDT. The peregrine falcon, like the California brown pelican, has
experienced a noticeable increase in reproduction since DDT was
banned in 1971. Unscrupulous hunters, illegal falconers, and loss of
nesting areas continue to threaten the recovery of the peregrine falcon
in California.

Surveillance of active peregrine falcon eyries is conducted each year
to assess reproductive success. Critical habitat areas are being deter-
mined and management plans developed to provide added protection.
Captive rearing of the species and introduction of young birds to the
wild is aiding in the recovery of peregrine falcons.



Haliaeetus Leucocephalus


The bald eagle is our national bird and, next to the American flag,
our best known national symbol. Except for the California condor, the
bald eagle is the largest bird of prey in California, with a wing span
of six and one-half to eight feet. An adult is readily identified by its
brownish-black body, white head and tail and large yellow hooked
bill. Unlike the golden eagle, the bald eagle's legs are not feathered
all the way to its feet.


The bald eagle is found year-round in California. For most of the
year, nesting birds occupy well-defined territories. Most of these nest-
ing sites are located in northern California and are found near large
streams, lakes and reservoirs. Bald eagles once nested on the Channel
Islands off California's southern coast. During the winter months
large numbers of bald eagles migrate from the north and can be found
over much of the state.


Life History

Bald eagles are long-lived and mate for life. Their courtship occurs
in mid-winter. The bald eagle's nest a massive stick platform in trees
20 to 90 feet high is used year after year. One to three white eggs
are laid from mid-February to April and are hatched in 35 days. Both
parents assist in incubating and caring for young which leave the nest
in eight to ten weeks.

Bald eagles feed mainly on fish, often boldly taken from other
raptors such as the osprey. Bald eagles can be seen in late winter
congregated about streams and rivers feeding on salmon which have
died after spawning. Kokanee salmon found hi some inland lakes of
California are an important food source. Bald eagles also feed on
waterfowl, rabbits and deer and livestock, which is mostly in the form
of carrion. Eagles feeding on road-killed animals are often struck and
killed by motor vehicles.


California's resident bald eagles number about 50 pairs, with a
winter population in excess of 500 birds. In 1979, there were 41 nests
occupied by bald eagles producing about one chick per active site.
Scientists feel that unless improved reproduction and survival of
young birds occurs, the bald eagle will become extinct.

Surveillance of nesting bald eagles is conducted each year to deter-
mine where eagles are nesting and how many young have been pro-
duced. Management plans provide for protection of these nest sites
during the nesting period.



Pelecanus occidentalis californicus


The brown pelican can be easily recognized by anyone who visits
California's coast in the summer. It is the only large grayish-brown
coastal bird with a large pouched bill. It has a wingspread of 90 inches.
Adults have white heads but the immatures are dark-headed. It flies
with its head folded back on its neck and shoulders, alternately flap-
ping its wings and sailing. When feeding, this interesting bird folds its
wings and plummets into the water after fish, its principal food item.


The California brown pelican ranges along the Pacific Coast from
Mexico to Canada in the summer. Some move as far north as British
Columbia in summer and fall, but most of the birds remain in Mexico.
About 20,000 frequent California's coast from July through Novem-
ber. About 100,000 birds are found in the west coast population.


Life History

With the exception of a small colony on West Anacapa Island off
Ventura, California brown pelicans nest on the Mexican coastal is-
lands off Baja California and in the Sea of Cortez. Huge colonies of
pelicans congregate and nest on these remote islands, historically free
of human disturbance. Breeding commences as early as December in
the southernmost colony.

Pelicans construct large stick platforms in which they lay three to
four eggs. Both parents assist in caring for the young and spend many
hours foraging for fish, mostly anchovies, to feed their young. After
eight to 10 weeks, the young leave their nest and accompany their
parents to nearby fishing areas or north along the Pacific Coast.

Pelicans from Mexico begin to appear along the California coast in
late June, congregating in bays and protected areas along the shore,
or at good fishing sites.


The California brown pelican was declared as endangered because
the Anacapa Island colony was incapable of reproducing. A 1970
study showed there had been 552 nesting attempts with only one
young produced. Pelicans were found to be laying thin-shelled eggs
which collapsed during incubation. Scientists attributed this to the
contamination of the food supply with DDT pesticide. Recent ban-
ning of DDT used in the United States and curtailment of industrial
discharge of DDT into the ocean has resulted in improved reproduc-

The colonies in Mexico appear to be nesting normally. However,
an increase in the number of tourists attracted to remote islands in the
Sea of Cortez could lead to destruction of these colonies.

Continued curtailment of the use of DDT should result in recovery
of the Anacapa Island colony. Closure of this island and of breeding
places in Mexico to human activity during the nesting season may be

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