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Recent accomplishments of CDFW's scientific community


Wildfire shapes diversity of hermit warbler songs in California

small gray bird with yellow head with black beak in a tree with branches and bushes
New research shows that fire history seems to be shaping the diversity of bird songs throughout the state. The new paper, published in leading bird journal The Auk: Ornithological Advances, addresses the diversity of song dialects sung by hermit warblers – birds which get their name because they are rarely seen and spend much of their time in forest canopy. They are, however, very vocal and easily heard.

Saving Endangered Coho Salmon in Central California

wide view of a fish hatchery building with a river trees mountain and sky in distance
Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), also known as silver salmon, have lived in California’s coastal watersheds for thousands of years. Today their populations have declined to just a fraction of historical levels, endangered by a wide range of factors. In Central California in particular, the situation is dire, with the species listed as endangered under both the state and federal Endangered Species Acts. Many populations are in danger of declining to the point of local extinction.

Following the Unusual Migration of a Trailblazing Elk

bull elk with large antlers in a field with trees and blue sky
About a dozen years ago, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) biologist Nathan Graveline heard rumors that a sole elk had been spotted in a highly unusual location – the Stanislaus National Forest, between the Clavey and Tuolumne rivers. At the time, scientists didn't have the technology to confirm the reports.

Rare coastal San Mateo County plant is in dire straits

2 cdfw scientist and a cdfw warden standing in san mateo bay near a field of yellow leptosiphon flower patch
The world is closing in on coast yellow leptosiphon. The endangered plant exists in only one known location on earth — an 1,800 square foot plot on Vallemar Bluff in Moss Beach, about 20 miles south of San Francisco. The low-growing annual from the Phlox family features bright yellow flowers with fused petals and typically blooms in April and May.

Counting Mountain Lions in California’s Back Country

scientist Justin Dellinger driving in mountain lion territory
CDFW wildlife biologist Justin Dellinger has a most unusual job -- since 2015, he’s been capturing and collaring mountain lions in California’s back country. Justin aims to achieve something unique, which is the first-of-its-kind comprehensive population assessment of California’s mountain lions.

CDFW working to improve negative effects of non-consumptive recreation on conservation

sign to ecological reserve in Carlsbad
Editor’s Note: As we publish this article, California, the nation, and the whole world are gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic. To slow its spread and not overwhelm healthcare resources, distancing and stay-at-home orders have led to the delay of trout openers and other fishing events, and closure of parks, reserves and many other publicly accessible facilities. Stories are beginning to emerge of increased wildlife presence in park and reserve areas that are normally filled with people. We look forward to the end of the pandemic and its horrible devastation will be over very soon but we know it will be some time before we realize a return to “normal.” We hope to gain from this emergency more information on wildlife’s response to fewer visitors – data that may be able to help us improve our management of parks and reserves in a way that protects wildlife and their habitat while also providing reasonable recreation experiences. In the meantime, stay well, and stay home to save lives.

New Threat Facing Lahontan Cutthroat Trout at Independence Lake: Hybridization

Independent Lake with white capped waves from the wind. Lake with green mountains and a snow covered mountain in background
The news out of UC Davis last spring knocked California native fish biologists for a loop. Genetic testing of native Lahontan cutthroat trout from Independence Lake in the Tahoe National Forest near Truckee found evidence of hybridization with non-native rainbow trout. To understand the magnitude of that news you have to understand that Independence Lake is the only lake in California – and just one of two lakes in the world – to support a self-sustaining lake population of Lahontan cutthroat trout, a trout native to the eastern Sierra range and the Lahontan basin of Nevada.

CDFW’s Annual Bighorn Sheep Count

About 30 men and women who volunteered to help department conduct sheep survey
On March 1, 2020, about 160 volunteers gathered near the rugged terrain for the annual sheep count. Their goal was to use spotting scopes and binoculars to locate sheep, and determine and record their gender and approximate age.

Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area Pioneering Wild Turkey Banding, Research Effort

A male wild turkey is released from a cardboard box after being banded, weighted and measured recently at the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area.
Scientists at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and volunteers from the National Wild Turkey Federation conduct annual spring trapping and banding of wild turkeys at the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area in order to better understand the characteristics, habitat preferences and the dynamics of the growing population of wild turkeys using the wildlife area and surrounding properties.

Roosevelt Elk Collaring Effort Seeks to Reduce Conflicts Along North Coast

A tranquilized Roosevelt elk is tagged and collared by two CDFW staffers
Despite their massive size and majestic appearance, Roosevelt elk have proved an elusive research subject because of the dense forests they inhabit. CDFW recently initiated one of the largest Roosevelt elk capture and collaring efforts in state history.