Nutria Discovered in San Joaquin Valley; CDFW Seeks to Prevent Further Spread and Infestation

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has become aware of a population of invasive nutria (Myocastor coypus) reproducing within the San Joaquin Valley. Given the severity of potential impacts and the impacts realized in other infested states, CDFW believes early intervention actions could be successful in eradicating nutria from the area and is asking the public’s help in looking for and reporting nutria sightings in order to determine the extent of the infestation.

To date, nutria have been found in wetlands, rivers, canals and other freshwater habitat in Merced, Fresno and Stanislaus counties. If allowed to establish, nutria will severely impact California’s resources, causing the loss of wetlands, severe soil erosion, damage to agricultural crops and levees and reduced stability of banks, dikes and roadbeds, as they have done in Louisiana, Chesapeake Bay and the Pacific Northwest. Nutria also degrade water quality and contaminate drinking supplies with parasites and diseases transmissible to humans, livestock and pets.

Native to South America, nutria are large, semi-aquatic rodents that reach up to 2.5 feet in body length, 12-inch tail length and 20 pounds in weight. Nutria strongly resemble native beaver and muskrat, but are distinguished by their round, sparsely haired tails and white whiskers (see CDFW’s Nutria Identification Guide). Both nutria and muskrat often have white muzzles, but muskrats have dark whiskers, nearly triangular (laterally compressed) tails and reach a maximum size of five pounds. Beavers have wide, flattened tails and dark whiskers and reach up to 60 pounds.

Female nutria are reproductive by six months of age, breed year-round, and can produce three litters in 13 months. Within approximately one year of reaching reproductive maturity, one female nutria can result in more than 200 offspring, which can disperse as far as 50 miles.

Nutria are destructive, wasteful feeders that destroy up to 10 times the vegetation they consume. Signs of presence typically include cut, emergent vegetation (e.g. cattails and bulrushes), with only the base portions eaten and the stems left floating. Nutria construct burrows with entrances typically below the water line, though changing water levels may reveal openings. Similar to other aquatic mammals, nutria often create runs, or paths in and out of the water or between aquatic sites. Nutria tracks have four visible front toes and, on their hind feet, webbing between four of five toes. Tracks are often accompanied by narrow tail drags.

Since March 30, 2017, more than 20 nutria, including males, pregnant females and juveniles, have been documented within private wetlands near Gustine, duck clubs, the Merced River near Cressey, adjacent to the San Joaquin River near Grayson, south of Dos Palos, the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, and Salt Slough on the San Joaquin River. The full extent of the infestation is not yet known.

A multiagency Nutria Response Team, which includes representatives from CDFW, the California Departments of Food and Agriculture, Parks and Recreation, and Water Resources, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local county agricultural commissioner offices, has convened with the goal of eradicating nutria from the state. The response team is currently preparing an eradication plan, the first stage of which is determining the full extent of the infestation. Assistance from local landowners and the public throughout the Central Valley, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and beyond is critical to successfully delineating the population.

Suspected observations or potential signs of nutria should be photographed and immediately reported to CDFW’s Invasive Species Program online, by e-mail to invasives@wildlife.ca.gov, or by phone at (866) 440-9530. Observations on state or federal lands should be immediately reported to local agency staff at that land. CDFW has a nutria webpage and a downloadable PDF with photos and detailed descriptions of these rodents, their preferred habitat and the environmental threats they present.

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E. coli levels in the lower American River are still unsafe. Will this new testing help?

The lower American River continues to be contaminated with potentially harmful levels of bacteria, water regulators said this week, and they are taking steps to pinpoint the sources in an effort to protect the waterway and the public.

Beginning this summer, staffers from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board will launch a yearlong study using sophisticated DNA testing to determine the sources of E. coli bacteria that have been found at levels higher than federal regulators recommend for safe recreational use of waterways. The sources of contamination are unknown, but likely include human waste from homeless camps, sewer overflows, wildlife and domestic dogs, officials said.

The testing will show what percentage of the bacteria is from people versus animals and birds, and whether it contains potentially dangerous pathogens such as giardia, salmonella and Hepatitis A, said Adam Laputz, the board’s assistant executive director. The study is expected to cost $300,000 to $400,000.

Information gathered by the agency will help county health officials determine the level of risk to people who use the river for boating, swimming, kayaking, fishing and other recreational activities, Laputz said. It also will help authorities figure out ways to reduce bacteria levels in the waterway.

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Rangers Remind American River Parkway Visitors to Be Aware of Wildlife, including Mountain Lions

Sacramento Regional Parks issued an advisory Friday for mountain lions in the American River Parkway.

They say that it’s a natural habitat for the big cats and that people should not be alarmed because they are typically shy creatures.

While many users of the American River Parkway know that mountain lions are present, a good amount of walkers and joggers were surprised to find out that they are in the area.

The advisory says that if you should run into a mountain lion, do not run away because it may give chase. Instead, make lots of noise, make yourself look bigger and give the mountain lion plenty of space to escape. It’s highly unlikely that humans would be attacked by the predator.

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Debris From Homeless Camps Ending Up In Local Waterways After Storms

The first big rain of the year is flushing massive amounts of debris from homeless camps down the American River in Sacramento County, and into California waterways.

The storm hit just as the state’s Water Quality Control Board begins to look at the pollution problem along the river. The rising water is pushing more waste into the river in an area that is also home to wildlife.

Lisa Lindberg lives nearby. She keeps a folder of the river waste she sees every day.

“I think its been way too long and not enough has been done,” Lindberg said.

Sacramento County supervisors approved $5 million for new ranger and maintenance positions last year to clean up the mess. A county spokesperson says crews pulled out 6 tons of debris last week, yet tons of trash remains.

The California Water Quality Control District 5 is planning to convene a panel to address the toxic water problems.

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Daguerreotypes of the California Gold Rush

Outdoor view of a diverted river at a mining operation on the North Fork American River (c. 1852) by an unknown photographer (collection of the Canadian Photography Institute. NGC, Ottawa)

“Gold! Gold from the American River!” So cried the carpenter James W. Marshall on January 24, 1848, as the story goes, when he found flakes of the precious metal at Coloma, California, thus ushering into the region a wave of steely-eyed prospectors. As word of the California Gold Rush spread around the world, photographers, too, arrived, and themselves struck metaphorical gold. They set up studios in wagons and captured the historic frenzy around them, making the Gold Rush the first major event in the country to be documented extensively through the then-new medium.

More at >>> HyperAllergic.com

 

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Cyclists Not Happy About River Crossing Options During Jiboom Street Bridge Closure

The project will close the Jiboom Street Bridge at Discovery Park, causing hundreds of cyclists who use the bridge daily to change their routine. The bridge will close down on January 2 and re-open on May 31. While the county has suggested other routes, cyclists say they’re not viable options.

There’s no argument from those who regularly use the Jibboom Street Bridge over the American River that it badly needs repairs. This is the only direct legal crossing for people on bikes and walking between Natomas and downtown Sacramento.

Local bicycle advocates estimate during weekday evening commutes an average of 300 cyclists cross the bridge, which was built in 1934. The county suggested two other routes, but many are calling them inadequate.

“The next nearest crossing is the Blue Diamond Bridge, two miles upstream, or the 8th Street and Guy West bridges in the Sac State area — about 7 miles upstream,” said a cycling advocate. For a commuter traveling between downtown and South Natomas, that’s either an additional 4 to 14 miles — one way.

“It underscores the lack of bridges and connectivity as our city grows north of 100,000 people, which is 20 percent of our population now living north of the American River,” said Councilman Steve Hansen.

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Higher Than Expected Number Of Chinook Salmon Return To American River

It appears this is an average year for the number of fall-fun Chinook Salmon returning to spawn in the American River.

The numbers were expected to be much lower because of high water temperatures and predators when the fish were juveniles heading to the ocean during the drought.

Efforts to help salmon populations in recent years include releases of cold water during the beginning and end of the salmon’s life cycle and the rehabilitation of 30 acres of American River spawning ground with 100,000 tons of gravel.

Laura Drath with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said the daily reports show the numbers of returning salmon are on par with an average year.

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It’s a brutal end for these salmon, but it replenishes oceans and feeds families

Thousands of salmon make the grueling journey from the Pacific Ocean up the American River each fall. The spawning run ends for many with a whack on the head at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, where salmon eggs are gathered and fertilized.

The salmon would normally die a slow death after spawning. But at Nimbus, they’re quickly dispatched in a process viewed annually by hundreds of children and adults through big glass windows at the hatchery in Gold River.

What becomes of the dead salmon is less well known. While the ending isn’t happy for the adult fish, their offspring repopulate the oceans, and tens of thousands of pounds of salmon fillets feed hungry families in northern and central California during the winter months.

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Portion of American River Bike trail to close temporarily beginning Monday

A portion of the American River Bike Trail near Nimbus Dam will be closed for more than three days beginning Monday, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and state Department of Parks and Recreation report.

During the three days, there will be electricity tests of the ground grid at Nimbus Dam and Powerplant, according to a Bureau of Reclamation news release. The tests will ensure proper grounding of electrical equipment and other metallic objects in and around the dam and powerplant, officials said.

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Folsom Lake and Lake Natoma had high E. coli readings

Environmental advocates are calling on state officials to notify the public about past tests showing high levels of E. coli in Folsom Lake and Lake Natoma, two of the region’s most popular areas for open water swimming and boating.

But officials responsible for recreational use on the lakes say the test results cited are too old, while the agency that conducted the tests says it has no responsibility for public notices.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board in December concluded that the amount of E. coli in the lower American River had exceeded the federal threshold for safe recreational use. The test results didn’t become public until The Sacramento Bee reported them in late August.

The findings were based on water samples taken from 2007 to 2014. Some tests showed E. coli concentrations in Lake Natoma were eight times the level considered safe for recreational use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A board report earlier this year found elevated E. coli levels in the lower American River in 2015 and 2016, but did not include samples from Lake Natoma and Folsom Lake, where tens of thousands of people swim, boat and fish every year. The board has limited funds for testing and wanted to focus on areas where higher levels had been found in the past, said Adam Laputz, assistant executive officer at the board. The highest concentrations have been near downtown Sacramento.

E. coli can sicken and even kill people who swim in or drink contaminated water. State and county officials have said they’re not aware of anyone getting sick from the bacteria in the American River.
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