SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

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Sam Sweet
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SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by Sam Sweet » July 20th, 2010, 6:06 pm

California tiger salamanders are in trouble on several fronts, perhaps the most unfortunate being the widespread introduction of non-native tiger salamanders (Ambystoma mavortium ssp.) by bait dealers. Populations of A. mavortium are well-established in many places in central California, and are eliminating A. californiense by competition and predation as larvae, and by hybridization. The nonnative genotypes have the advantage in semipermanent ponds, and in places such as the Salinas Valley where they have been in contact with California tiger salamanders for several decades nearly all populations have been converted to hybrid swarms with dominant nonnative influence.

We have caught this process at an earlier stage in the Santa Barbara County isolate, with nonnatives established near the edge of the range of the native species. For several years now a number of local biologists have been working to remove these animals. It’s a long process, and neither state Fish and Game nor the federal Fish and Wildlife Service has the personnel or resources to do the job in-house.

This is mostly big-water herping where ski trawls can’t make a dent. Native amphibians are basically eliminated by the exotic tiger salamanders, so we are less concerned about making something of a mess.

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The mud is about the same, but it has other stuff in it.

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It only ‘looks’ nicer when the liquid cowpoo reflects the sky. It’s still brown and gunky, and even a large-mesh seine clogs up with a few hundred gallons of Clarabelle’s Special Mix.

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These are big fellas compared to Ambystoma californiense. Ambystoma mavortium larvae don’t even think about metamorphosing until they are 8 or 9 inches long, and at least some animals will become sexually mature without metamorphosing. Those neotenes can exceed 12”, and are resident year-round, making short work of any other amphibian larvae.

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Low dissolved oxygen results in ridiculously elongated gills.

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All of these larvae can metamorphose if pond conditions deteriorate, and many do so anyway.

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Metamorphosed adults come in a variety of colors and patterns, consistent with their origins as fishbait imported from many different wholesalers.

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Like other Ambystoma the adults disperse widely after metamorphosis, and between breeding seasons, and thus they are able to hopscotch across a landscape fairly quickly. We once hoped that A. mavortium would stick to its native breeding schedule and migrate during summer rains, but they are a lot more adaptable than that, and now breed basically year-round. Having these things around simply adds to the problems the native species already faces from habitat loss, and it’s not a pretty situation.

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kentoid
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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by kentoid » July 20th, 2010, 7:13 pm

Great post. I'd be happy to volunteer for future projects.
~ Kent

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by monklet » July 21st, 2010, 8:07 am

Thanks Sam for the highly informative and well documented post.

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by Fundad » July 21st, 2010, 8:29 am

I love to be educated..

Another GREAT post sir...

"Thank You"
Fundad

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by FunkyRes » July 21st, 2010, 8:33 am

The bodies of water where invasives are well established, is it possible to simply drain them completely interrupting the reproductive cycle?

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by chris_mcmartin » July 21st, 2010, 9:12 am

FunkyRes wrote:The bodies of water where invasives are well established, is it possible to simply drain them completely interrupting the reproductive cycle?
THIS KIND OF OUT-OF-THE-BOX THINKING WILL NOT BE TOLERATED! It's more fun to get all muddy dredging the ponds! :lol:

I think that's a great idea...drain the ponds/cattle tanks where possible, pick out the species you want to save, leave the rest, re-introduce at a later date.

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by Dan Krull » July 21st, 2010, 9:21 am

I absolutely love this picture!
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Clean Sallie, muddy hands.

Nice.

Dan

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by Bitinglittlewitch » July 21st, 2010, 11:43 am

Those last three high yellow animals were absolutely stunning. 8-)

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Sam Sweet
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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by Sam Sweet » July 21st, 2010, 1:27 pm

FWS did fund draining the pond in this post once -- it required 3 weeks with a massive diesel pump and a 6" pipe, which proved unable to handle the 2 1/2' of semiliquid stuff at the bottom. The salamanders liked that mixture just fine and were at least as good at living in it as we were at slogging through it with dipnets. That went on for a couple of months, then it refilled with rain.

Because cattle use the pond, and its perimeter at high water is 2500', encircling it with a drift fence and pitfall traps would be a large undertaking both in fencing out the cattle and providing an alternative watering point, and in operating the trapline for the several years it would take to remove all the adults and maturing animals. There are other (smaller) inhabited ponds nearby, so they would all need to be hit simultaneously.

Landowner cooperation is a bit of an issue, but we also want to deploy a group of traps of this design.

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Because this particular pond has no native amphibians or fish (left), we have also enlisted the aid of a large male channel catfish, who we hope is thriving on larval salamanders. That isn't feasible in the other infested ponds. The basic strategy (which is working to some degree) is to seine the pond regularly enough to get a decent fraction of the breeders and as many of the larvae as possible. I'm fairly sure that we have eliminated successful reproduction in most years, but terrestrial adults are long-lived. Anyone who has tried to actually eradicate an established exotic species knows that it is a difficult and lengthy process, and also that nothing truly prevents a determined and perverse individual from re-establishing the things. Are there people like that? You bet.

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by Schell » July 21st, 2010, 1:38 pm

Wow Sam, you guys are pulling some serious gear there. We have also had some success with minnow traps pulling things like crayfish and bullfrogs. We don't really try and undo A. mavotrium here, we're simply trying to stay out in front of it and stop the swarm from expanding.

How about gill nets? I've gotten dicamptodon in gill nets before (sad day). But those are certainly passive enough to continue trapping when you can't be at the ponds.

Using drift fence to trap them out would be hard. how about discing the uplands in non-breeding season or are you hoping to be able to re-introduce natives back in the pond once you're through? I like using the fish, getting some large bass in there would also probably help out. I'm guessing that is an ephemeral feature and you're just restocking the fish on an annual basis?

Oh and there's always rotenone :thumb: .

Rob

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by klawnskale » July 21st, 2010, 2:33 pm

Sam: I'd rather be wading through Clarabelle's Special Mix than the shite I have to wallow through right now trapping Nerodia in Harbor City. At least you're not dealing with health hazards...

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Sam Sweet
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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by Sam Sweet » July 21st, 2010, 3:04 pm

Um, you notice how everyone is staying *really dry* in that last photo, and how only ropes are in the water? The salamanders are also in secondary treatment settling ponds. I fully agree that Clarabelle's Special Mix beats Municipal Mix, and we don't get all those trouser-trout sheds in the seine, either.

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Rob, I think that gill or trammel nets would work well if we got the mesh size right, but we haven't sorted out what to do about all the grebes and ducks that sometimes show up. Electrofishing is another option though we haven't anyone qualified to do it, and I'm not sure how larval salamanders respond, or if the bottom yogurt would be conductive enough -- any experience with that?

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by Schell » July 21st, 2010, 3:32 pm

Sam,

I think the gill nets would honestly be your best bet in terms of inflicting maximum damage. I have occassionally lost an American dipper to a gill net, but all in the greater good right? (or at least that's what we tall ourselves) If you're working for the Service, surely you could probably get an incidental depredation permit for the waterfowl. But pulling a decaying bird out of a gill net is about as pleasant as what Klawnskale is wading through.

I'm sure electrofishing would work to in the shallower pools, that deep channel though looks tough, you might need to get a boat mounted rig for that and even then, you're probably gonna miss some. Not to mention its not the most humane way to die.

Is discing the uplands not an option?

Rob

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by Chad M. Lane » July 21st, 2010, 4:45 pm

Thanks again Sam for another great informational post! Look forward to the other posts as well.

How many post do you expect to post?



Cheers,
Chad

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by klawnskale » July 21st, 2010, 5:10 pm

you could probably get an incidental depredation permit for the waterfowl. But pulling a decaying bird out of a gill net is about as pleasant as what Klawnskale is wading through.

Rob; how about the combination of pulling a dead baby grackle out of a minnow trap floating in Municipal Mix? A double whammy! LOL!

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Sam Sweet
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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by Sam Sweet » July 21st, 2010, 5:44 pm

We don't have a very good handle on where the terrestrial animals are, but there are very few mammal burrows on the terrace with the pond. There are a lot more on the steep terrace slopes where it'd be hard to do discing.

Thanks for the input on gill nets and electroshocking; unforunately this is an out-of-the-way pond that collects an awful lot of waterbirds at times, considerably more than any of us wants to see drowned.

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by cgparis » July 22nd, 2010, 12:33 pm

Another nice set of shots Sam. So what are you doing with all of those mavortium?

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by kentoid » July 22nd, 2010, 1:12 pm

Good question, what happens to the collected salamanders? Maybe some mudsnake owners would be interested?

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by klawnskale » July 22nd, 2010, 2:48 pm

kentoid wrote:Good question, what happens to the collected salamanders? Maybe some mudsnake owners would be interested?
Probably have the same destiny as the Nerodia being caught...

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by jonathan » July 22nd, 2010, 5:23 pm

klawnskale wrote:Sam: I'd rather be wading through Clarabelle's Special Mix than the shite I have to wallow through right now trapping Nerodia in Harbor City. At least you're not dealing with health hazards...
You're in on that? I was asked to be but took too long to open up my schedule, so now I'm just on the list as a potential volunteer. Let me know when your shift is and I'd be happy to help out if I'm free. I've already pulled a few of them out of there just hand-catching.

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by jonathan » July 22nd, 2010, 5:26 pm

Awesome and informative post. I was going to mention the effort with the nerodia but klawnscale beat me to it.

At least there's a chance with these pond-based herps. I've been looking at all the invasive lizard populations popping up in SoCal and can't imagine any means at all of getting rid of those.

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by klawnskale » July 22nd, 2010, 7:27 pm

jonathan wrote:
klawnskale wrote:Sam: I'd rather be wading through Clarabelle's Special Mix than the shite I have to wallow through right now trapping Nerodia in Harbor City. At least you're not dealing with health hazards...
You're in on that? I was asked to be but took too long to open up my schedule, so now I'm just on the list as a potential volunteer. Let me know when your shift is and I'd be happy to help out if I'm free. I've already pulled a few of them out of there just hand-catching.
I volunteered on the project last year, so they saw I was willing to get dirty so they hired me this season.
Most of the snakes we're pulling out are from the trap arrays. You'll need waders, gloves and a serious grade of DEET if you'd like to help... If you don't want to do that I suppose you can scout for snakes along the shoreline, or any other non native herps (like turtles) that would be of note. PM me and I'll let you know when I'm there...

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by FunkyRes » July 22nd, 2010, 8:05 pm

klawnskale wrote:
jonathan wrote:
klawnskale wrote:Sam: I'd rather be wading through Clarabelle's Special Mix than the shite I have to wallow through right now trapping Nerodia in Harbor City. At least you're not dealing with health hazards...
You're in on that? I was asked to be but took too long to open up my schedule, so now I'm just on the list as a potential volunteer. Let me know when your shift is and I'd be happy to help out if I'm free. I've already pulled a few of them out of there just hand-catching.
I volunteered on the project last year, so they saw I was willing to get dirty so they hired me this season.
Most of the snakes we're pulling out are from the trap arrays. You'll need waders, gloves and a serious grade of DEET if you'd like to help... If you don't want to do that I suppose you can scout for snakes along the shoreline, or any other non native herps (like turtles) that would be of note. PM me and I'll let you know when I'm there...
Ouch - not that I could get down there, but DEET is something I can not ever wear.
I get a bit a lot.

Do you know the current status of the former Contra Costa County population?
Allegedly they died off, but there have been some anecdotal reports of remnants. I'm very interested to know if a bona-fide survey for them is planned. What scares me is the lake where they are is connected to watershed that I believe has Rana draytonii.

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by klawnskale » July 22nd, 2010, 8:18 pm

Do you know the current status of the former Contra Costa County population?
Allegedly they died off, but there have been some anecdotal reports of remnants. I'm very interested to know if a bona-fide survey for them is planned. What scares me is the lake where they are is connected to watershed that I believe has Rana draytonii.[/quote]

Mike Fuller wrote an update regarding the northern population in February, 2009. There are still nerodia being found in Roseville.
There is no funding currently being allocated to study that population. Right now the concentration is on the Socal area with USGS and Cal Fish and Game involved. When we were first laying out the arrays in the lake we thought we would be fine with the more organic lemon-eucalyptus repellent. The mosquitos are so thick out there it's almost frightening. (I think its Culix genus but not sure) We got so badly bitten up that we had to resort to the hardcore DEET to keep them off. It's the only thing that works on these bloodsuckers. They laughed at us wearing the lemon- eucalyptus oil.

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by FunkyRes » July 22nd, 2010, 8:46 pm

Yeah, I understand the issue.
The problem with me - I guess I'm a genetic throwback to bug people who infiltrated human populations via UFOs from bug planets because it causes a neurological response in me.

Some think it is coincidental but I'm not the only person who has experienced the issue, so ... I just get bit a lot. The natural repellents are expensive and don't seem to work worth a crap so I just don't bother with them.

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by Fieldnotes » July 22nd, 2010, 11:53 pm

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Any Ideas as to what subspecies this is?

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Sam Sweet
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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by Sam Sweet » July 23rd, 2010, 8:30 am

Other than calling it A. mavortium, there isn't much genetic support for the former practice of partitioning tiger salamanders in the west into subspecies. As a generality, the ground color becomes duller and the dark markings become less pronounced the farther northwest you go. Really bright, contrasting animals ('tigers') tend to be from Chihuahuan desert grasslands, while muddy gray-green things with scattered spots occur in the northern tier prairie states and adjoining Canada. Larval A. mavortium have been moved all around in the bait trade, and the introduced populations in particular can throw a mixture of phenotypes.

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by David O » July 23rd, 2010, 8:36 am

This was an awesome post. Where is the "Awesome Button" whereby I can so designate it?

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by FunkyRes » July 23rd, 2010, 11:07 am

David O wrote:This was an awesome post. Where is the "Awesome Button" whereby I can so designate it?
++

Not to detract from SoCal, but has a determination been made on the Grass Lake population yet?

Also, I know all Tigers are illegal to sell in California, but is it illegal to possess A. mavortium as pets?
IE if I do get up to grass lake at right time of year, would be illegal to take one without permit?
I probably wouldn't, but it would be interesting to know.

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by jonathan » July 23rd, 2010, 11:22 am

FunkyRes wrote:Not to detract from SoCal, but has a determination been made on the Grass Lake population yet?

I seem to remember a thread from the pre-crashed forum stating that they had been conclusively determined to be an introduced population.

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by FunkyRes » July 23rd, 2010, 12:05 pm

jonathan wrote:
FunkyRes wrote:Not to detract from SoCal, but has a determination been made on the Grass Lake population yet?

I seem to remember a thread from the pre-crashed forum stating that they had been conclusively determined to be an introduced population.
I remember that thread and thought it wasn't settled.
I suspect they are though.

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Re: SoCal Endangered species herping, part 2

Post by Brian Eagar » July 23rd, 2010, 3:40 pm

Very awesome set of posts. Thanks for sharing a view of the work you are doing.

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