Sunday, 02 April 2023

Regional

A black bear with an ear tag climbs a tree in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The snow will be melting soon in the Lake Tahoe region and a heavy winter will give way to a busy spring for wildlife in the area. Bears that have been in winter dens will be emerging soon and they will be hungry!

In the fall, black bears went through hyperphagia (pronounced hi·per·fay·jee·uh), which is an increase in feeding activity (consuming about 25,000 calories a day) driven by their need to fatten up before winter.

Over the course of the winter, bear bodies utilize those fat stores during hibernation when food is scarce. Come spring, their body mass will have naturally decreased and as a result, bears will be on the lookout for easy food sources to help rebuild those fat reserves.

Heavy snow brings challenges for bears

Bears in the Tahoe Basin will be in a difficult position this year as they come out of their dens and are met with historic snow loads across their habitat. The grasses and other sprouts that would usually be greening up with the melting of snow won’t be available until much later in the spring.

Bears will instinctively move to lower elevations to find those fresh greens, but the snow will make them search for easier routes like roads and trails. This is going to bring bears down into urban areas as they move through the mountains.

As bears make their way through the area, please be vigilant about cleaning up bear attractants. We know a lot of people felt it important to feed the birds this winter, but please do not let your bird feeders feed the bears. Now is the time to take them down completely.

Bears can and will be active day and night, so we recommend taking feeders down and keeping them down. We also know proper disposal of garbage can be difficult with snow piling up on the roads, but please take a few minutes to dig out your bear boxes so garbage can easily be secured inside.

Clean out your vehicles, especially if you have food stored in your vehicle for winter travel safety. In addition, remember to keep doors and windows locked on buildings so bears cannot break into structures.

Your actions can impact an entire ecosystem

Bears play an important role in Lake Tahoe’s ecosystem and allowing them access to human food and garbage is detrimental to natural processes in the region.

Bears help spread berry seeds through their scat, transport pollen, clean up animals that died during the winter, eat insects, and provide other essential functions of nature.

As a result, if they find and access human food and garbage, bird seed, pet food, coolers, and other sources of human food, the Tahoe Basin loses the benefits bears offer to these natural processes. Bears need to be wild animals rather than garbage disposals, especially since unnatural food sources can impact their overall health by damaging and/or rotting their teeth.

In fact, bears will unknowingly eat undigestible items from human trash like foil, paper products, plastics, and metal that can damage their internal systems and even lead to death. If these items do make it through their digestive system, they leave it behind in their scat rather than the native seeds and healthy fertilizer needed to grow the next generation of plant life.

Call the experts

Spring is also the time of year that residents or visitors may see a bear they feel looks unhealthy, sick, or orphaned. If anyone has concerns about a bear’s health, never hesitate to call official wildlife experts.

If the bear needs help, state agency wildlife experts have the training and expertise to assess the bear’s condition and transport it to a wildlife veterinarian. Healthy bears mean healthy ecosystems, and we can all do our part to set both up for success!

For great tips about living responsibly with bears, visit tahoebears.org and bearwise.org.

The bottom line is that Lake Tahoe is bear country. It’s up to each one of us, including those living in, visiting, or recreating in the Tahoe Basin to practice good stewardship habits by always securing food, trash, and other scented items. Good habits will help ensure we keep Tahoe bears wild.

To report human-bear conflicts:

In California, contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at 916-358-2917 or report online using the Wildlife Incident Reporting (WIR) system at apps.wildlife.ca.gov/wir.

Non-emergency wildlife interactions in California State Parks can be reported to their public dispatch at 916-358-1300.

In Nevada, contact the Nevada Department of Wildlife at 775-688-BEAR (2327).

If the issue is an immediate threat, call the local sheriff’s department or 911.

At the annual Salmon Information Meeting held virtually on Wednesday, state and federal fishery scientists presented the numbers of spawning salmon that returned to California’s rivers late in 2022 and announced the abundance forecasts for key California stocks.

The 2023 projection for Sacramento River fall Chinook, the most predominant stock harvested in California’s fisheries, is estimated at 169,767 adults, one of the lowest forecasts since 2008 when the current assessment method began.

For Klamath River fall Chinook the forecast is 103,793 adults which is the second lowest forecast since the current assessment method began in 1997.

While low and disappointing, neither abundance forecast is the lowest recorded. In 2009, the Sacramento forecast was 122,200 and in 2017, the Klamath forecast was 54,200.

Salmon numbers are episodic over time and life cycles, which is generally a three year period from birth as eggs hatching to returning adults from the ocean.

For example, in 2022 ocean commercial catch was considerably greater than preseason expectations. The data also indicates in years following wetter hydrologic years that abundance is higher. For example, the 2010 above average rainfall year resulted in higher stock forecasts of California adult Chinook in 2012 and 2013.

Conversely drier years regularly result in lower abundance three years later. Three years ago, in 2020, conditions were particularly severe with drought.

“This is a decades-long trend, and the past few years of record drought only further stressed our salmon populations,” said Charlton H. Bonham, Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, or CDFW. “Unfortunately, low stock abundance is somewhat expected despite protective and restorative actions California has taken to increase hatchery production, improve release strategies, and increase the availability of critical spawning and rearing habitats.”

The current wetter weather in California is good news. Relatively higher returns in 2019 and 2020 may help boost the number of spawning adults returning to the Sacramento Basin in 2023, as fish hatched in 2019 and 2020 will be returning this year.

Even though this boost will be moderated by evolving ocean conditions and ongoing climate disruption, there are bright spots and reasons for caution heading into 2023 and beyond.

Rebuilding plans have been developed for the Sacramento River Fall Chinook and Klamath River Fall Chinook stocks after multi-agency collaboration between the Pacific Fishery Management Council or PFMC, CDFW, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, tribes and industry representatives.

Meanwhile, other ambitious efforts to rebuild salmon are continuing, most notably implementation of the largest river restoration and dam removal project in the nation’s history in the Klamath Basin.

The Salmon Information Meeting was attended by fishing industry participants, conservation organizations and other interested parties. During the meeting, ocean and in-river recreational anglers and commercial salmon trollers asked questions about the latest numbers and provided comments during a public listening session that followed the informational presentations.

Stakeholder input will be taken into consideration when developing three ocean fishery season alternatives during the March 5-10 PFMC meeting. Final ocean salmon season regulations will be adopted at the PFMC’s April 1 to 7 meeting.

The California Fish and Game Commission will consider and approve inland fishery seasons and regulations this spring, with final decisions in May.

Following several years of poor returns to the Klamath River Basin, Klamath River fall Chinook salmon were declared overfished in 2018 and have not yet achieved a rebuilt status under the terms of the federal Salmon Fishery Management Plan.

In 2022, returns of Sacramento River fall Chinook fell well short of conservation objectives, and now may be approaching an overfished condition after being declared rebuilt in 2021.

In response, federal and state agencies are expected to take a conservative approach when approving 2023 salmon seasons to provide additional protective measures to these stocks, and very limited or no fishing in 2023 appears possible.

To access materials and information presented at today’s meeting or to learn more about the salmon season setting process, please visit CDFW’s Salmon Preseason Process web page.

General ocean salmon fishing information can be found on CDFW’s Ocean Salmon Project web page or by calling the CDFW Ocean Salmon Hotline at 707-576-3429.

MENDOCINO COUNTY, Calif. — Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Gjerde announced on Tuesday that he will not seek another term.

“With the early campaign schedule prompted by California’s early Presidential Primary Election, I feel it is in the best interest of Fourth District residents that today I make a public announcement that I will not be seeking a fourth term,” Gjerde said.

The election of Fourth District supervisor will coincide with California’s Presidential Primary Election on March 5, 2024.

Candidates will need to begin filing papers as early as September 2023, which is only nine months away.

“With today’s announcement, residents who might want to consider service as a County Supervisor have proper notice. They can study the issues facing the county and can evaluate if the job is a good fit for the skills, effort, and time they are prepared to offer,” Gjerde said Tuesday.

Jeffery Todd Sydow. Courtesy of the Sydow family.

NORTH COAST, Calif. — The identity of a man located deceased in the Eel River has finally been determined after 25 years through DNA, thanks to a partnership between the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office’s Cold Case Unit, the California Department of Justice and Othram Inc.

In March of 1998, a Loleta resident and his father were searching the Eel River by boat for driftwood when they located what appeared to be human remains in the river near Cock Robin Island.

Sheriff’s deputies responded via jetboat and recovered the remains. The decedent was found to be partially clothed and in advanced stages of decomposition. No identification was located.

Following this recovery, an autopsy was conducted, and it was determined the remains had been in the water for approximately one month. The decedent’s cause of death was listed as possible drowning.

The deceased was described by investigators only as being a white male adult, 5 foot 10 inches tall, about 170 pounds, and likely 35-45 years old. This description did not match any reported missing persons from Northern California.

During the investigation, the California Department of Justice, or DOJ, was able to recover one latent fingerprint which was run through the Automated Latent Print System but received no matches.

A forensic dental examination was completed by a local dentist. A DNA sample was obtained and entered into both the California Missing Persons DNA Database and the National Unidentified Persons DNA Index.

The DNA profile was routinely searched against profiles from both missing persons and other human remains in the Combined Index System, or CODIS. No profile matches were ever made.

Missing persons cases stay open until solved. In December of 2022, the HCSO and the California DOJ partnered with Othram Inc., a forensic genealogy lab, to determine if advanced forensic DNA testing could help establish an identity for the unidentified man or a close relative.

With funding provided by Roads to Justice, the DOJ sent Othram a DNA extract from the unknown man’s remains. Othram scientists used forensic genome sequencing to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the man.

Once the profile was built, Othram’s in-house genealogy team used forensic genetic genealogy to produce investigate leads.

In mid-February of 2023, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office received the Othram report indicating the DNA profile may belong to Jeffery Todd Sydow, born in 1963.

The report included several genetic relatives, including a possible sister named Shirl from Missouri.

Sheriff’s investigators were able to contact Shirl, who confirmed that she did have a brother named Jeffery Todd Sydow.

Shirl told investigators that for unknown reasons Jeffery stopped communicating with family members. Their last contact with him was in the mid-1990s.

Over the years Shirl had tried to reach out to Jeffery but could not locate him. As family was not sure whether the loss of contact was intentional, Jeffery was never reported as a missing person.

The DOJ was able to compare the one latent print with fingerprints known to be Jeffery’s and got a positive match.

Family members are making arrangements with the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office to have Jeffery’s remains released for burial with other deceased family members.

“We’d like to thank the California Department of Justice DNA Lab and Othram for their outstanding work and assistance in solving this case and providing the Sydow family some closure for their missing loved one,” the sheriff’s office said.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is continuing its partnership with the California DOJ and Othram, and is reviewing several of missing persons investigations for the use of this latest DNA technology.

Anyone with information regarding Sydow and his last known activities or whereabouts prior to his death, or information that may assist in the investigation of any open missing persons cases, is asked to contact HCSO Cold Case Investigator Mike Fridley at 707-441-3024.

SACRAMENTO – The California Transportation Commission, or CTC, has allocated over $988 million to repair and improve transportation infrastructure throughout the state.

This funding includes more than $450 million from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, or IIJA, and more than $250 million from Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.

“The CTC’s investments will help rebuild California’s transportation infrastructure while increasing transit and active transportation options. These projects reflect the CTC and Caltrans’ commitment to safety and meeting future challenges,” said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares.

Projects the CTC approved include:

• City of Sacramento: $5 million in federal IIJA funding for the city’s Broadway Complete Streets Project between 16th Street/Land Park Drive and 24th Street. The project includes reducing a segment of roadway from four lanes to two, constructing 6,100 feet of new buffered bicycle lanes, adding new marked pedestrian crossings and refuge islands, and making multimodal improvements at two intersections.

• State Route 65 in Wheatland, Yuba County: $9.8 million in State Highway Operation and Protection Program funding, including $680,000 in SB 1 funds, to rehabilitate the pavement from State Street to 0.3 mile north of Evergreen Drive. The City of Wheatland is contributing $100,000 toward construction, which includes adding bike lanes, improving drainage facilities, building a multiuse path, upgrading facilities to current Americans with Disabilities standards, and adding a traffic signal at the intersection with McDevitt Drive.

• State Route 32 in Chico: $462,000 for Caltrans to develop a safety project for traffic signal and intersection improvements at Main Street and Oroville Avenue.

• State Route 20 in Colusa County: $730,000 for Caltrans to develop a safety project to upgrade roadside signs, add flashing beacons, improve the pavement, and upgrade guardrail from east of the Lake County line to about 0.6 mile east of the State Route 16 junction.

• Interstate 80 near Floriston, Nevada County: $550,000 for Caltrans to develop a safety project to improve the pavement, repair drainage systems, upgrade guardrail and replace a damaged concrete barrier.

• Interstate 80 in Sacramento County: $210,000 for Caltrans to develop a project to replace current roadside vegetation and upgrade the irrigation system from the State Route 51 (Capital City Freeway) junction to 0.6 mile east of Madison Avenue.

SB 1 provides $5 billion in transportation funding annually that is shared equally between the state and local agencies.

Road projects progress through construction phases more quickly based on the availability of SB 1 funds, including projects that are partially funded by SB 1.

For more information about transportation projects funded by SB 1, visit RebuildingCA.ca.gov.

POTTER VALLEY, Calif. — A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit allowing a utility company to cut down a Mendocino County tree containing a bald eagle’s nest has been put on hold for the remainder of the nesting season.

Pacific Gas and Electric was prepared to cut down the tree last week until protests from the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, environmental advocates and community members intensified.

The company agreed to pause its tree-cutting plans, and then on Tuesday the Service and PG&E announced that the tree removal permit has been placed on hold for this nesting season until August.

“I’m glad the eagle protectors kept the chainsaws away long enough for the eagles to return to their nest,” said Michael Hunter, chairman of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians. “They’ve given us enough time to find a solution to this problem that works for everyone.”

The bald eagle’s nest has been active in this Potter Valley tree since the 1980s, and an eagle pair has returned to the nesting site this breeding season.

These majestic raptors are not only a national symbol; they also hold cultural significance to the tribal nation.

The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians has requested government-to-government consultation with the service to find a solution, but such talks have not yet started.

“The bald eagles are currently rebuilding their nest, moving in new branches and soft moss. We are thrilled that they have been given a stay of their eviction and hope to see young eagles leave the nest come August,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “This outcome was only possible because thousands of people took action in the eagles’ defense.”

PG&E considers the tree to be a safety hazard even though a nearby power line has already been de-energized. One possible alternative to cutting down the Ponderosa pine snag is to place approximately 300 yards of the power line underground.

“This is a unique nest tree that calls for a unique solution,” said Peter Galvin, director of programs at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With so much habitat destruction, a successful nesting site is hard to come by. I’m hopeful that with all parties at the table, we’ll find a way to save this special tree.”

The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians is a federally recognized Tribe located in the heart of Mendocino County.

Upcoming Calendar

3Apr
04.03.2023 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Courting The Muse~Mixed Media Art Class
6Apr
04.06.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
6Apr
04.06.2023 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Character Design~Art Class for Teens
8Apr
04.08.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
8Apr
04.08.2023 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild
9Apr
04.09.2023
Easter Sunday
9Apr
04.09.2023 1:15 pm - 2:00 pm
Lakeport Rotary Club Easter Egg Hunt
10Apr
04.10.2023
Easter Monday
10Apr
04.10.2023 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Courting The Muse~Mixed Media Art Class

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