Quick mends: Network of cameras capture LA River’s wildlife

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A coyote stands on its hind legs, captured by a new wildlife camera installed by the National Park Service near Silver Lake. | National Park Service/Public Domain

According to KCET, National Park Service researchers have installed a series wildlife cameras across 30 miles of the river’s course to try and get answers on how foxes, bobcats, opossums, coyotes, skunks, raccoons and other mammals use the area.

Around 30 cameras have been installed this year, from relatively wild areas in Griffith Park to little strips of property right outside of downtown L.A. that could be as small as 10×20 feet. The program will hopefully help determine whether the LA River acts as a wildlife corridor between the more than 150,000-acre Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and spaces in the city.

Eventually, the public can help tag photos by going on a citizen science website.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

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Quick Mends: High Country News weighs in on LA River revitalization

In a gem of a piece, photographer Roberto (Bear) Guerra chronicles the species loss the LA River has suffered since being encased in concrete with photographs of specimens from the Western Foundation for Vertebrate Zoology and the LA County Natural History Museum.

An important photo essay as our city weighs the future of the river in terms of development and habitat restoration. A sample:

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Western Toad (Courtesy High Country News)

Western Toad (Bufo boreas) —  Perhaps no animal is as emblematic of the decline of native species in the decades following channelization as the western toad. One of the neighborhoods adjacent to the soft-bottom Glendale Narrows section of the river is still known as “Frogtown,” for the swarms of young toads and Pacific treefrogs that hopped through the streets each year until the 1970s. Today, toads and frogs are rarely to be found.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick Mends: Listen to the people

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This manuscript map from 1868 shows the path of the Zanja Madre, or Mother Ditch, as it winds along current-day North Broadway from the Los Angeles River, at right. (courtesy Los Angeles Public Library, Central Library Collection)

William Deverell, a historian at USC and the director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, recently penned this editorial in the Los Angeles Times. He skillfully recounts how the concrete-encased LA River came to be, but does deeper than other writers.

According to Deverell, the research for the U.S. Army Corps final work came from old-timers. Tasked with creating a profile of the river, two engineers asked these old people what it was like to grow up in the region before statehood, before the Gold Rush, even back to the Mexican and mission period.

“The people they interviewed were nonwhite: indigenous, Mexican, mixed-race mestizos. (No whites, or at least a very few, had memories that stretched back far enough to help.) These elders knew the river; it ran through their memories and lives. They grew up near it, but not too near, lest wintertime floods wash away their adobes. They drank from it, as did their livestock. They irrigated their crops from the zanjas they had carved from it. The river was lifeblood, the defining feature of the landscape.”

Yet this research from seemingly egalitarian roots was later used to create a river not for the people, but for those with money, power and clout.

As we near the approval of the renewal design plan, he advocates we not make the same mistake twice.

Thanks to Steve Kuchenski of the Pasadena Casting Club Conservation Committee for passing this along.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick mends: Endangered steelhead spotted in Ventura

This story from the Ventura County Star has gone viral in the last several days, according to Pasadena Casting Club’s John Tobin. As the club’s conservation editor and an enthusiastic environmentalist, he was excited by the sighting of this endangered species, adding, “this could be the L.A. River!”

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STEELHEAD STEALTH:  But researchers still spotted this lone fish near the L.A. County-Ventura border. (Courtesy RCDSMM STREAM TEAM)

I share his sentiment and hope that the push to develop the river doesn’t leave out the most important part — a return of Southern California Coast Steelhead.

Of course, after years of drought, spotting a southern steelhead in a creek at Leo Carrillo State Park is a reason for everyone to cheer. Gone are the days of steelhead runs, when an entire industry sprang up to cater to fishermen who traveled to witness and catch these magnificent fish as they made their way from the ocean to their spawning grounds in our local mountains.

“It was so exciting to find an actual steelhead, as they are rare as hens teeth this year,” said Rosi Dagit, team leader and senior conservation biologist for Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, by email. “Only four anadromous adults have been documented thus far, and one died in my hands in Malibu on Wednesday. A lot of future hopes are with this lovely fish and we wish her many babies to help recover the population!”

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Twenty-five-inch steelhead trout caught in the Los Angeles River near Glendale, in January, 1940. (Courtesy family of Dr. Charles L. Hogue)

See you on the river, Jim Burns

National Geographic: $50 million in funds to speed removal of ‘deadbeat dams,’ including Ventura’s Matilija

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Dating from 1943, many ask what purpose Brown Mountain Dam serves today. (Jim Burns)

Thanks to Bernard Yin and his Trout Hugger blog for spotting this National Geographic piece, which could spell big news for fly fishers in our area.

“Patagonia, the Ventura-based outdoor clothing and gear company, is working with Hewlett and other groups to raise the funds needed to take out the dam by 2020. It would be the largest dam removal in California history (eclipsing the recent San Clemente project).”

I only wish Brown Mountain Dam behind the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were on the list.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick Mends: The Flyfish Journal focuses on LA River carp

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In its new issue, The Flyfish Journal features carping the LA River, putting our water in the august company of tournament trout in Wyoming, springtime in Patagonia and fly-in fishing the Northwest Territories.

Not bad for a piker, as I tease my wife whenever really good things happen.

LA’s own Daniel Lopez penned the piece with able assists from his posse, which included LARFF guest contributor Greg Madrigal, and a nice photograph from FoLAR’s William Preston Bowling.

In the same issue, writer Andrew Steketee in Confluence: Los Angeles Steelhead Theory tells us:

fullsizerender-2“Historically, Oncorhynchus mykiss were present in Zuma Creek, and fish migrated upstream to spawn in the headwaters before heading downstream as smolts. Dams and diversions have disrupted passage throughout the drainage. Predation from fish, birds, raccoons, river otters, lampreys, pinnipeds and humans. Natural propagation in abeyance. This may be the part where Jesus returns to tell us what to do.”

I guess that’s supposed to be funny. If anyone has a picture of a river otter in Southern California, please let me know.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick mends: Never mind the carp, here come the goldfish!

(Images courtesy of Beauty Motivation)

(Images courtesy of Beauty Motivation)

If you have any shots of goldfish you’ve caught in the river, please send them in. Also, we may be the only river in the country in which hobbyists also take fish home to see what they grow up to be! Come on, you know who you are!

From the story:

“Giant goldfish are becoming a problem in Minnesota lakes, and wildlife officials are warning fish owners who no longer want to care for their pets not to flush them down the toilet or dispose of them in lakes, ponds or waterways.”

 

See you on the river, Jim Burns

 

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