Fire burns prime habi­tat for vole

Re­searchers scurry to save Amar­gosa species

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - NEVADA - By Henry Brean Las Ve­gas Re­view-jour­nal

Re­searchers are as­sess­ing the dam­age af­ter a wild­fire near the Cal­i­for­nia-ne­vada bor­der burned through crit­i­cal habi­tat for one of North Amer­ica’s most en­dan­gered ro­dents.

Mon­day’s light­ning-sparked blaze near Te­copa, Cal­i­for­nia, 85 miles south­west of Las Ve­gas, scorched 27 acres of spring-fed wet­lands be­fore fire­fight­ers could ex­tin­guish the flames.

Janet Fo­ley, a vet­eri­nary pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Davis, said the fire burned 10 to 20 per­cent of the re­main­ing nat­u­ral habi­tat for the Amar­gosa vole, a small, brown crit­ter found nowhere else in the wild.

“It’s not good,” Fo­ley said. “It burned two full marshes with lots of voles in them. Our hope is some of them es­caped to an­other habi­tat patch.”

She said a mem­ber of her re­search team is headed to Te­copa to ex­am­ine the burned area and check the neigh­bor­ing marshes for any re­cent ar­rivals.

Fo­ley is co-leader of the “vole team,” a species re­cov­ery group that in­cludes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice, Bu­reau of Land Man­age­ment, U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey, Cal­i­for­nia De­part­ment of Fish and Wildlife, UC Davis, the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, and the Amar­gosa Con­ser­vancy.

The mouse-like ro­dent with the round body and dis­tinc­tive white beard was first de­scribed by nat­u­ral­ists in the late 1800s. De­struc­tion of its na­tive marshes by early set­tlers just east of Death Val­ley led sci­en­tists to de­clare the an­i­mal ex­tinct in the early 1900s.

The species was re­dis­cov­ered in the late 1970s and listed as en­dan­gered by the state of Cal­i­for­nia and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in the early 1980s.

There are thought to be only a few hun­dred voles left in the wild. “It’s def­i­nitely fewer than 500,” Fo­ley said.

No place to go

Ef­forts to save the species ac­quired new ur­gency in re­cent years, as drought and hu­man dis­tur­bance led to a dra­matic de­cline in the ro­dent’s core habi­tat around Te­copa. That prompted an emer­gency col­lec­tion of 20 ju­ve­nile voles in July 2014 amid con­cern the an­i­mals could be gone for­ever in as lit­tle as a year.

Those voles have been breed­ing at Fo­ley’s lab at UC Davis ever since, pro­duc­ing a sta­ble cap­tive pop­u­la­tion of around 100 an­i­mals — enough to al­low the team to con­duct a few ex­per­i­men­tal re­leases in the wild.

Fo­ley and com­pany are also try­ing to re­store the bul­rush marshes that used to grow in Shoshone, Cal­i­for­nia, about seven miles to the north, so voles can be rein­tro­duced to that area as early as next year.

As it stands now, the en­tire species is con­fined to an area that could be de­stroyed by a sin­gle large wild­fire or a sud­den loss of wa­ter in the marshes around Te­copa, Fo­ley said.

“That’s why the Shoshone restora­tion is so crazy im­por­tant,” she said. “There’s not any other place for them to go.”

Fo­ley said Mon­day’s fire was re­ported at about 3:30 p.m. by a county road worker who saw the bolt of light­ning and the flames that im­me­di­ately fol­lowed.

Fire­fight­ers from Te­copa and Pahrump quickly re­sponded and kept the fire away from homes at the edge of Te­copa.

A U.S. For­est Ser­vice crew from San Bernardino, Cal­i­for­nia, and BLM crews from Las Ve­gas and Cal­i­for­nia halted the spread of the blaze by about 9 p.m. Mon­day. BLM field spe­cial­ist James Gannon, who helped fight the fire, said they had it fully con­tained by just be­fore 6 p.m. Tues­day.

“It’s scary,” Fo­ley said. “It could have been so much worse.”

Con­tact Henry Brean at hbrean@ re­viewjour­nal.com or 702-383-0350. Fol­low @Re­fried­brean on Twit­ter.

OAK­LAND, Calif. — A body cam­era video shows a po­lice of­fi­cer or­der­ing the shut­down of a pos­si­ble il­le­gal rave at an Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia, warehouse nearly two years be­fore a fire killed 36 par­ty­go­ers in the ram­shackle build­ing.

The video of the arts col­lec­tive known as the “Ghost Ship” was ob­tained and made pub­lic by the Bay Area News Group on Thurs­day.

“I will be talking to the city, and we’ll be deal­ing with this place,” the of­fi­cer said on the video.

Late Thurs­day, the Po­lice De­part­ment re­leased a po­lice re­port that the of­fi­cer wrote and said that it had been for­warded to the vice unit, then to the de­part­ment’s Al­co­hol Bev­er­age Ac­tion Team.

But, the de­part­ment said, such in­frac­tions at the time were viewed as low-pri­or­ity.

“Since the Ghost Ship tragedy, those poli­cies have changed,” the de­part­ment said in a state­ment.

The video shows the of­fi­cer bang­ing on the door at 1:30 a.m. on March 1, 2015, and then telling a pro­moter there were noise com­plaints and re­ports that peo­ple were pay­ing $25 to get in and drugs were be­ing sold.

The deadly fire erupted on Dec. 2, 2016, dur­ing a dance party at the warehouse where some peo­ple were il­le­gally liv­ing.

Since then, it has come to light that city and state of­fi­cials fielded years of com­plaints about danger­ous con­di­tions, drugs, ne­glected chil­dren, trash, thefts and squab­bles at the warehouse.

The March 2015 video is one of nine body cam­era record­ings that the Bay Area News Group has been seek­ing from Oak­land po­lice.

In the video, the of­fi­cer stood in the door­way talking to the party pro­moter, who re­fused him en­try.

“If I come back, I’m gonna give you a fine. It’s gonna be a very, very ex­pen­sive fine,” the of­fi­cer said.

“I’m still gonna make sure that the city knows about this place, and I’m gonna talk to the owner of this place as well.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.