In conjunction with data collected during the Western Pond Turtle Study, consulting biologist Jeff Alvarez and District Biologist Kelly Davidson, along with biologist Gary Kittleson and reptile veterinarian Louisa Asseo, co-authored an article on the potential of injury and mortality to western pond turtles during upland vegetation maintenance activities like mowing and disking. The article was accepted for publication by the journal of the Western Section of the Wildlife Society, Western Wildlife, and was published online October 23rd.
Western Wildlife is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal that publishes original research, notes, reviews, perspectives, and correspondence on the ecology, natural history, management, and conservation biology of animals. You can access the current volume at the Western Wildlife website here: http://wwjournal.org/home/current_volume/. You can access the article on our website at this link
MVSD is partnering with the Lindsay Wildlife Experience to provide 3, new 1-hour classroom programs for elementary school students in Contra Costa County. These wetland and pollution prevention themed programs will be available October 2017- January 2018. Program Choices include:
- Craft a Wetland Critter
- Water Quality for Life
- Wetland Wonders
These programs are perfect for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students. Contact Stephanie Seregin at Sseregin@mvsd.org or 925-228-5635 x10 to learn more and book your classroom programs today!
MVSD and ROEP began a partnership in September 2016 to better understand the population of North American River Otters in the Peyton Slough Wetlands. This second report from ROEP highlights what was learned in the first 10 months of the study including otter presence, abundance and habitat use within Moorhen and McNabney marshes, sex ratios, and recommendations for mitigating disturbance to otter populations for tide gate closures and the Moorhen Marsh Western Pond Turtle Habitat Enhancement Project in 2017 and 2018.
We are also pleased to announce that we will be adding a prey study later this year to better understand otter diet and foraging ecology in the wetlands. To access the latest report, please click on the link below.
River Otter Study – Second Report (July 2017)
MVSD River Otter Study Interim Report (February 2017)
Saturday, September 16
9:30 am – 11:30 am
Please join us on Coast Cleanup Day – September 16 – to remove invasive stinkwort (Dittrichia graveolens) from the edges of McNabney Marsh. Stinkwort was first reported in California (Santa Clara County) in 1984. It has now spread to 36 counties including Contra Costa. Stinkwort is not palatable, can be poisonous to livestock, and can cause contact dermatitis in people. It is found primarily along roadsides and other disturbed sites. Unlike many annuals, stinkwort flowers and produces seeds from September to December – so this is a good time to remove it. If you are up for a little work, you can help us make a big difference in the spread of this invasive plant. Reservations and signed liability forms are REQUIRED. We will provide: latex gloves, plastic bags, water, and a pizza lunch at the end of the day. Participants bring: work gloves, a hat, and sunscreen and wear long pants and closed-toed shoes. A mat or knee pads are also recommended. For more info and to RSVP, contact Heidi Petty at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
MVSD’s Moorhen Marsh, a 21-acre freshwater constructed wetland, is home to approximately 150 western pond turtles (WPT), including nesting turtles. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife considers the western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata) as a Species of Special Concern and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a proposal to list it as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
MVSD has been studying WPT since 2009 to better understand the population ecology of the species and how best to protect and manage for its success at Moorhen Marsh.
In June, we had an unusual guest contributing to our research efforts–“George”–an ecological-scent detection dog who is part of the Harvey Dog program of Los Gatos-based, H. T. Harvey & Associates, Ecological Consultants. Harvey Dogs are trained to detect specific species and give their handlers, who are experienced ecologists, a cue when the species is present. Using their superb noses, dogs can detect a target species from smelling the live animal or particulates such as scat, remains, nests, or feathers in an area of up to 30 acres in a day.
George and his trainer, Lauralea Oliver, visited Moorhen Marsh to conduct the final stages of his training in detection of WPT nests. As he investigated the marsh, he practiced finding WPT nests, without disturbing the sensitive habitat. By supporting the development of more efficient and effective methods to detect the hard-to-find WPT nests, MVSD aims to more accurately and quickly identify where to install protective barriers around nests to prevent predation, monitor nests for hatching success, and continue to contribute to research on the reproductive habits of this declining turtle species.
Phase A construction will close Moorhen Marsh from mid-June through November 2017. Phase B will likely close the marsh from mid-June 2018 through November 2018. Please check The Moorhen Marsh Western Pond Turtle Enhancement Project webpage frequently for updates or call 925-228-5635 x 10 during business hours.
For more information on the Moorhen Marsh Western Pond Turtle Habitat Enhancement Project, take a look at the brochure.
For project details, construction updates, photos and videos, visit The Moorhen Marsh Western Pond Turtle Enhancement Project webpage.
In September 2016, ROEP placed six camera traps in the wetlands. Surveys and camera checks are conducted weekly. The videos are reviewed, catalogued and studied to better understand the otter population using MVSD’s wetlands. The goals for the project include:
- noninvasively gather information on river otter presence, abundance, and habitat use within Moorhen and McNabney Marshes,
- document sex ratios as possible,
- document pup emergence and survival
- advise on mitigations for disturbance in otter habitat due to vegetation removal, dewatering, dredging and other work associated with upcoming maintenance and habitat enhancement projects in Moorhen Marsh and McNabney Marshes.
To learn more about what was accomplished and what we still need to learn, please see the attached report.
River Otter Study – First Report
The turtle exclusion fencing project will be completed today, April 18th. MVSD is re-opening Moorhen Marsh to the public at 7 am on April 19th. Please be advised that the California Conservation Corp (CCC) will still be on site weed-eating some of the levee trails on April 19th. Birdwatching, photography and other visitor activities could be impacted. The CCC will finish up all activities tomorrow. We are grateful to the CCC for all of their hard work on this project!
As reported earlier, the Moorhen Marsh Western Pond Turtle Habitat Enhancement Project (Project) will break ground this summer. To remain compliant with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and to prevent loss of bird nests in Moorhen Marsh during construction, MVSD has contracted with the California Conservation Corps to remove vegetation in and around the construction site — Ponds D, C, and E — in Moorhen Marsh. These are the ponds to the west of Peyton Slough. By removing this vegetation early, birds will not nest in the construction site and will move their nesting activity to safer, non-construction areas in the wetland or Peyton Slough.
The crew from the California Conservation Corps will start work on January 25, 2017 in Pond E. For more information on the Project or the wildlife in Moorhen Marsh, please contact MVSD’s District Biologist at email@example.com. To learn more about the California Conservation Corps visit their website at: http://www.ccc.ca.gov/Pages/default.aspx.
MVSD is proud to announce our new partnership with the River Otter Ecology Project (ROEP) based in Marin County. Using a series of camera traps, we will try to figure out how river otters use the District’s wetlands and how many otters the wetlands support. Because of all of the spraints (otter scat) and other clues we frequently come across in the marsh system, we know we have a significant population of otters, but exactly how many and how they use and move through the wetlands is not currently understood.
Visit the River Otter Study page to watch the latest videos and learn more about these adorable mammals.