Calif. study: 800 animal species threatened

/ Source: The Associated Press

More than 800 animal species in California are imperiled by development, pollution and recreational activities, a sobering assessment that should guide development throughout the nation’s most populous state, according to a two-year government study.

“If done with thought and science, we can grow and still maintain a high quality of wildlife habitat in California,” said report co-author David Bunn of the University of California, Davis. If not, “we’re going to lose a lot of species and resources that we don’t have to lose.”

The report, prepared for the state Department of Fish and Game, was required under a 2001 federal law as a condition for states to receive federal wildlife conservation grants. California officials hadn’t planned to make the study public until January, but The Associated Press obtained a copy from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Of the 800 species in jeopardy, 481 of them are found nowhere else, ranging from the San Francisco fork-tail damselfly to the San Diego black-tailed jackrabbit.

The study catalogues the potential effects of development on wildlife region-by-region.

For example, the population of the desert tortoise has dropped dramatically in the last 25 years. The study found more than 20 causes, including loss of habitat by agricultural and residential development, capture for use as pets and being eaten by a flourishing population of crows.

In addition to housing and commercial development, threats to California’s animal species include foreign species that invade and take over ecosystems, pollution, pesticides, grazing and logging.

“There are about a dozen major problems,” said Bunn, a former state Department of Fish and Game deputy director now with UC Davis’ Wildlife Health Center, which prepared the report.

The survey of California’s wildlife was a condition of obtaining more than $18 million in federal wildlife conservation grants.

The federal government has given nearly $400 million to states and Indian tribes under the grant program, with another $68.5 million set for distribution next spring.