December 14, 2018

Caretakers of the Environment




Caretakers of the Environment

Orphaned sea lion pup at the California Wildlife Center.

The California Wildlife Center (CWC) opened the doors of its seasonal Marine Mammal Rehabilitation Center earlier this year than ever before in order to accommodate large numbers of young California sea lions in need of rescue. An Unusual Mortality Event (UME) was declared for California Sea Lions beginning in 2013 with the highest reported stranding rates occurring in Los Angeles County.

CWC has been rescuing stranded sea lion pups since the Center opened in 1998. When the UME was declared for California Sea Lions, CWC constructed its Marine Mammal Rehabilitation Center, enabling the organization to rehabilitate up to 25 sea lions on site, providing some relief to other regional marine mammal rehabilitation centers. CWC is currently rehabilitating eight emaciated sea lion pups.

In order to open the Marine Mammal Rehabilitation Center early, CWC sped up the timeframe for improvements to its infrastructure to more comfortably accommodate animals, adding a roof and further sub-dividing enclosures to allow for more animals. Additional staff support required to provide professional rehabilitative care during this UME has been hired to accommodate this increase in rescues.

What to do if you see a stranded sea lion

During the upcoming spring and summer months, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is expected to drive more and more seals and sea lions ashore, many in need of rescue and rehabilitation.

If you see a stranded seal or sea lion, please follow these guidelines:

1. Do not touch, pick up, feed, or pour water on the animal.

2. Watch the animal from a distance of at least 50 feet and keep children and dogs away.

3. Note physical characteristics.

4. Determine the exact location of the animal.

5. Call CWC’s Emergency Hotline immediately (310) 458-WILD (9453) for more information or to contribute to CWC’s rescue efforts:; or follow on Facebook at


By Zach Behrens, NPS Communications Fellow

Posted on National Park Service blog, “Gridlocked,” February 17, 2016

It started as many things do for our researchers. One of the many camera traps set up throughout the mountains caught an animal passing by. But one bobcat on the western end of the range that kept making appearances was especially interesting: it was tripedal, or three-legged!

B-337 (Bobcat # 337) is released after being captured by National Park Service (NPS) researchers on the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains. This female bobcat has three legs but it does not appear to be hindering her ability to care for herself and at least one kitten.

Eventually, she landed in one of our cage traps, allowing biologists to take a closer look. It's not clear whether the missing leg is a birth defect or an early-life injury. But B-337 doesn't seem to let it get in her way, as the above video shows.

"Bobcats catch live prey, so that means she's managing to hunt with one front leg and doing it well enough to feed herself and her kitten," says biologist Joanne Moriarty.

That kitten, coincidentally, ended up in one of our cages a few days prior to his mother. While he, identified as B-336, doesn't have a missing leg, he is missing one of his ears. Again, Moriarty is unsure why.

Despite these deformities in addition to the usual challenges that wildlife face in the Santa Monica Mountains—roads, rat poison, being eaten by other animals, etc.—they appear to be surviving just fine.

The only notable difference between these two and other area bobcats is their home range. "It appears to be on the smaller end of normal for a female bobcat," Moriarty noted. "Based on our long-term study of local bobcats since 1996, females average a range of two to three square kilometers (or .75 to 1.15 square miles). I'm not seeing it that big with the preliminary data gathered so far," she said.

With a collar now tracking B-337 and blood samples of her and the kitten being analyzed, Moriarty hopes to learn more. When she does, we'll report back here.


­By Katherine Pease, Heal the Bay Staff Watershed Scientist (Posted February 5, 2016)

Water quality standards for Malibu Creek survives a legal challenge from JPA.


Caretakers of the Environment

Katherine Pease, Heal the Bay Staff Watershed Scientist, tests the water in Malibu Creek.

In early February, a federal court upheld pollution reduction requirements, created by the EPA and informed by data collected by Heal the Bay scientists to protect creatures, large and small, in impaired Malibu Creek, when operators of the Tapia plant (the Las Virgenes-Triunfo Joint Powers Authority or JPA) objected to the new pollution limits and sued EPA to nullify the TMDL.

In 2013, the federal EPA established a formal Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), basically a numeric pollution reduction requirement, to address the fact that Malibu Creek, some of its major tributaries and Malibu Lagoon had very poor or impaired biological communities.

Biological communities in streams are assessed through the different types and numbers of aquatic bugs that live there. In essence, these bugs are an excellent indicator for the overall vibrancy of the stream. Think of snails, worms, crayfish, and larval stages of dragonflies, damselflies, black flies, and mayflies.

For example, is the stream filled with only bugs that can tolerate polluted water? Or is there a diversity of bugs that are sensitive to pollution in the creek? Healthy streams mean healthy watersheds and healthy watersheds mean healthy cities.

The TMDL identified two main factors impairing the biological communities: high levels of nutrients and sediment. EPA came to that conclusion after completing a careful scientific analysis of water quality and biological data from the Malibu Creek Watershed and Heal the Bay’s Stream Team. Since its inception in 1998, Heal the Bay citizen science volunteers and staff have been collecting water quality data monthly and conducting biological assessments yearly, since 2000, in the Malibu Creek Watershed.

The Tapia Water Reclamation Plant, which treats wastewater and discharges the treated water to Malibu Creek, has been a significant source of nutrients to Malibu Creek. While the effluent generally meets a high standard and contains low bacteria counts, the treated water still contains high levels of nutrients, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus.

The operators of the Tapia plant objected to the new pollution limits and sued EPA to nullify the TMDL in the fall of 2013, questioning EPA and Heal the Bay’s science. They also argued that the costs of lowering nutrient levels in treated wastewater would be excessive.

Because of the importance of the TMDL, Heal the Bay and its environmental partners, NRDC and LA Waterkeeper, intervened in the lawsuit, supporting the EPA. While the financial costs of protecting local streams need to be weighed carefully, we also need to weigh the environmental costs of not acting to preserve healthy watersheds and what that means for water quality and wildlife that use the streams, including humans.

Thankfully, the JPA is evaluating increasing water recycling as an option for the future health of Malibu Creek and local residents.

This win is a reminder that even though they may seem small and insignificant, aquatic bugs loom large. They tell us important information, such as whether you can drink the water in your local stream, swim in it or eat the fish in it.

We should be creative in thinking about our water future, and how water quality and water supply are connected. In this time of drought, there are financially and environmentally strong investments in technology, like water recycling, which will reduce discharge to creeks, clean up water pollution, and help enhance our local water supplies.

For more information: