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Rare, Threatened & Endangered Animals In Orange County

December 26, 1987|researched by Rick VanderKnyff / Los Angeles Times

In the Endangered Species Act of 1973, Congress stated that endangered and threatened species of fish, wildlife and plants "are of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational and scientific value to the nation and its people." The law, a broadened version of the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969, was designed to protect species threatened with extinction; it also called for the designation of "critical habitat" for endangered and threatened species to ensure protection of these areas. Adding a species to the endangered listis a lengthy administrative procedure that involves the public, the states, and other government and private organizations.

California has its own endangered species program, although the protections are not as broad as in the federal program. By state definitions, an endangered species is considered to be in danger of extinction in a significant portion of its range; a threatened species is at risk of becoming endangered; rare is usually used in connection with plants, and means limited in terms of range or distribution. Species of special concern are tracked by the California Natural Diversity Database (part of the Non-game Heritage Program of the state Fish & Game Department) because of evidence of population decline, or because the population is historically small.

Light-footed clapper rail (Rallus longirostris levipes)

Status: State and U.S. endangered species

In the United States, these secretive and sedentary birds of the coastal salt marsh are only found in California, and more than half of the state's population resides in the dense cordgrass stands of Upper Newport Bay. A nesting population at Anaheim Bay in Seal Beach has declined in recent years because of foxes and other predators, but may be making a comeback thanks to the use of innovative man-made nesting platforms. Vagrant individual birds have also been spotted at Bolsa Chica.

Tidewater goby (Eucyclogobius newberryi)

Status: State species of special concern

This small fish depends on a specialized habitat that is declining throughout the state: coastal lagoons and brackish bays at the mouths of unchannelized freshwater streams. It was once found in Aliso Creek and San Juan Creek, but it has not been spotted in the county since the late 1970s.

San Diego horned lizard (Phrynosoma coronatum blainvillei)

Orange-throated whiptail (Cnemidophorus hyperthrus)

Status: Federal endangered species candidates; state species of special concern

These two lizards are more common elsewhere in the state but have been spotted locally. The horned lizard prefers undeveloped desert scrub and is also found in grasslands, coniferous forest, broad-leaved woodlands and in lowlands along sandy washes. The whiptail also lives in washes and other sandy areas and frequents coastal chapparal. It has been spotted in Laguna Beach, Corona del Mar, Trabuco Canyon and at the Santiago Dam in Villa Park. Both lizards are victims of declining habitat and off-road vehicle use.

California black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis cotorniculus)

Status: Candidate for federal endangered status; state threatened species

These highly secretive marsh birds have been spotted on rare occasions in Upper Newport Bay. It is listed as a threatened species in the state and is a candidate for federal endangered status.

Snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)

Status: Federal endangered species candidates; state species of special concern

These compact birds build their nests on sandy beaches and flats, where they are vulnerable to human disturbance and introduced predators, so when man came to Orange County the snowy plover was all but driven out. It has returned to nest on man-made islands in the Bolsa Chica wetlands.

California least tern (Sterna antillarum browni)

Status: Federal and state endangered species

This is another beach-nester, vulnerable to the same disturbances as the snowy plover. It has nested successfully on man-made islands at Bolsa Chica, Anaheim Bay and Upper Newport Bay, and on a protected stretch of sand at Huntington Beach State Park.

California black-tailed gnatcatcher (Polioptila melanura californica)

Status: Federal endangered species candidate; state species of special concern

This thrush is found in Orange County's diminishing coastal sage habitat. It is known to nest in several widely dispersed areas in the county.

Least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus)

Status: Federal and state endangered species

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