BLM California wildlife biologists help conserve endangered Amargosa Vole
Bureau of Land Management
The Amargosa Vole Recovery Implementation Team, which includes BLM California Wildlife Biologists Amy Fesnock and Chris Otahal, recently received the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “Recovery Champion Award” for their efforts to conserve the endangered Amargosa Vole. Eight years ago, the Amargosa Vole was heading towards extinction- the research said there was an 80% chance the species would be extinct within 10 years. Today, in large part due to the efforts of the team, this species is being considered for down-listing.
The Amargosa Vole, a mouse-like rodent, lives in Bullrush Marshes on BLM, state and private lands in and around the Amargosa Wild and Scenic River in California. The Amargosa Vole is a sensitive indicator species for the health of the marshes in which it lives. One of North America’s “Most Endangered Mammals,” the Amargosa Vole’s entire population consisted of 50–75 individuals in 2012 when focused management efforts began.
Chris Otahal, the Amargosa Vole Recovery Implementation Team’s Chair and a BLM Barstow Field Office Wildlife Biologist, said helping to conserve the Amargosa Vole was “one of my highlights as a working biologist for the last 30 years.”
He added, “I was greatly concerned about losing this species to extinction — and this was something that was unacceptable on my watch…This is a great example of how we can use science as a guide to conserve, connect, and restore the lands, waters, and wildlife upon which we all depend as outlined in the Administration’s America the Beautiful campaign.”
According to an email from the USFWS, some of the team’s accomplishments include restoration of degraded critical habitat, establishment of a captive breeding program, translocations to improve distribution and population viability, and development of new habitat for the species.
The USFWS’s “Recovery Champions 2020” webpage says, “The team’s work on captive rearing requirements, translocation, and reintroduction methods are important additions to the species recovery toolbox, and were instrumental in the re-establishment of the species in a portion of its historical range from which it was extirpated more than 100 years ago.”
Martha Maciel, Acting Deputy Regional Director, USFWS, wrote in a congratulatory email, “The team’s work is an excellent example of how Federal and State agencies, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, and private partners can work together to conserve endangered species… Your exceptional work is helping to create the roadmap for long-term survival and recovery of this species.”