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Preserve SCV's Endangered Species


Posted: March 3, 2008 9:55 p.m.
Updated: May 3, 2008 5:01 a.m.
There are three federally listed, endangered species in the Santa Clarita Valley. They are the Arroyo Southwestern Toad, Least Bell's Vireo, and the Unarmored Threespine Stickleback. The Southwestern Pond Turtle is not yet endangered but is considered threatened.

As we continue to expand our city, we lose more and more habitat for our local animals. When animal corridors are cut off, it prevents animal migration, shuts off their food and water supply, and limits their gene pools. Carelessness with waste also has an effect on the animals that live in and around Santa Clarita.

The Unarmored Threespine Stickleback is a tiny, inconspicuous fish that lives at the base of Magic Mountain in the Santa Clara River. Magic Mountain, the mountain, is part of the watershed for the Santa Clara River. The mountain, and the surrounding area, is home to the sticklebacks, the Arroyo Southwestern Toad, Least Bell's Vireo and the Southwestern Pond Turtle.

The stickleback is a most unusual fish. It is covered with a few bony plates and does not have any scales. It has three sharp, erectile spines which are in front of the dorsal fin. The fish's other fins also have sharp little spines.

The stickleback is green with a silver tummy, and when it spawns, the male's throat and belly turns red. They may also have flashy blue eyes. And not to be outdone, the females turn pink.

They eat insects, little crustaceans and algae. They breed in spring and build elaborate nests that the male protects until the young are able to survive on their own. Sticklebacks have the ability to adapt readily to their environment, and in each location where they can be found, it is evident that they have "morphed" in order to adapt to their conditions.

If you would like to learn more about the Unarmored Threespine Stickleback, take a drive along the Santa Clara River on Soledad Canyon Road. Beyond Canyon Country, but before you reach Agua Dulce, there is an Angeles National Forest viewing area on the north side of the road. There are signs with information about these rare little fish. You can also walk down to the Santa Clara River to take a peek at them. The river flows year-round in this area, before it goes underground as it approaches Santa Clarita.

If you love birds, you are already undoubtedly aware of the Least Bell's Vireo. This bird eats primarily insects. They usually lives in riparian (riverbank) areas and tend to nest in willows, but they will also consider California wild roses and coast live oak.

This endangered bird can be found in the same area as the Unarmored Threespine Stickleback, as well as other riparian areas in the SCV.

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is a Santa Clarita Valley resident and leader of the SCV Community Hiking Club. Her column represents her own opinions, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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