Sunday, October 17, 2010

Island Scrub Jay

On the front page of the California section in today's Sunday edition of the LA Times is an article about the Island Scrub Jay found only Santa Cruz Island.

There are several interesting connections to the class. First, this is a nice example of a 'rare' species that is locally somewhat abundant but has a very restricted geographic range (a narrow endemic).

Second, this is a somewhat unusual example of steps being taken to protect a species before it is endangered:

The rare jay is not officially endangered but could be in peril: Biologists working in Channel Islands National Park worry that it's easy pickings for the West Nile virus, which could swiftly wipe out the species once infected mosquitoes or birds cross the Santa Barbara Channel.

"It's imprudent to think it's not going to happen," said Scott Morrison, director of conservation science for the Nature Conservancy in California. "It's just a matter of time."

Working on and off for more than a year, a crew has been laboriously trapping jays one by one and inoculating them with a vaccine produced — initially for condors — by the Centers for Disease Control. By next spring, the crew on Santa Cruz will have given the needle to about 250 birds — enough, they hope, to form a disease-resistant core if West Nile takes out all the rest.

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