Species Observations and Handling Protocol

The potential need to handle and relocate covered amphibian species should be evaluated during the technical assistance step shown in Figure 2. If a Covered Species of amphibian (as identified in Table 5) does not or cannot leave the work area and handling covered amphibians (as identified in Table 5) is required, capture and relocation will only be allowed in accordance with a plan developed in accordance with the guidance below and submitted to USFWS for review and approval. Although it could be submitted after the ESA Section 7(a)(2) Review Form, to avoid project delays and facilitate timely USFWS review and approval, a draft of the capture and relocation plan may be submitted with the ESA Section 7(a)(2) Review Form. The capture and relocation will be conducted by a USFWS-Approved Biologist. In addition to measures described in GPM-9, Practices to Prevent Pathogen Contamination; and AMP-5, Clearing and Grubbing Vegetation (which refers to CDFW [2016] decontamination protocols), to prevent the spread of pathogens among sites, special care should be taken to prevent transferring potential pathogens among individual animals, as described below.

a. Prior to handling and relocation, the USFWS-Approved Biologist will take precautions to prevent the introduction of amphibian diseases, in accordance with the Interim Guidance on Site Assessment and Field Surveys for Determining Presence or a Negative Finding of the California Tiger Salamander (USFWS 2003).

i. All dirt and debris, including mud, snails, plant material (including fruits and seeds), and algae, should be removed from nets, traps, boots, vehicle tires and all other surfaces that have come into contact with water. Cleaned items should be rinsed with clean water before leaving the work area.

ii. Boots, nets, traps, etc., should then be scrubbed with either a 70% ethanol solution, a bleach solution (0.5 to 1.0 cup of bleach to 1.0 gallon of water), QUAT 128 (quaternary ammonium, use 1:60 dilution), or a 6% sodium hypochlorite 3 solution and rinsed clean with water between study sites. Cleaning equipment in the immediate vicinity of a pond or wetland should be avoided. Care should be taken so that all traces of the disinfectant are removed before entering the next aquatic habitat.

iii. When working at sites with known or suspected disease problems, disposable gloves should be worn and changed between handling each animal.

iv. Used cleaning materials (liquids, etc.) should be disposed of safely, and if necessary, taken back to the lab for proper disposal. Used disposable gloves should be retained for safe disposal in sealed bags.

b. Disinfecting equipment and clothing is especially important when biologists are coming to the project area to handle amphibians after working in other aquatic habitats (see GPM-9 and AMP-5, which reference CDFW [2016] protocols). Covered amphibians will also be handled and assessed according to the Restraint and Handling of Live Amphibians (USGS 2001).

Covered amphibians will be captured by hand, dip net, seine net, or other USFWS-Approved methodology, transported and relocated to nearby suitable habitat outside of the work area, and released as soon as practicable the same day of capture. Soaps, oils, creams, lotions, repellents, or solvents of any sort cannot be used on hands within two hours before and during periods when the biologist is capturing and relocating individuals. Individuals will be relocated to areas containing suitable habitat, as identified in the relocation plan. If the animal will be held in captivity for any length of time, they shall be kept in a cool, dark, moist environment with proper airflow, such as a clean and disinfected bucket or plastic container with a damp sponge. Holding/transporting containers will not contain any standing water, objects (except sponges), or chemicals. Holding/transporting containers and dip nets will be thoroughly cleaned, disinfected, and rinsed with fresh water prior to use in the project area (see CDFW 2016 for disinfection protocols). USFWS will be notified (e.g., via phone, email, or text message) as soon as practicable and no longer than 1 week after all capture, handling, and relocation efforts.

If an injured covered amphibian is encountered, and the USFWS-Approved Biologist determines that the injury is minor or healing and the individual is likely to survive, the individual will be released immediately, consistent with measures above. The individual(s) will be monitored until it is not imperiled by predators or other dangers.

If the USFWS-Approved Biologist determines that a covered amphibian has major or serious injuries as a result of project-related activities, the USFWS-Approved Biologist will take it to a USFWS-Approved facility as soon as practicable, if such a facility is within a reasonable distance from the project site. If taken into captivity, the individual will remain in captivity and not be released into the wild unless it has been kept in quarantine and the release is authorized by USFWS. The circumstances of the injury, the procedure followed, and the final disposition of the injured animal will be documented in a written incident report to USFWS, as described below. Notification to USFWS of an injured or dead covered amphibian (as identified in Table 5) in the project area will be made and reported, whether or not its condition resulted from project-related activities. In addition, the USFWS-Approved Biologist or Project Proponent will follow up with USFWS in writing (e.g., email) within 2 calendar days of the finding. Written notification to USFWS will include the following information: the species; number of animals taken or injured; sex (if known); date, time, and location of the incident or of the finding of a dead or injured animal; how the individual was taken; photographs of the specific animal; the names of the persons who observe the take and/or found the animal; and any other pertinent information. Dead specimens will be preserved, as appropriate, and will be bagged and labeled (i.e., species type; who found or reported the incident; when the report was made; when and where the incident occurred; and, if possible, the cause of death). Specimens will be held in a secure location until instructions are received from USFWS regarding the disposition of the specimen.