Too often, people get wrapped up in their own lives, forgetting about all the greatness that is around them. We go from home to work to some event or place and then back to home, only to start the next day with the same routine in mind. The beauty and magic that are all around us are overlooked for a stop at the local fast food joint for a burger and fries. What many of us don’t realize, though, is that you don’t have to go far to see a vast number of natural wonders and to learn about amazing tales of survival.

Since the United Nations declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity, highlighting the endangered or threatened species in our region seemed not only logical, but necessary. Understanding our role as a community and as a society, and how we can make or break a species, is of the utmost importance. While a conservative credo out there says man and his needs come first, the truth of the matter is that we need nature as much as it needs us. When we kill off a species, it affects the food chain, our ecosystems and beyond.

This summer, go out by yourself, with friends, or take the family and check out the many endangered or threatened species in our area. Once you actually see the numerous species that have been brought to the brink of extinction, or close to it, mainly because of our own careless ways, you begin to realize that traditional attitudes and behaviors are not acceptable anymore. Let’s do what we can to protect the variety of life on our planet and right here in Ventura County. For information on the International Year of Biodiversity, please go to A special thanks goes to the many people and organizations that have worked diligently to protect our environment and the animals that live in it.

Full disclosure: Names of the endangered and threatened species presented in this feature came from the local office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and from the office of the Channel Islands National Park. The information included with each species came from a variety of websites, mainly nonprofit organizations dedicated to each species’ survival. Information varies from website to website, so the numbers and data were compiled based on the information that matched fairly consistently on the various websites. All population numbers were estimates based on research conducted by scientists from various environmental organizations. If a species was left off this list, or information provided is outdated or incorrect, please comment at and we will update the list.

Plants were not included due to space constraints.


1Blue whale

Species: Balaenoptera musculus
Size: 23 to 27 meters (largest mammal on Earth)
Weight: 100 to 150 tons
Life span: 80 to 90 years
Population: less than 15,000
Classification: International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List in 1960
Critical decline in population: in 1964, estimated to be between 650 and 2000, down from an estimated 275,000
Reason for decline: whaling
Ventura County habitat: migrate through the Santa Barbara Channel
Diet: krill

2Leatherback sea turtle

Species: Dermochelys coriacea
Length: 4 to 8 feet
Weight: 700 to 2,000 pounds
Lifespan: About 50 years
Population: 26,000 to 43,000 nesting females annually around the world
Federal classification: endangered since 1970
Ventura County habitat: migrate through the Santa Barbara Channel
Reason for decline: overharvesting of eggs, degredation of beaches, fishing, accidental consumption of plastic bags
Diet: Jellyfish


3Island fox

Species: Urocyon littoralis
Size: 12 to 13 inches high
Life span: 4 to 6 years
Population: main population on Santa Catalina estimated to be 950; 1,700 total 
Federal classification: endangered since 2004
Critical decline in population: from 1,342 in 1994 to 165 in 2000; other data shows a low of 70
Reason for decline: hunted to near extinction by nonnative golden eagles
Ventura County habitat: Santa Catalina Island, San Miguel Island, Santa Rosa Island and Santa Cruz Island
Diet: native fruit, vegetation, mice, insects and crabs


4Humpback Whale

Species: Megaptera novaeangliae
Size: 40 to 50 feet
Weight: 25 to 40 tons
Lifespan: 45 to 50 years
Population: best available estimate is 11,000 in the North Pacific
Federal classification: endangered since 1973
Reason for decline: Illegal whaling, entanglement in fishing gear, habitat impacts, and proposed harvest, inadvertent ship strikes
Ventura County habitat: migrate through the Santa Barbara channel
Diet: krill, small shrimp-like crustaceans, and various kinds of small fish


444Southern sea otter

Species: Enhydra lutris nereis
Population: estimated to be 2,600 off the California coast, around 30 on San Nicolas Island through the failed sea otter translocation project
Size: up to 52 inches from head to tail
Lifespan: average 10-11 years, up to 23 years
Federal classification: endangered since January 1977
Critical decline in population: 1,200 in 1986, down from an estimated 300,000
Reason for decline: hunted for fur, chemical and biological pollutants in food
Ventura County habitat: San Nicolas Island, Channel Islands National Park
Diet: sea urchin, crab, mussels, snails and abalone


lIsland night lizard

Species: Xantusia riversiana
Size: 2.5 to 4.2 inches
Lifespan: up to 25 years
Population: 17,600 on Santa Barbara Island
Federal classification: threatened since 1977
Critical decline in population: data unavailable
Reason for decline: past farming and grazing, fire, and the introduction of nonnative animals and plants
Ventura County habitat: Channel Islands of Santa Barbara, San Nicolas and San Clemente
Diet: seeds and some plants


wBlunt-nosed leopard lizard

Species: Gambelia sila
Size: 3 to 5 inches
Federal classification: endangered since 1967
Reason for decline: habitat alteration, loss
Ventura County habitat: Cuyama Valley
Diet: insects and other arthropods, lizards


redCalifornia red-legged frog

Species: Rana draytonii
Size: up to 5 inches
Lifespan: possibly up to 10 years
Population: 7,000 to 10,000
Federal classification: threatened since 1996; critical habitat
Reason for decline: invasive species and habitat loss
Ventura County habitat: Ventura River — Matilija Canyon watershed, San Antonio Creek, Matilija Creek watershed
Diet: invertebrates, but on occasion, smaller amphibians and mammals


cCalifornia condor

Species: Gymnogyps californianus
Weight: 17 to 29 pounds
Life span: up to 60 years
Population: 384 California condors in the world, 92 in California
Federal classification: endangered since March 1967; critical habitat
Critical decline in population: down to 27 in 1987
Reason for decline: illegal killing, lead fragments in food carcasses, poison bait and environmental pollutants
Ventura County habitat: Sespe Condor Sanctuary, Los Padres National Forest
Diet: carrion


aArroyo toad

Species: Anaxyrus californicus
Size: 1.8 to 3.25 inches
Lifespan: 4 years
Population: data obscure, but most pertinent information is that there are only 23 populations
Federal classification: Endangered since 1994; Critical habitat
Reason for decline: urbanization, agriculture and dam construction within the toad’s preferred habitat
Ventura County habitat: Los Padres National Forest
Diet: invertebrates, but mostly ants


mMarbled murrelet

Species: Brachyramphus marmoratus marmoratus
Wingspan: 9.5-10 inches
Lifespan: 15 years
Population: 18,000 in the U.S.
Federal classification: threatened since 1992; critical habitat
Reason for decline: loss of habitat and trees for nesting due to logging
Ventura County habitat: Ormond Beach, coastal areas
Diet: small fish and invertebrates


sSouthwestern willow flycatcher

Species: Empidonax traillii extimus
Length: about 6 inches
Weight: Approximately 11 grams
Population: 2,400
Federal classification: endangered since 1995; critical habitat
Reason for decline: habitat loss
Ventura County habitat: Ormond Beach
Diet: mostly insects, some berries in the fall




cCalifornia gnatcatcher

Species: Polioptila californica
Size: 10.8 cm
Population: 3,000 to 5,000 in the U.S.
Federal classification: threatened since 1993; critical habitat
Reason for decline: habitat loss
Ventura County habitat: arid scrub areas in Moorpark, western boundary of the Santa Monica Mountains
Diet: insects


wWestern snowy plover

Species: Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus
Length: 5.9-6.6 inches
Weight: 1.2-2 ounces
Lifespan: About 3 years
Population: 1,500 breeding pairs along California’s coast
Federal classification: threatened since 1993; critical habitat
Reason for decline: loss of habitat and disturbances due to development, recreation and other human pressures
Ventura County habitat: Ormond Beach
Diet: invertebrates and insects


dLight-footed clapper rail

Species: Rallus longirostris levipes
Size: 14 to 16 inches
Weight: 8 to 14 ounces
Lifespan: 2 to 4 years
Population: around 400 breeding pairs as of 2006
Federal classification: endangered since 1970
Critical decline in population: 160 breeding pairs in 1985 (no earlier data available)
Reason for decline: coastal marshes destroyed
Ventura County habitat: Ormond Beach, coastal wetlands
Diet: crab, shrimp, insects, marine worms, seeds of water plants, mussels, clams and snails



calCalifornia least tern
Species: Sterna antillarum browni
Length: 8 to 9 inches
Wingspan: 20 inches
Weight: 1.5 ounces
Life span: up to 20 years
Population: 7,100 breeding pairs
Federal classification: endangered since1970
Critical decline in population: 600 breeding pairs in 1973
Reason for decline: direct and indirect impacts of human activities, especially to nesting grounds
Ventura County habitat: Santa Clara River, Ormond Beach, Mugu Lagoon, Channel Islands
Diet: small fish


2Steelhead trout

Species: Oncorhynchus mykiss
Federal classification: Various species of steelhead are listed as endangered, threatened and species of concern
Size: up to 55 pounds and 45 inches
Lifespan: 11 years
Reason for decline: reduced or elimination of access to habitat for spawning; increased mortality of both adults and juvenile salmonids due to physical features of dams
Ventura County habitat: Santa Clara River, Santa Paula Creek, Sespe Creek, Ventura River
Diet: juveniles feed on zooplankton; adults feed on aquatic and terrestrial insects, mollusks, crustaceans, fish eggs, minnows, and other small fishes (including other trout)


sdConservancy fairy shrimp

Species: Branchinecta conservatio
Federal classification: Endangered since September 1994; Critical habitat
Size: 1.25 to 2.5 centimeters
Reason for decline: 60-85 percent of vernal pool habitat destroyed due to urban development, water supply and flood control projects and conversion of land for agricultural use
Ventura County habitat: Lockewood Valley, two locations in the Los Padres National Forest
Diet: algae, bacteria, protozoa, rotifers and detritus


gTidewater goby

Species: Eucyclogobius newberryi
Size: around 2 inches
Lifespan: 1 year
Federal classification: Endangered since 1994; critical habitat
Reason for decline: modification and loss of habitat resulting from coastal development
Ventura County habitat: Santa Clara River
Diet: young tidewater gobies consume small crustaceans, mollusks and insect larvae


3Unarmored threespine stickleback

Species: Gasterosteus aculeatus williamsoni
Size: 2 inches
Lifespan: 1 year
Population: no abundance data for this subspecies
Federal classification: endangered since October 1970
Reason for decline: decline due to natural mortality (e.g., predation, disease) and low recruitment during the winter
Ventura County habitat: upper Santa Clara River
Diet: benthic insects, small crustaceans, snails, and, to a lesser degree, flatworms, nematodes and terrestrial insects

Copyright Alice Abela

rRiverside fairy shrimp

Species: Streptocephalus woottoni
Federal classification: Endangered since August 1993; Critical habitat
Size: 13 and 25 millimeters (0.5 to 1.0 inch) long
Reason for decline: vernal pool environment depleted, degraded and eliminated due to flood control efforts, urbanization, water development, etc.
Ventura County habitat: lakes and other water habitats
Diet: bacteria, algae, rotifers, protozoa, and bits
of detritus


vpVernal pool fairy shrimp

Species: Branchinecta lynchi
Federal classification: Threatened; Critical habitat
Size: .5 to 1.5 inches
Lifespan: 5-6 months
Reason for decline: habitat loss, invasive species, erosion and contamination
Ventura County habitat: lakes and other water habitats
Diet: algae, bacteria and protozoa