California creatures thrive after record winter rains






We heard the grunts and groans from the commuters stuck behind mudslides on Highway 17. We read about the wails from desperate strawberry farmers pumping water out of their flooded fields. And we listened to the joy from Californians who had more than enough water to take guilt-free showers after enduring the conservation mandates from the historic drought.

But how did one of the wettest winters in California history impact all the other living things in Northern California? Among the rain-soaked creepy crawlers, furry critters and lush vegetation, there are clear winners and losers emerging from the receding storm clouds.

The deluge brought distress to some creatures such as deer and butterflies, but it provided long-term benefits for most of the Golden State’s flora and fauna. The increased food sources and newly created puddles were havens for Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders and mosquitoes looking to lay their eggs.

Brian and Carol LeNeve discovered the bounty of beauty when they stopped their car in April in a little nook off Highway 25 in King City and looked out at the landscape that a couple of years ago was nothing but dirt and a few yellow shrubs.

This year, grand displays of orange fiddleneck wildflowers covered the low-lying flats that curled up into hills painted in the school-bus yellow of Monolopia and the blue of Phacelia.

“It was just spectacular,” said LeNeve, 74, a retired painting contractor and co-chair of the annual Wildflower…

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