Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

Snake, Rattle and Roll: Rattlesnake Season Is Here

Spring is here and with it brings warm weather and hot, dry conditions in many areas of California. Human encounters with snakes are more likely as these elusive animals become more active this time of year. Most native snakes are harmless. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommends avoiding the rattlesnake, a venomous species, and knowing what to do in the rare event of a bite.

Rattlesnakes may be found in diverse habitats, from coastal to desert, and are widespread in California. They can be attracted to areas around homes with heavy brush or vegetation, under wood piles where rodents may hide, as well as well-manicured landscapes to bask in the sun.

Rattlesnakes are not generally aggressive, unless provoked or threatened, and will likely retreat if given space.

“Snakes are often misunderstood. They provide significant ecosystem benefits, such as rodent control, and are an important part of California’s unique biodiversity,” said CDFW’s Conflict Programs Coordinator Vicky Monroe. “Snakes prefer to avoid people or pets and are not naturally aggressive. We encourage people to be rattlesnake safe, take time to learn about their local wildlife and take appropriate safety precautions when enjoying the outdoors.”

  • Most bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally brushed against by someone walking or climbing.
  • Most bites occur between the months of April and October when snakes and humans are most active outdoors.
  • On occasion, rattlesnake bites have caused severe injury – even death.

The California Poison Control System notes that the chances of being bitten are small compared to the risk of other environmental injuries. The potential of encountering a rattlesnake should not deter anyone from venturing outdoors.

CDFW provides tips on its website to “Be Rattlesnake Safe,” how to safely coexist with native snakes and what to do (or not do) in the event of a snake bite.

Other resources can be found on the California Herps Living with Rattlesnakes web page.

In 2019, CDFW confirmed the state’s first case of Snake Fungal Disease (SFD), a newly emerging disease in snakes. SFD can cause significant mortalities in species of conservation concern. There is no evidence that SFD is transmittable from snakes to humans. You may assist CDFW’s efforts by reporting sightings of snakes with skin sores or unusual behavior. Do not attempt to touch or handle.

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Media Contacts:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858
Vicky Monroe, CDFW Statewide Conflicts Program Coordinator, (916) 856-8335

Fish and Wildlife Director Opens Razor Clam Fishery in Del Norte County; Fishery in Humboldt County Remains Closed Due to Public Health Hazard

After a five-year closure, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director has re-opened the recreational razor clam fishery in Del Norte County following a recommendation from state health agencies that the consumption of razor clams in the area no longer poses a significant threat for domoic acid exposure.

The razor clam fishery was one of several fisheries impacted by a massive Pseudo-nitzschia bloom that occurred off the California coast in late 2015. Pseudo-nitzschia, a naturally occurring single-celled, marine alga, produces the potent neurotoxin domoic acid under certain ocean conditions.

During the closure, state health agencies have continued to assess domoic acid levels in razor clams. Razor clams have consistently exceeded the federal action level for domoic acid of 20 parts per million. However, clams recently collected from Crescent City in March and April 2021 all had domoic acid concentrations lower than this action level.

Domoic acid poisoning in humans may occur within minutes to hours after consumption of affected seafood and can result in signs and symptoms ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to permanent loss of short-term memory (Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning), coma or death. There is no way to prepare clams that will remove the toxin – cooking and freezing have no effect.

CDFW, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment continue to monitor domoic acid in razor clams to determine when the recreational razor clam fishery in Humboldt County can be opened safely.

CDFW reminds clammers that the daily bag limit for razor clams is 20 and the first 20 clams dug must be retained regardless of size or condition. The fishery in odd-numbered years is open north of Battery Point, Crescent City in Del Norte County. Effective March 8, 2021, each person is required to keep a separate container for their clams and is not allowed to commingle their take with another person when digging and transporting clams to shore.

For more information, please refer to Section 29.20 Clams General and Section 29.45 for specific razor clam regulations that can be accessed at the following web page: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Sport-Fishing/Invertebrate-Fishing-Regs#mollusks

For more information on any fishery closure information or health advisories, please visit: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Health-Advisories

To get the latest information on current fishing season closures related to domoic acid, please call CDFW’s Domoic Acid Fishery Closure Information Line at (831) 649-2883.

For the latest consumption warnings, please call CDPH’s Biotoxin information Line at (510) 412-4643 or toll-free at (800) 553-4133.

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Media Contacts:
Christy Juhasz, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 292-2480
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

Keep Tahoe Bears Wild!

Spring Is Here, and With It Some Very Hungry Bears

LAKE TAHOE, Calif./Nev. – The snow is melting in the Lake Tahoe region and a mild winter has given way to a bustling early spring for wildlife in the area. Bears have emerged from their dens and are on the move and hungry.

In the fall, black bears experienced hyperphagia (pronounced hai·pr·fei·jee·uh), which is an increase in feeding activity (consuming about 25,000 calories a day) driven by their need to fatten up before winter. Over the course of the winter, their bodies utilize those fat stores during hibernation when food is scarce. Come spring, their body mass will have naturally decreased and as a result, bears will be on the lookout for easy food sources to help rebuild those fat reserves.

This time of year, bears seek out fresh grasses that are starting to sprout, which often brings them into human occupied areas with green lawns. Unfortunately, these urban areas have an abundance of garbage for bears to easily access so it is up to visitors and residents to keep bears from finding unnatural human food sources. 

Bears are an important part of the Lake Tahoe ecosystem and allowing them access to human food and garbage is a detriment to natural resources in the region. Bears help spread berry seeds through their scat, transport pollen, eat insects and provide other essential functions of nature. As a result, if they find and access human food and garbage, bird seed, pet food, coolers and other sources of human food, the Tahoe Basin loses the benefits bears offer to its natural processes. Bears need to be wild animals rather than garbage disposals, especially since these unnatural food sources can impact their overall health and damage or rot their teeth. 

In fact, bears will unknowingly eat indigestible items from human trash like foil, paper products, plastics and metal that can damage their internal systems and even lead to death. If these items do make it through their system, they leave it behind in their scat rather than the native seeds and healthy fertilizer needed to grow the next generation of plant life. 

Healthy bears mean healthy ecosystems, and we can all do our part to set both up for success!

“The California Department of Fish and Wildlife would like to remind both visitors and residents that the Lake Tahoe Basin is home to hundreds of black bears. Unfortunately, it only takes a few careless people to help make a bear accustomed to human food sources,” said Jason Holley, supervising wildlife biologist for the department’s North Central Region. “We ask for your help to keep Tahoe’s bears wild. Do not feed or approach wildlife and please store food and garbage appropriately.” 

Follow these tips to help keep Tahoe’s bears wild:

  • Never feed wildlife.
  • Store all garbage in and properly close bear-resistant garbage containers, preferably bear boxes. Inquire with local refuse companies about bear box incentives and payment programs. Visit https://southtahoerefuse.com/bear-info/ and/or www.ndow.org/Nevada_Wildlife/Bear_Logic/ for more information.
  • Never leave leftovers, groceries, animal feed, garbage or anything scented in vehicles, campsites, or tents.
  • Be sure to always lock vehicles and close the windows. Keep in mind eating in the car leaves lingering food odors that attracts bears.
  • Keep barbecue grills clean and stored in a garage or shed when not in use.
  • Keep doors and windows closed and locked when the home is unoccupied.
  • Vegetable gardens, compost piles, orchards and chickens may attract bears. Use electric fences where allowed to keep bears out. Refrain from hanging bird feeders.
  • When camping, always store food (including pet food), drinks, toiletries, coolers, cleaned grills, cleaned dishes, cleaning products, and all other scented items in bear-resistant containers (storage lockers/bear boxes) provided at campsites. Bear resistant coolers that come equipped with padlock devices should always be locked to meet bear resistant requirements.
  • Always place garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters in campgrounds or in bear-resistant containers at campsites (storage lockers/bear boxes), and close and lock after each use.
  • Store food in bear-resistant food storage canisters while recreating in the backcountry.
  • Give wildlife space, especially when they have young with them. 
  • Leave small bears alone, mom might be right around the corner.

To report human-bear conflicts in California, contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at 916-358-2917 or report online using the Wildlife Incident Reporting (WIR) system at apps.wildlife.ca.gov/wir. Non-emergency wildlife interactions in California State Parks can be reported to public dispatch at 916-358-1300. To report human-bear conflicts in Nevada, contact Nevada Department of Wildlife at 775-688-BEAR (2327). If the issue is an immediate threat, call the local sheriff’s department or 911.

For more information on peacefully coexisting with bears, visit TahoeBears.org.

If you have any questions or concerns, always reach out to the following agency wildlife experts:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife:  916-358-2917

California State Parks:  530-525-9535

Nevada Department of Wildlife:  775-688-BEAR (2327)

Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858

May 2021 California Department of Fish and Wildlife Calendar

All calendar items are subject to change as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Please continue to adhere to all safety protocols including physical distancing, wearing masks and frequent hand washing.

Wildlife areas, ecological reserves and other properties may be closed due to wildfire damage. Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts are strongly encouraged to check for closures before leaving on any recreational trip.

Various Days — Nature Bowl 2021: Family Challenge Edition. Hosted by CDFW’s North Central Region, the 2021 Nature Bowl has been reformatted into a virtual nature challenge to all California families with school-age students. Spring is here, and it’s time for rejuvenation, emerging from winter hibernation and getting outside for a healthy dose of nature. Your challenge is to work together as a family to compete in five nature-themed activities – and possibly win cool nature-related prizes. Nature Bowl runs through May 14, 2021. For more information and materials, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/regions/2/nature-bowl or contact Genelle Treaster at genelle.treaster@wildlife.ca.gov.

Various Days — Nimbus Hatchery Virtual Tot Time, 10 to 10:30 a.m. May 3, 10, 17 and 24. The popular story time program hosted by Nimbus Hatchery is back in a virtual format! Join us for nature-themed stories, songs, dancing and more! These free events are designed for ages 3-5. To register, please visit us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_rXPHcz1nTe-h7R1PyeW1ag. For more information, please contact Stephanie Ambrosia at stephanie.ambrosia@wildlife.ca.gov or (916) 597-7752. 

Various Days — Vernal Pool Virtual Tours, 9 to 10 a.m. May 8 and 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. May 19. Explore these crucial, incredible habitats with Yolo Basin Foundation staff and volunteers through a virtual experience at the vernal pools of Grasslands Regional Park. Discover how vernal pools are naturally created, how they can be restored and how they provide unique habitat. Zoom in more closely to view amazing wildflowers and small creatures that call the vernal pools home. For more information and to register for these free events, please visit yolobasin.org/virtualwetlandtours.  

1 — Recreational Groundfish Season Opens for All Boat-based Anglers for the Northern and Mendocino Management Areas (Oregon-California State Line to Point Arena). Season opens for the following species: rockfish, cabezon, kelp and rock greenlings, lingcod, California scorpionfish (aka sculpin), leopard shark, soupfin shark and spiny dogfish, and other federally managed groundfish. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/regulations/groundfish-summary

1 — Recreational Pacific Halibut Fishery Opens (until Nov. 15 or until the quota is reached, whichever is earlier). For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/pacific-halibut.

1 — Virtual Tour of the Davis Wetlands, 10 to 11 a.m. Join Yolo Basin Foundation staff and docents to explore and learn about this managed, native California wetland ecosystem. Observe wildlife up close with our virtual spotting scope view! Registration is required to receive the Zoom event link. To register for this free event, please visit yolobasin.org/virtualwetlandtours.

3 — Archery Only Spring Wild Turkey and Additional Junior Spring Turkey Seasons Open (extending through May 16). For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds

5 — Deadline for California Invasive Species Action Week Youth Art Contest. Students in grades 2-12 are invited to submit artwork on the theme, “Be an Invasive Species Detective!” All types of media are encouraged! Submit entries electronically by May 5, 2021. Find complete information at wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/invasives/action-week/poster-contest. Winners will be announced during California Invasive Species Action Week in June. Please send any questions to invasives@wildlife.ca.gov.

5-9 — World Migratory Bird Week at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve, 1700 Elkhorn Road, Watsonville (95076). Celebrate the diversity of birds migrating through Elkhorn Slough Reserve with an independent avian scavenger hunt, do-it-yourself crafts and an outdoor exhibit of bird artifacts. To find out more, please visit the event calendar at www.elkhornslough.org.

7 — International Migratory Bird Day Webinar, 10 to 10:45 a.m. What is the Pacific Flyway, and why is it key to the diversity of birds in California? Learn which migratory birds use the Pacific Flyway and how they move across the world in this free Zoom webinar hosted by Nimbus Hatchery Visitor Center naturalists. To register, please visit us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_8a2Mx7v4TSmf8J2x68m9vg. For more information, please contact Stephanie Ambrosia at stephanie.ambrosia@wildlife.ca.gov or (916) 597-7752. 

8 — Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Tour, 8 to 11 a.m., 45211 County Road 32 B, Davis (95618). Yolo Basin Foundation offers monthly tours of the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, October to June. These tours are appropriate for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts and birders! Due to current guidelines, tours are limited to 20 people. Every individual must be registered to participate. For more information and to register, please visit yolobasin.org/wetlands-tours. There is a suggested donation of $10 per adult for tours. Donations support our wetlands education programs.

11 — California Fish and Game Commission Meeting, time to be determined. The meeting is to be held via webinar/teleconference due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. For more information, please visit fgc.ca.gov.

11 — California Fish and Game Commission Wildlife Resources Committee Meeting, time to be determined. The meeting is to be held via webinar/teleconference due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. For more information, please visit fgc.ca.gov.

11 — Vernal Pool Speaker Series: Plants of the Vernal Pools, 7 p.m. Take a closer look at the beautiful and unique plant species that call vernal pools home! Many of the gorgeous flowers that encircle vernal pools are fully protected and a rare treat to see. Carol Witham, botanist and vernal pool expert, will discuss the biology of these plants, why they grow in vernal pools and how to protect and safely view them. To register for this free event, please visit yolobasin.org/grpspeakerseries.  

14 — California Wildlife Conservation Board Lower American River Conservancy Program Proposal Solicitation Notice Closes. Applications must be received by 5 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. For more information, please visit wcb.ca.gov/programs/lower-american-river.

15 — Bat Talk and Walk Tickets On Sale. Did you know that an estimated 250,000 bats live under the Yolo Causeway during the summer? Yolo Basin Foundation hosts popular Bat Talk and Walk events where you can learn all about these amazing and beneficial animals and watch the “flyout” of the largest urban colony of Mexican free-tailed bats in California! This summer, the talk portion will be held via Zoom and the walk portion will be an in-person event to view the flyout. As in past years, there will be a few special nights for CDFW employees and their families. More information and registration links will be available at yolobasin.org/bats2021.

15-16 & 19 — Teachers on the Estuary Workshop, Elkhorn Slough Reserve, 1700 Elkhorn Road, Watsonville (95076). This free hands-on estuarine science workshop focuses on developing inquiry-based lessons for middle and high school teachers. The 2021 TOTE Workshop focus will be climate change and blue carbon, and it will be held as two online learning sessions and one in-person field day at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve. During the field day, all state COVID protection protocols will be practiced, including mask wearing, physical distancing and a capacity on group size. To learn more and to register, please visit www.elkhornslough.org/events/teachers-on-the-estuary-workshop-2.  

20 California Wildlife Conservation Board Meeting, 1 p.m., via Zoom or teleconference. Public comment will be accepted per the agenda. For more information, please visit wcb.ca.gov.

21 — Endangered Species Day Webinar, 10 to 10:45 a.m. Find out which endangered species call California home and what their future may look like in this free Zoom webinar presented by Nimbus Hatchery Visitor Center naturalists. Learn about our native bees and discover what you can do to help them thrive! To register, please visit us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_RvlH50RnQXqfmoQCCyeS4A. For more information, please contact Stephanie Ambrosia at stephanie.ambrosia@wildlife.ca.gov or (916) 597-7752. 

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Media Contact:
Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8907

CDFW Takes Proactive Measures to Increase Salmon Smolt Survival

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is taking the proactive measure of trucking millions of hatchery-raised juvenile Central Valley fall-run chinook salmon this spring to San Pablo Bay, San Francisco Bay and seaside net pens due to projected poor river conditions in the Central Valley. The massive trucking operation is designed to ensure the highest level of survival for the young salmon on their hazardous journey to the Pacific Ocean.

“CDFW is utilizing lessons learned from the past 15 or more years of salmon releases and the last drought to maximize release success,” said Jason Julienne, North Central Region Hatchery Supervisor. “Trucking young salmon to downstream release sites has proven to be one of the  best ways to increase survival to the ocean during dry conditions.”

Millions of young salmon will be transported, bypassing 50 to more than 100 miles of poor river conditions where estimated losses have been significant during dry years.

The massive trucking operation will transport around 20 percent more salmon around the Central Valley rivers and Delta than in typical water years. More than 16.8 million young salmon from four Central Valley hatcheries to sites around the San Pablo and San Francisco bays as well as Half Moon and Monterey bays.  It will take approximately 146 individual truck loads traveling more than 30,000 miles between mid-April to early June to get all the fish out. The salmon will be trucked from the Feather River, Nimbus, Mokelumne and Merced salmon hatcheries.

The adaptive management strategy was triggered by CDFW biologists’ and salmon hatchery managers’ evaluation of current and projected river conditions, anticipating historically low flows and elevated temperatures.  Part of the strategy involves selection of new release sites and rotating between release sites to minimize learned behaviors from predators.  Releases will take place at night and during the day, utilizing both direct release and net pen acclimation techniques, to help maximize survival rates.

Ocean commercially and recreationally caught salmon generate more than $900 million in economic impact annually for California. Economic benefits from ocean caught salmon sold in markets to the purchase of fishing boats, fishing equipment, related travel and transportation by recreational anglers in pursue of these hatchery salmon make a significant contribution to California’s economy.

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Media Contacts:
Jason Julienne, CDFW North Central Region. (916) 496-4985
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

CDFW Photo: Tanker trucks carrying salmon smolts from CDFW’s Central Valley hatcheries line up at Fort Baker near the Golden Gate Bridge in preparation to release the fish, bypassing Central Valley rivers where predation, low water, warm temperatures and other factors can limit survival and their ability to reach the ocean.