Trees Moving to Higher, Cooler Elevations Study Shows

Mountain hemlock. CDFW Photo by David Wright

Signature tree species in the high Sierra Nevada forests – including mountain hemlock, red fir and western white pine – are shifting toward higher, cooler elevations according to new research by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). This study foreshadows how climate warming may significantly alter entire habitats for multiple species.

The CDFW researchers found that large areas of Plumas and Sierra counties no longer have much mountain hemlock, as much of the northern Sierra Nevada lacks the higher mountains the trees now need to persist. These conifer species that are shifting to higher elevations provide food for insects, birds and mammals, and help to build forest soil.

The report was published this week in the California Fish and Game 2016 Winter Issue.

In addition to research on high-elevation tree species in the northern Sierra Nevada, CDFW-funded researchers also recently concluded that 16 of 29 different types of natural vegetation communities in California are highly or near highly vulnerable to climate change by the end of the century. These include Pacific Coast saltmarsh, high montane conifer forest and Western North American freshwater marsh.

The climate vulnerability study was completed by researchers at UC Davis with funding from CDFW. Called “A Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of California’s Terrestrial Vegetation,” the report can be found here. It was prepared in association with the CDFW’s State Wildlife Action Plan 2015 Update, and the research will help the department understand why certain ecosystems are more vulnerable to climate change and where species may be able to persist during unfavorable environmental conditions.


Media contacts:

David Wright, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 358-2945
Whitney Albright, CDFW Climate Science and Renewable Energy Branch, (916) 445-3394
Carol Singleton, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8962

Bears Follow their Noses, so You Should Follow these Tips

Black bear by water
A California black bear

With an estimated 35,000 bears, California has a healthy and growing black bear population. In spring hibernating bears emerge from their winter slumber and begin an almost perpetual search for food. It is not uncommon for a black bear to consume up to 20,000 calories a day. Unfortunately, this search can sometimes lead bears into populated areas and conflicts with humans.

“A bear’s nose is seven times better than a hound dog’s, and it will lead a bear to anything that is edible or smelly,” said Marc Kenyon, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) human-wildlife conflict expert. “Bears can smell meat drippings on your barbecue, dog food on your porch and candy in your sleeping bag. So if you live near or visit bear habitat, for your safety and the well-being of the bear, always keep your food and trash properly secured.”

Once a bear finds an easy food source, it will return again and again to the same location, and if that food source is a neighborhood or campground, the consequences are not going to be pleasant. Not only can bears get sick from ingesting trash, they can also become dangerous as they begin to associate humans with food.

Bears that become habituated to human sources of food must be killed. Relocating habituated bears does not work. The bears ultimately return to the same neighborhood or another populated area and continue their bad habits — scavenging through trash cans, breaking into homes and even attacking domestic animals.

Although there have been no documented human fatalities from black bears in the state’s history, attacks have occurred. In order to keep bears in the wild and people safe, CDFW provides the following Bear Aware tips for people living in or visiting bear country:

For residents:

  • Purchase and properly use a bear-proof garbage container.
  • Wait to put trash out until the morning of collection day.
  • Don’t leave trash, groceries or animal feed in your car.
  • Keep garbage cans clean and deodorize them with bleach or ammonia.
  • Keep barbecue grills clean and stored in a garage or shed when not in use.
  • Avoid using birdfeeders.
  • Don’t leave any scented products outside, including non-food items like suntan lotion and candles.
  • Keep doors and windows closed and locked.
  • Consider installing motion-detector alarms and/or electric fencing.
  • Keep livestock in secure enclosures.
  • Harvest fruit off trees as soon as it is ripe, and promptly collect fruit that falls.
  • Securely block access to potential hibernation sites such as crawl spaces under decks and buildings.

For campers and hikers: 

  • Use bear-proof trash cans whenever possible or store your garbage in a secure location with your food.
  • Store anything smelly including food, pet food and toiletries in bear-proof containers or in an airtight container in the trunk of your vehicle.
  • Clean dishes and store food and garbage immediately after meals.
  • Clean your barbecue grill after each use.
  • Never keep food, toiletries or anything with a scent in your tent.
  • Never intentionally feed bears in order to attract them for viewing.
  • When hiking make noise to prevent surprising a bear. Clap, sing or talk loudly.
  • Travel in a group if possible.
  • Pay attention to the surroundings and watch for bear signs, such as tracks or claw or bite marks on trees.
  • Keep dogs on a leash.
  • If you see a bear, do not approach it. Make sure it has an escape route.
  • If you encounter a bear in the wild, back away slowly. Do not run. Raise your arms to look larger and speak in a calm, loud voice. Do not turn your back.


Media Contact:  
Carol Singleton, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8962

Do Not Disturb Young Wildlife: If you Care, Leave them There

Healthy fawn in the grass

It’s springtime again and young wildlife are emerging from their dens and nests and beginning to learn the ways of the world. Because of this increase in wildlife activity, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds people to leave young wildlife alone if they come across them in the wild. The improper handling of young wildlife is a problem in California and across the nation, especially in spring.

“Each species cares for and trains its young in unique ways,” said Nicole Carion, CDFW’s statewide coordinator for wildlife rehabilitation. “Some animals, such as deer, will leave their young for hours at a time while they forage for food. A small fawn stashed in the bushes by its mother may look vulnerable and defenseless, but it is likely healthy and well cared for and should not be disturbed.”

Not disturbing young wildlife also means keeping your pets on a leash. If a fawn or other young animal is startled by a roaming dog, it may abandon its nest or den and lose its way.

“If a wild animal appears in distress, the best course of action is to call a wildlife rehabilitator, who can determine whether there is a need for a rescue,” said Carion. “Rehabilitators are trained to provide care for wild animals so they retain their natural fear of humans and do not become habituated or imprinted.”

It’s also important to remember that wild animals can cause serious injury with their sharp claws, hooves and teeth. In addition, they can carry ticks, fleas and lice, and can transmit diseases to humans, including rabies and tularemia, so it is best to leave the responsibility for intervention to CDFW personnel or permitted wildlife rehabilitators. In addition, in California it is illegal to feed wild animals, to keep orphaned or injured wildlife for more than 48 hours or to keep native wildlife as pets.

Here are some commonly asked questions:

Q: A very small juvenile bird has fallen from its nest in a tree in my backyard. I am afraid something my might happen to it if I leave it there on the ground. Should I bring it into the house and feed it until it is able to fly?

A: No. The best thing to do is put the bird carefully back into the nest (or the nest itself back into the tree). But, do this only if you can do it safely. Don’t worry about getting your scent on the bird. Also, some birds that appear to have fallen from the nest are actually recently fledged and are learning to fly. They will not stay in the nest.

Q: There is a young scrub jay in my backyard and it seems to be having difficulty flying. I am afraid that either my dog or cat will get it. Should I bring it inside and feed it until it is able to fly?

A:  No. As a fledgling, it had enough feathers to leave the nest. This means it is old enough to learn to fly, which it will rapidly begin to do. Leave the bird alone, and keep your dog or cat in the house for a few hours so it won’t disturb the bird.

Q: This morning I found an “abandoned” fawn near the edge of a field on my property. I brought the fawn into my house to save it, but I don’t know how to care for it. What should I do?

A: In most cases, the fawn probably isn’t abandoned. Immediately take the fawn back to the spot where you found it and leave it there. Do not feed the fawn anything. Cow’s milk will cause diarrhea and dehydration. Fawns require a special formula that cannot be purchased at a store. The mother should come back again looking for the fawn. Even one to two days after removal from the wild, fawns have been successfully reunited with their mothers by returning them to the place where they were found. When you picked up the fawn, the mother was probably not far away. Usually, young fawns are quite safe when left alone for the day by their mother.

Q: The cat just caught and killed a mother bird. The baby birds are now obviously orphaned. Shouldn’t I take them to a wildlife rehabilitator?

A: Most songbird young are cared for by both parents. If one of the parent birds is killed, the surviving adult can successfully raise the chicks. Even if you think both parents are dead, call the rehabilitator for advice before taking any direct action with the young birds

Q: While doing yard work, I accidentally disturbed a nest of baby rabbits at the far corner of my property. They seemed so young and scared. I waited, but saw no sign of their mother. Should I rescue them?

A: They do not need to be rescued. The mother will not return as long as you remain at the nest. Just return the nest back to its original condition as best as you can and leave. The mother will return and care for the young. Cottontail rabbits leave their young for many hours while eating, but return for a brief time to nurse the young. As with other young wildlife, it is best to leave them alone.

To learn more about how to live responsibly with wildlife, including keeping food and garbage secured and not feeding wild animals, please visit CDFW’s Keep Me Wild website at For more information on wildlife rehabilitation, please visit

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Media Contacts:
Nicole Carion, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (530) 357-3986
Carol Singleton, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8962

Spiny Lobster Report Cards Due by April 30

Photo by Derek Stein

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds 2015-2016 Spiny Lobster Report Card holders to return their cards by April 30, 2016 as required by law. The cards must be returned even if no lobsters were taken or no attempts were made to take lobsters.

Card holders should review their report cards carefully and check that the information recorded is complete and accurate. Information collected from the cards provides CDFW with data necessary to monitor and manage California’s spiny lobster fishery.

Any 2015-2016 Spiny Lobster Report Card holder who fails to return their card(s) by April 30, 2016 will be charged a non-return fee of $21.60 upon issuance of a Spiny Lobster Report Card in the subsequent fishing season. Otherwise they may choose to skip one fishing season to be able to purchase a spiny lobster report card the following season at no extra cost. If multiple spiny lobster report cards were purchased, please report all cards, including lost cards, to avoid the non-return fee when purchasing a spiny lobster report card next lobster fishing season.

Spiny Lobster Report Card data can be submitted either online at or by mail to:

CDFW – Lobster Report Card
3883 Ruffin Rd.
San Diego, CA 92123

For additional information and a list of frequently asked questions about this program, please visit CDFW’s  California Spiny Lobster webpage.


Media Contacts:
Tom Mason, CDFW Marine Region, (562) 342-7107
Travis Buck, CDFW Marine Region, (858) 467-4214
Carrie Wilson, CDFW Communications, (831) 649-7191

It’s Easier than Ever to Pre-order a Salton Sea Specialty License Plate

SaltonSeaPlate.com_hi_res04The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) just made it easier to pre-order a Salton Sea specialty license plate online using a credit card. The new online payment option at replaces the need to fill out a hard copy and mail it in.

Funds raised from the sale of the plates help to restore the Salton Sea’s air quality, wildlife habitat and precious water.

Under the Department of Motor Vehicle’s rules regarding the issuance of specialty license plates, 7,500 specialty plates must be pre-ordered by Jan. 30, 2017, before they can be produced and distributed.

The Salton Sea is one of the world’s largest inland seas and at 227 feet below sea level, it is one of the lowest spots on earth. Once a thriving recreation area, the health of the sea is now in decline, with water level dropping and salinity rising.

However, due to its location along the most important flyway in North America, it still provides critical habitat for more than 400 species of resident and migrating birds. The sea also sustains an abundant population of tilapia, which are critical for the many fish eating birds such as pelicans and cormorants.

Funds raised from the specialty plates will support the Salton Sea Ecosystem Restoration Program, a coordinated effort among the California State Legislature, various federal, state and local agencies, stakeholders and the general public. To view current and proposed restoration projects, please visit

To pre-order your Salton Sea specialty license plate, please visit and be one of the first to Save the Sea!

Media Contact: Carol Singleton, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8962