All posts by CDFW

CDFW Reminds Residents to be Rattlesnake Safe

Media Contact: Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

As warm weather returns, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding the public to be rattlesnake safe.

All of California is snake country. Much like bats, rattlesnakes are often misunderstood. They play an important role in the ecosystem by keeping rodent populations under control.

California has six venomous snakes, all of which are various species of rattlesnake. They are heavy-bodied, blunt-tailed with triangular-shaped heads. A rattle may not always be present, as they are often lost through breakage and not developed on the young. Additional species information can be found here:

Rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive and usually strike when threatened or provoked. Given room, they will retreat and want to be left alone. They are not confined to rural areas and have been found in urban environments, lakeside parks and golf courses.

The best protection against unwelcome rattlesnakes in the yard is to have a “rattlesnake-proof” fence. The fence should either be solid or with mesh no larger than one-quarter inch. It should be at least 3 feet high with the bottom buried a few inches in the ground.

Keep the fence clear of vegetation and debris. Encourage and protect kingsnakes, which prey on rattlesnakes, and other natural competitors like gopher snakes and racers.

On rare occasions, rattlesnakes can cause serious injury to humans. Most bites occur between the months of April and October when humans are most active outdoors. The California Poison Control Center notes that rattlesnakes account for more than 800 bites each year in the U.S. with one to two deaths.

CDFW recommends the following outdoor safety precautions:
-Wear hiking boots and loose-fitting long pants.

-Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas.

-When hiking, stick to well-used trails.

-Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.

-Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark.

-Step ON logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood.

– Remember, rattlesnakes can swim so never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers.

-Teach children to respect snakes and to leave them alone.

What to do in the event of a snake bite:
-Stay calm and wash the bite area gently with soap and water.

-Remove watches, rings, etc, which may constrict swelling.

-Immobilize the affected area and go to the nearest medical facility.

What you should NOT do after a rattlesnake bite:

  • DON’T apply a tourniquet.
  • DON’T pack the bite area      in ice.
  • DON’T cut the wound with a      knife or razor.
  • DON’T use your mouth to      suck out the venom.
  • DON’T let the victim drink      alcohol.

For more general information on rattlesnakes, visit:

Deer Hair-loss Syndrome Challenges California Researchers

Media Contact: Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

Low Fawn Survival Rate Impacts Population

Researchers at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are studying a deer hair-loss syndrome across the state.

Wildlife experts are calling the issue “hair loss” but the real problem appears to be from the infestation of non-native lice and in some cases, a heavy infestation of internal parasites. Symptoms range from a scruffy looking hair coat to near complete baldness. Hair–loss syndrome is also associated with poor nutritional condition, making it difficult for fawns to survive to replace the normal mortality in mature deer.

“Some of us speculate that the louse-infested deer spend so much time grooming they become easy targets of predation by coyotes or mountain lions,” said CDFW senior wildlife biologist, Greg Gerstenberg. “While this theory is still under investigation, what we do know is that the louse has impacted migratory populations of California deer which now have a low fawn survival rate, making it difficult to replenish the herd.”

The goal of the research is to understand why the lice infestations are appearing as well as to understand the full impacts of the non-native louse species and hair loss. Information is also being shared with other western states that have similar issues in order to identify trends and potential treatments.

It has been speculated that this condition may be attributed to an environmental deficiency of copper or selenium or some other underlying environmental factor such as a difficult to detect disease agent,” said CDFW state veterinarian, Pam Swift. “Regardless, we are conducting a comprehensive coordinated effort that will hopefully shed some light on this perplexing syndrome and minimize its effect on California’s precious deer population.”

To date, researchers have successfully captured and collected hair and blood samples from more than 600 deer and elk across California. Counting and identifying lice on each deer, applying radio collars to track the deer, and treating some deer for lice will hopefully give researchers some quantifiable information they need to identify trends and find a solution.

During “Be Bear Aware” Month CDFW Reminds Public to Stash Food and Trash

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

May is “Be Bear Aware” Month and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds the public to act responsibly when in bear country. Spring is the time of year when California’s black bears emerge from their winter dens in search of food. Because bears are attracted to anything edible or smelly, their search often leads them into campsites and residential neighborhoods, where trash and food is readily available.

There are an estimated 30,000 bears in California. Throughout spring and summer, CDFW receives many calls when bears break into homes, rummage through trash bins and raid campsites. These bears are often labeled “nuisance” bears, but in reality they are just doing what comes naturally to them, foraging for food.

“Our bear problems are human-caused. It is people’s behavior that needs to change,” said Marc Kenyon, CDFW’s Bear Program Manager. “By taking just a few precautions to secure food and trash, campers and residents can save themselves thousands of dollars in property damage, help protect their families from injury and save the lives of bears. Bears that become habituated to humans or conditioned to eating our food and trash often have to be killed.”

Tips for Bear-proofing your Home, Rental or Timeshare:

Bears have keen noses and can smell an easy meal from miles away. They can easily tear a front door off its hinges if they smell food left out on the kitchen counter. To protect your family and property from bear break-ins follow these simple tips:

• 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.
• Only provide bird feeders during November through March and make them inaccessible to bears.
• Don’t leave any scented products outside, even non-food items such as suntan lotion, insect repellent, soap or candles.
• Keep doors and windows closed and locked.
• Consider installing motion-detector alarms, electric fencing or motion-activated sprinklers.
• 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.

Tips for Bear-proofing your Campsite:

No one wants to worry about housekeeping on a camping trip, but maintaining a clean campsite is the responsible and safe thing to do when visiting black bear country. Here are a few tips for bear-proofing your campsite:

• Use bear-proof garbage cans whenever possible or store your garbage in a secure location with your food.
• Store food (including 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 the barbecue grill after each use.
• Never keep food or toiletries in your tent.

Facts about Black Bears:

• The only species of bears in California are black bears. However, they do range in color from blonde to black, with cinnamon brown being the most common color.
• There are an estimated 30,000 black bears in California.
• Black bears will seek to avoid confrontation with humans. If encountered, always leave them an escape route.
• Males are much larger than females and can weigh up to 500 pounds, although average weight is about 300 pounds.
• Black bears can sprint up to 35 mph and they are strong swimmers and great tree climbers.
• A typical wild bear diet consists of berries, plants, nuts, roots, honey, honeycomb, insects, larvae, carrion and small mammals.
• As winter approaches, bears will forage for food up to 20 hours a day, storing enough fat to sustain them through hibernation. Bears often hibernate in large hollow trees 40 to 60 feet off the ground.
• Bears that are accustomed to people can become too bold and lose their fear of humans.

For more information including bear-proof containers and where to buy them, please visit

Students from Pasadena and Glendale Win Top Honors in CDFW’s Bear Aware Film Contest

Contact: Carol Singleton, CDFW Communications Office, (916) 322-8962
Rebecca Barboza, CDFW Environmental Scientist, (909) 899-0659

Black bears have emerged from their winter dens and are on the hunt for food. To help keep these bears in the wild and out of residential neighborhoods, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) challenged teen filmmakers in the San Gabriel Valley to create short films that educate residents on how to properly secure food and trash so they don’t attract bears.

The results for the Bear Aware Youth Film Contest are now in, and the first-place prize of $500 went to two filmmakers from John Muir High School in Pasadena—Jose Nuno and Alex Burgos.

“Jose and Alex’s film is a must see. They skillfully incorporated the key Bear Aware messages, as well as biological information about black bears, and did it in a way that was entertaining and funny,” said Marc Kenyon, CDFW’s bear program manager.

The second-place prize of $300 went to Hasmik Djoulakian from Clark Magnet School in Glendale, and the third-place prize of $200 went to Chase Baker, Erik Bakhshi and Boris Kitapszyan, also from Clark Magnet School.

“This is our second year holding the Bear Aware Film Contest and we were very impressed with the thoughtfulness and creativity that went into these films,” said Kenyon. “The contest is a great way to engage youth in helping to conserve our natural resources while also informing the public about their responsibilities in keeping black bears wild.”

The students’ Bear Aware Films are now posted on CDFW’s YouTube page and will be used for Bear Aware Outreach in the San Gabriel Valley. To view the films, please go to

The film contest was made possible by donations from Sierra Club ($600) and Bass Pro Shops in Rancho Cucamonga ($400).

The Bear Aware Film Contest is an important component in our public outreach campaign to raise awareness about the importance of securing food and trash while in black bear habitat. Once bears become habituated to human food and trash they lose their natural ways and can become a threat to humans. When this happens, oftentimes the result is that they must be killed.

For more information on how to keep black bears wild, please visit


Commission Adopts Big Game Hunting Season and 2013 Big Game Hunting Digest Now Available at Vendor and Online

Media Contacts:
Joe Hobbs, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-9992
Adrianna Shea, FGC Deputy Director, (916) 653-4899
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478

The California Fish and Game Commission (FGC) adopted big game hunting season regulations for 2013 recently in Santa Rosa.

Regulations of each of the big game species and the proposed number of tags available for each were reviewed and approved by the FGC. Most of the seasons adopted were similar to last year’s seasons. There were some reduction in tags in X zones for deer and antelope and harvest levels in two Tule elk hunts were adjusted. FGC adopted a regulation to potentially increase the number of bighorn tags available to non-residents from 5 percent to 10 percent. Each year, tag quotas for all big game species are adjusted in relation to animal population surveys. Applications for big game tags must be submitted and transactions completed before midnight June 2, 2013.

This year 208,880 deer tags are proposed statewide. There are no changes to the A and B zones. In X zones 1, 3B and 12 the number of available tags was reduced due to low population indexes and a low ratio of bucks to does. In X5B the tag numbers were reduced due to fire impact, which may cause hunter crowding. More information on deer harvest, management and tag allocation is available at

“We are appreciative of the Commission’s review and adoption of the big game hunting season package,” said Eric Loft, CDFW Big Game Branch Chief.  “California offers some of the most exciting and challenging hunting opportunities in the nation.”

The full regulation package approved by the Commission will be available at

The FGC actions coincide with the release of the California Big Game Hunting Digest, which is now available at license vendors and via download at

The Big Game Hunting Digest includes information on proposed seasons, how big game drawings work, including tag drawing application instructions for deer, elk, antelope and bighorn sheep and the deadline for applications. A big game drawing worksheet is included to assist applicants in pre-selecting their choices in the big game drawing. Drawing statistics are provided for each big game species, giving applicants a realistic idea of the likelihood they will be drawn on each hunt. New regulations on hunting with hounds are addressed along with other information on bear and pig hunting.

Applicants can now also apply on line at All applications must be submitted and transactions completed before midnight June 2, 2013.

Fundraising random drawings for one of each of the following species will also be held this year: deer, bighorn sheep pronghorn antelope and elk. The drawings are open to anyone 12 years of age or older, for $5.97 per chance, per tag. Applicants do not need a valid hunting license to apply, and may apply for the drawings as many times as they wish. Applications must be submitted and transactions completed before midnight June 2, 2013.

Proceeds from all fundraising tags are deposited into the newly established Big Game Management Account, which is used to benefit antelope, elk, deer, wild pigs, bear and sheep populations. An advisory committee reviews and provides comments to CDFW on all proposed projects funded from the account. Recent activities funded by revenue from the fundraising tags have included helicopter surveys, other deer and bighorn sheep studies and improving both hunting access and water source improvements for sheep and deer.