Blue-Colored Fat Linked to Rodenticide Exposure in Hunter-Harvested Wildlife

A flock of geese in the San Francisco Bay Area were likely exposed to an anticoagulant rodenticide, according to findings released in February from a postmortem examination by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Wildlife Health Lab (WHL). 

In Fall 2020, approximately ten Canada Geese shot by hunters in Contra Costa County were found to have blue-colored fat. The WHL conducted an examination on one of the carcasses and detected Diphacinone, an anticoagulant rodenticide, in the goose’s liver. 

“Rodenticide baits like diphacinone often contain a dye which identifies the bait as a poison. We suspect the blue-colored fat was caused by ingestion of a diphacinone bait containing blue dye,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Krysta Rogers, an avian disease specialist. 

Diphacinone is a first-generation anticoagulant rodenticide that typically requires multiple feedings to cause death. It is labeled for use for agriculture, landscape maintenance, and in and around homes and businesses. Canada geese often forage in flocks and readily feed on grasses, sedges and seeds including agricultural grains such as corn, alfalfa and oats. 

CDFW encourages hunters to report any unusual findings in harvested wildlife and not to consume any part of an animal with blue fat or other abnormality. Incidents may be reported to the CDFW’s Wildlife Health Lab at WILab@wildlife.ca.gov or (916) 358-2790. 

Pesticide applicators are urged to use care when using rodenticides so as not to expose wildlife. Prior to application, it is important to ensure non-target wildlife are not using the area where the pesticide is to be applied. 

For more information, please visit the rodenticides page on CDFW’s website. For questions about pesticide use and regulations, or to report misuse, please contact your County Agricultural Commissioner’s office. For Contra Costa County, please call (925) 608-6600.

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Media Contacts
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120
 

red abalone

The Recreational Red Abalone Fishery to Remain Closed Until 2026

While the spring season typically signals the start of the recreational red abalone season, CDFW reminds anglers that the northern California recreational red abalone fishery will remain closed until April 1, 2026. Red abalone stocks continue to be impacted by large scale die offs in this area due to the collapse of the bull kelp forest, which is their primary food. At its December meeting, the Fish and Game Commission extended the fishery closure for an additional five years to 2026. The Commission closed the fishery in 2017 because of the mortality of red abalone populations due to environmental stressors. 

The current poor environmental conditions and depressed abalone stock were caused by a series of large-scale ecological impacts. These included a massive marine heatwave and El Niño in 2014-2016, the local extinction of sunflower sea stars due to disease and subsequent population expansion of purple sea urchins. The result was a major shift from a robust healthy bull kelp forest ecosystem to one dominated by sea urchins with little kelp or other algae. Such conditions lead to starvation and mass mortalities of abalone, which need kelp to survive.

While the presence of persistently stable sea urchin dominated areas is not a new phenomenon in California, the more than 200 miles of poor conditions across the north coast is unprecedented. An Interim Action Plan for Protecting and Restoring California’s Kelp Forests was developed to guide the state’s efforts to help understand and improve the situation. Several projects are focused on reducing purple sea urchin populations at strategic areas of the coastline. The goal is to create patches of healthy bull kelp that will provide a source of kelp spores that may lead to recovery of the kelp forest when environmental conditions become favorable.

Recovery of bull kelp forests and the diverse ecosystem they support will take time. Thus, the extension of the abalone fishery closure is needed to allow for recovery and protection of surviving abalone. When reopening of the fishery is considered, it will be guided by the Red Abalone Fishery Management Plan, which is currently under development. Learn more about the Red Abalone Fishery Management Plan.

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Media Contacts:
Ian Taniguchi, CDFW Marine Region, (562) 889-6719
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

Youth Art Contest Seeks Invasive Species Detectives

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is pleased to announce the eighth annual California Invasive Species Youth Art Contest. This year’s theme, “Be An Invasive Species Detective,” encourages students to think about how paying attention to their surroundings can protect against the spread of invasive species.

Pictured: one of last year’s winning submissions

“Detectives look for clues and use observation to solve crimes,” said Elizabeth Brusati, an environmental scientist with CDFW’s Invasive Species Program. “We want young people to look for ways to stop the spread of invasive species. Helpful actions could include choosing native plants for landscaping, not releasing unwanted pets into the wild, reporting invasive species sightings, and taking precautions to clean, drain and dry gear after visiting waterbodies.”

The contest is offered by CDFW’s Invasive Species Program as part of California Invasive Species Action Week, June 5-13.

There are three age divisions for youths in grades 2-4, 5-8 and 9-12. All types of media are welcome and encouraged, including (but not limited to) drawings, paintings, animations, comic strips, videos and public service announcements. Entries should reflect the 2021 theme: “Be An Invasive Species Detective.”

The top three winners in each division will receive awards and have their entries announced on CDFW’s Facebook page.

The deadline for art contest entries is May 5. Completed entries and entry forms should be submitted electronically. Submission instructions can be found on the CDFW website.

The goal of California Invasive Species Action Week is to increase public awareness of invasive species issues and encourage public participation in the fight against California’s invasive species and their impacts on our natural resources.

Please visit CDFW online for details about the 2021 contest and information on how to participate in Action Week.

The mission of CDFW’s Invasive Species Program is to reduce the impacts of invasive species on the wildlands and waterways of California. The program is involved in efforts to prevent the introduction of these species into the state, detect and respond to introductions when they occur, and prevent the spread of those species that have established.

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Media Contacts
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120 
Elizabeth Brusati, CDFW Invasive Species Program, (916) 376-8657 

Aggressive Coyote Removed from Contra Costa County

A multi-agency team of wildlife management professionals and local law enforcement caught and euthanized the coyote that attacked five people in the Moraga/Lafayette area of Contra Costa County, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced.

This unusually aggressive coyote attacked a small child on July 9, 2020, an adult male on Dec. 4, 2020, another adult male on Dec. 15, 2020, another small child on Feb. 16, 2021 and another adult male on Feb. 19, 2021. All the attacks occurred within two miles of one another in a north to south Lafayette/Moraga corridor. Personnel from CDFW, U.S. Dept of Agriculture – Wildlife Services, the Moraga and Lafayette police departments and Contra Costa County Animal Services have been working constantly to locate and remove the offending animal. On Thursday, evidence from CDFW’s wildlife forensics lab matched the DNA of this coyote to samples taken from each of the five victims.

U.C. Davis veterinary staff will conduct a rabies test. There is no current evidence to suggest the coyote is rabid but because of the severity of the disease it is standard operating procedure in an animal attack investigation such as this one. Rabies tests can only be done post-mortem.

Contra Costa County residents interested in learning more about living near coyotes can visit Keepmewild.org where there are helpful tips on how we can all better coexist with coyotes and other wild animals around us.

Personnel from the agencies involved in the operation wish to extend gratitude to the Contra Costa County citizens in the vicinity who have been overwhelmingly supportive of the effort to remove the dangerous animal. It is the sincere hope of the agencies that locals can recreate outdoors in the area again with significantly reduced anxiety and that the community knows that outdoor recreation is still very safe.

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Media Contact: 
Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Captain, (916) 508-7095 

Aquarium Moss Balls Threaten to Spread Invasive Mussels

A zebra mussel on an aquarium moss ball. Photo courtesy of Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is asking retailers and consumers to help stop the spread of a dangerous invasive mussel that has been found in aquarium moss balls sold in California and nationwide.

CDFW was notified last week that zebra mussels, highly invasive freshwater mussels which are illegal to possess in California, were found on aquatic moss balls at a national pet supply retailer. Investigators traced the origin of the mussel-contaminated moss balls to a distributor in Southern California. CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division worked with the distributor to immediately cease outgoing shipments and prevent the receipt of additional importations. State and federal law enforcement agencies continue to investigate the potential supply chains associated with this product, and have since identified several additional suppliers to California and nationwide.

“If zebra mussels escape from aquaria and into the environment, they pose the risk of causing enormous environmental and economic impacts,” said Martha Volkoff, CDFW environmental program manager. “Once introduced to rivers, creeks, lakes and canals, mussels multiply quickly, encrust surfaces and disrupt ecosystems, water delivery systems and recreational opportunities. It is imperative that pet suppliers and aquarists take action to prevent these mussels that have entered the aquarium trade from reaching our waterways.”

California law prohibits possession, importation, shipment and release of zebra mussels in any waters within the state. Possession of zebra mussels in California, live or dead, and whether intentional or not, is a violation of California Fish and Game Code section 2301.

CDFW is calling upon pet supply retailers and home aquarium enthusiasts to prevent the spread of mussels from aquariums.

Retailers:

  • Immediately pull moss balls from your shelves and store in a secure location until they can be destroyed. Also inspect all other moist and aquatic plant products. All moss balls, and any other products found to be contaminated with mussels should be placed in a bag, frozen overnight and disposed of in the municipal trash.
  • Immediately inspect all fish tanks and filtration systems for mussels. If mussels are found, cease sale of all products from those tanks. Remove all mussels and live plants, place in a bag, freeze overnight and dispose of in the municipal trash. Clean and disinfect all aquaria, filters and decorations.

Consumers:

If you have added moss balls to your aquarium or fish bowl in the past year, assume that you may have introduced zebra mussels and take one of the following actions:

Alternative 1. If you observe mussels in your aquaria, per U.S. Fish and Wildlife recommendations, empty and disinfect the aquarium and all of its contents: fws.gov/fisheries/ANS/zebra-mussel-disposal.html. Even if you do not observe mussels consider decontaminating your tank and all of its contents. (Considering the significant investment many aquarists make in establishing and maintaining their aquaria, disinfecting and reestablishing a system per these recommendations may not be a realistic expectation. If so, please adhere to Alternative 2.)

Alternative 2. Quarantine and monitor your aquarium for at least six months. Complete instructions for quarantining your tank, and an observation log to assist you with monitoring your tank, are available on CDFW’s website: wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Invasives/Aquarium-Moss-Balls. The quarantine would end six months after no mussels are observed.

For additional information and guidance, please call CDFW’s Invasive Mussel Hotline at (866) 440-9530 or visit wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Invasives/Quagga-Mussels.

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Media Contact:
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120