All posts by kmacinty

2016 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year Announced

(Photo, left to right: California Fish and Game Commission President Eric Sklar, Fresno County Deputy District Attorney Sabrina Ashjian, CDFW Chief of Enforcement David Bess.)

The California Fish and Game Commission has honored Fresno County Deputy District Attorney (DDA) Sabrina Ashjian as the Commission’s 2016 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year. The selection process was based upon nominations from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Law Enforcement Division, whose wildlife officers regularly work with all 58 District Attorneys’ offices.

The award was presented to DDA Ashjian amongst her peers last night at the California District Attorneys Association annual summer conference in South Lake Tahoe.

“We recognize prosecuting attorneys as an integral partner in the effort to conserve California’s fish and wildlife resources for its intrinsic value and for future generations,” said Fish and Game Commission President Eric Sklar. President Sklar was in South Lake Tahoe to present the award.

CDFW and the Commission recognize many prosecuting attorneys who go above and beyond to prosecute the state’s poachers and polluters, but this year, DDA Ashjian stood out among the rest.

Ashjian was always willing to meet with wildlife officers in Fresno County on moment’s notice, after hours, and on weekends to review details of investigations. During many investigations of the most egregious poaching cases, Ashjian remained available and supportive every step of the way. She even took the initiative to ride-along on patrol with wildlife officers to better understand the challenging investigations and unique nature of a wildlife officer’s work.

Ashjian has gone out of her way to be a liaison between CDFW and the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office. During her tenure, she has taken time to educate and share insight about CDFW and resource crimes to her co-workers and in turn has educated wildlife officers about the challenges of prosecutions and how to overcome them.

“As passionate as our wildlife officers are at bringing suspected poachers to justice, DDA Ashjian is at prosecuting them,” said David Bess, Chief of the CDFW Law Enforcement Division. Chief Bess was also on hand to present the award last night.

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Media Contacts:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982
Cpt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-6692

SHARE Program Offers Elk Hunts, Including New Properties

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is accepting applications for 31 elk hunting opportunities offered through the Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) program.

The hunts will occur at various times between Aug. 15 and Dec. 24, 2017 on 28 select properties in Colusa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino and Siskiyou counties. Specific details for all 31 elk hunts can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/SHARE#elk. CDFW will be accepting applications through Monday, July 24.

The SHARE program was created to provide additional hunting, fishing and other recreational access on private lands in California by offering incentives to private landowners. Participating landowners receive liability protection and compensation for providing public access to or through their land for wildlife-dependent recreational activities.

“CDFW has been working to increase private lands access for California hunters. In the last year, we’ve enrolled two new elk hunting properties — one in Colusa County, the other in Siskiyou County,” said Victoria Barr, CDFW’s SHARE program coordinator. “We’re now up to 31 different elk hunts, which demonstrates great progress for the program.”

All elk tags will be distributed through a random draw process. While hunters may take only one elk per year in California, these hunts offer additional opportunities beyond those issued through the general Big Game Drawing. SHARE hunt applications can be purchased by anyone with a valid 2017 California big game hunting license from any CDFW license office or online at www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/InternetSales.

An $11.37 non-refundable application fee will be charged for each hunt application. Applicants may look up their draw results and download their hunt packets on July 28 by entering their customer information on CDFW’s website at www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/InternetSales.

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Media Contacts:
Victoria Barr, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-4034
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 651-7824

Four Black Bears Transferred to Oakland Zoo Under Unique Circumstances

A female black bear and her three cubs were transferred to Oakland Zoo from the care of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Wildlife Investigations Lab on Tuesday.

Though it is CDFW policy not to place large adult mammals into captivity, a sequence of unique circumstances provided these bears an opportunity for a life as educational ambassadors at Oakland Zoo’s upcoming California Trail exhibit, rather than euthanasia for the sow and attempted rehabilitation of the cubs.

In the early hours of Monday, May 15, the sow and cubs broke into a home in Pine Mountain Club in Kern County. The elderly resident of the home attempted to haze the bears by banging pots and pans to no avail. The sow charged and swiped at the resident, causing injury to her left arm. She was treated at a local hospital and is recovering.

Per the CDFW public safety policy, a black bear that is known to have attacked or injured a human is deemed a public safety bear and must be euthanized.

During the investigation, CDFW learned of eight other incidents in the same vicinity over the three weeks leading up to the incident involving a sow with three cubs, believed to be the same four bears. These incidents were not reported to CDFW. None of these incidents resulted in human injury, however the bears did significant property damage to vehicles, garages and homes.

On the night of May 15, CDFW set a culvert trap in Pine Mountain Club and by the early morning of May 16, the sow and her cubs were safely captured. CDFW transported them to a holding facility at the Wildlife Investigations Laboratory near Sacramento. The cubs were approximately 12-15 lbs. and not yet weaned from the sow.

CDFW decided to hold and monitor all four bears until the cubs were weaned, with the hope that the cubs could be rehabilitated and eventually returned to their natural habitat. As a known public safety animal, the sow was to be euthanized per CDFW policy.

However as monitoring continued, CDFW staff determined that the bears were habituated to humans and not suitable candidates for release. CDFW began to search for a captive facility for the cubs.

Oakland Zoo requested to take the three cubs, as well as the sow, for their 56-acre California Trail expansion, its focus to highlight California’s natural habitat as part of an initiative to emphasize native species and educate the public about human-wildlife issues. In the interest of the cubs’ well-being and outreach opportunity, CDFW supported this unique strategy of placing the sow into captivity.

The exhibit, scheduled to open in summer of 2018, is intended to mimic California habitat, educate visitors about wildlife in California and inspire people to take action for the future of the state’s wildlife resources and habitats.

“Oakland Zoo is very grateful to be in a position to provide a home for these bears,” said Dr. Joel Parrott, President and CEO of Oakland Zoo. “They are an important example of the human-wildlife conflict and highlight how we need to care for wildlife throughout California.”

“We are so happy to be able to help these four bears,” said Colleen Kinzley, Director of Animal Care, Conservation and Research at Oakland Zoo. “As too often is the case when wild animals come into conflict with humans, it’s the animals that lose. Oakland Zoo’s purpose is to help people understand the challenges and the responsibilities of living with wildlife. Our first responsibility will be to provide these bears a rich life in a complex natural habitat that will be part of our new California Trail exhibit opening in 2018. We will share their story and help people to understand the role we all have in preventing these types of situations.”

Tuesday’s transfer of a sow, predestined for euthanasia, with her three cubs was highly unusual. No opportunity for transfer of a known public safety animal has previously existed. This situation is unique and does not set precedent for future outcomes for other habituated bears, public safety animals or nuisance wildlife. Additionally, captivity is far from an ideal outcome for a wild bear.

The best outcome for these black bears would have been to exhibit natural, healthy behaviors in their native habitat, free of human-related attractants, wildlife feeding issues and eventual habituation. During CDFW’s investigation, Pine Mountain Club residents reported that the sow had been well known in the area for a couple of years and they believed this was her first litter of cubs. The sow was known to scavenge for human-related food sources, cause property damage, and was teaching her cubs how to enter vehicles and homes in search of food. As a result of habituation, these bears did not recognize how to search for or rely on natural food sources.

“We are thankful for the unique opportunity Oakland Zoo has provided for these bears, and for the partnership that developed because of it,” said CDFW Wildlife Veterinarian Brandon Munk. “These four bears will have a new facility to call home and a group of people to help care for them. While it is always best to keep wildlife in the wild, sometimes that is not a good option. Wildlife that habituates to humans or becomes a public safety concern are not good candidates to be released back into the wild. There will never be enough space in zoos to place habituated or public safety animals, so we all must do our part to keep wildlife wild, by not feeding wildlife.”

Despite extensive public education and outreach in Pine Mountain Club about how to live in bear country, many residents are known to feed bears. Not only is feeding wild animals illegal, giving them access to human food and garbage causes them to lose their natural foraging habits and can make them aggressive.

CDFW regularly educates communities about how to keep both humans and wild animals safe. CDFW will continue to reach out to Pine Mountain Club and surrounding communities to create bear-aware communities and prevent future circumstances like this. Learn more at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild.

Video B-roll:

https://youtu.be/1ZIYVmwn9to

https://youtu.be/MGJcyVg_i44

Still photos:

www.flickr.com/californiadfg

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Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937
Erin Harrison, Oakland Zoo Marketing and Communications, (510) 632-9525 ext. 135

 

CDFW Seeking Grant Proposals to Restore Habitat Impacted by Cannabis Cultivation

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting proposals for habitat restoration projects within the California watersheds most impacted by unregulated cannabis cultivation.

Contingent on the Budget Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017-2018, a total of $1.5 million in Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration funds will be made available through CDFW’s Cannabis Restoration Grant Program. The program will focus on the North Coast watersheds extending from Sonoma County to the Oregon state line, as they have been most heavily impacted by cannabis cultivation.

“Existing damage to our watersheds due to unregulated cannabis cultivation is at crisis levels in terms of threats to habitat for aquatic and wildlife species,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “While many grow sites have been abandoned or shuttered, the infrastructure and ongoing damage remains. We are poised to initiate this critical and missing step in the process of decommissioning unwanted grow sites.”

California’s fish and wildlife are severely impacted by unregulated cannabis cultivation practices including unlawful water diversions for irrigation, conversion of lands, and prohibited herbicides, rodenticides and other environmental contaminants. The most impacted areas require immediate action. Assembly Bill 243 (Wood, Medical Marijuana) provides direction to CDFW to restore watersheds impacted by cannabis cultivation.

“Our beautiful, pristine North Coast forests have become havens for these rogue grow sites,” said Assemblymember Jim Wood, who represents five of the county areas eligible for these grants. “These sites have been ravaged by lethal chemicals, often-banned rodenticides which are used to keep animals away, but remain in the ground and eventually run off into rivers and streams, destroying everything in their path, including endangered fish species such as coho salmon. I am grateful that the Governor and CDFW are making these funds available for this much-needed cleanup.”

The FY 2017-2018 Proposal Solicitation Notice, application instructions and other information about the Restoration Grant Program are available at wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Watersheds/Cannabis-Restoration-Grant.

Proposals must be submitted online at https://soar.resources.ca.gov/. The deadline to apply is Friday, June 30, 2017 at 4 p.m.

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Media Contacts:
Matt Wells, CDFW Watershed Restoration Grants Branch, (916) 445-1285

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

Help Kick Off California Invasive Species Action Week by Volunteering

The fourth annual California Invasive Species Action Week will run from Saturday, June 3 through Sunday, June 11. Sponsored by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Invasive Species Action Week is a statewide event that provides the public with opportunities to learn about and take action against non-native plants and animals that harm our environment and the native species that live here.

Federal and state agencies and numerous organizations across the state have teamed up to host more than 40 individual Action Week events this year. Examples of upcoming public volunteer opportunities include:

  • Sacramento County: CDFW’s Marine Invasive Species Program will be hosting interactive displays, screening of educational videos and a chance to see live and preserved invaders from June 5-9 at the Nimbus Hatchery Visitor Center. This family-friendly opportunity will have activities for all ages and picnic facilities are on site.
  • Mendocino County: Mussel Dogs (a consulting and inspection service) will host a public demonstration of their Quagga and zebra mussel detection dogs’ work on the banks of Lake Mendocino on Saturday, June 3, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Sonoma County: California State Parks and Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods will host an invasive plant removal volunteer day in the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Preserve on Wednesday, June 7, from 9 a.m. to noon.
  • Los Angeles County: The Mountain Restoration Trust needs volunteers to help trap and remove invasive red swamp crayfish from the Malibu Creek Watershed on Saturday, June 10 from 9 to 11 a.m.

Many other counties will also have volunteer opportunities this week. To view the full schedule of events and map, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/CISAW.

Don’t forget – stopping the spread of invasive species does not have to wait for the Action Week! Citizens can also contribute to a healthy environment by taking small, everyday actions – like selecting native plants for landscaping, cleaning your outdoor and aquatic gear after use, being responsible pet and aquaria owners, and reporting invasive species findings.

Another opportunity to monitor for invasive species during and beyond the Action Week is through California Nerodia Watch, the CDFW’s citizen-science monitoring project for invasive (and restricted) Nerodia watersnakes. Currently, Nerodia watersnake populations are established in Roseville, Folsom and Harbor City, with several sightings reported in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Nerodia are notorious predators of fish and amphibians, and if their range expands, they will pose a serious threat to nearby endangered fish and wildlife. Members of the public are encouraged to help CDFW biologists to monitor and prevent the spread of existing populations! Visit the CDFW invasive species profiles at www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/invasives/species to learn more and report observations through the iNaturalist project webpage (www.inaturalist.org/projects/california-nerodia-watch) or by downloading the iNaturalist smartphone app.

For questions or more information about Action Week or California Nerodia Watch, please contact invasives@wildlife.ca.gov.

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Media Contacts:
Rachael Klopfenstein, CDFW Invasive Species Program, (916) 651-3122
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988