Alturas Mountain Lion Captured, Returned to the Wild

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today successfully captured a young, female mountain lion within the city limits of Alturas, Modoc County, and safely returned the animal to suitable wild habitat.

The healthy yearling female, estimated between 50 to 60 pounds, was darted with a tranquilizer gun after being treed on the edge of the city Thursday morning. The lion was first spotted in Alturas around a chicken coop in a residential backyard Tuesday before being scared off. The lion returned to the chicken coop on Wednesday and was spotted elsewhere around the rural community.

CDFW worked cooperatively with the Alturas Police Department, the Modoc County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in this effort. CDFW does not typically capture and relocate wildlife. CDFW initially pursued the lion to encourage it to leave town on its own. Once treed in a populated area, however, CDFW darted it and physically removed it.

“This is what we consider a ‘no-harm, no-foul’ lion. This particular lion hadn’t caused any harm or any damage. It hadn’t behaved unusually. It tried its best to avoid people,” explained Tina Bartlett, regional manager for CDFW’s Northern Region, which encompasses nine counties in the northernmost part of the state. “This lion likely separated from its mother only recently and is out on its own for the first time trying to make its way in the world and ended up somewhere it shouldn’t be. We see this quite often with young mountain lions in California that end up in populated areas. We’re happy to return this lion to the wild where it belongs.”

A young female mountain lion captured by CDFW in Alturas, Modoc County, awaits a return and release to the wild.
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

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

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.

Pacific Halibut Fishery Set to Open May 1

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is pleased to announce the 2021 recreational Pacific halibut fishery will open Saturday, May 1 and remain open until Nov. 15, or until the quota is reached, whichever is earlier. The 2021 Pacific halibut quota for the California sport fishery is 39,260 pounds – approximately the same as the 2020 quota.

While the closing date of Nov. 15 is a new extension to the end of the season, the open dates are not guaranteed and the season could close early if it is determined that the quota has been taken. In 2020, the season closed Aug. 11, when a very successful fishery resulted in the early attainment of the state’s limit.

Anglers participating in the Pacific halibut fishery and other recreational fisheries are reminded they may be met at fishing sites by CDFW staff collecting catch and fishing effort information. CDFW appreciates anglers’ cooperation and participation in these survey efforts. In the case of Pacific halibut, staff will also be taking length measurements in a safe and physically distanced manner. CDFW highly encourages all recreational anglers to assist with this length data collection effort, as the information will aid with quota tracking and in-season management.

State regulations for Pacific halibut automatically conform to federal regulations set by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) using the process described in the California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 1.95. Federal regulations for Pacific halibut were published in the Federal Register (86 FR 20638) on April 21, 2021 and took effect immediately.

Anglers are always advised to check for updated information when planning a Pacific halibut fishing trip, as a season closure announcement could come at any time. Other regulatory information, including bag/possession limits and gear restrictions, can be found on CDFW’s Pacific halibut page. Public notification of any in-season change to regulations is made through the NMFS Pacific halibut hotline at (800) 662-9825 or CDFW’s Groundfish and Pacific halibut Regulations Hotline at (831) 649-2801.

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Media Contacts:
Melanie Parker, CDFW Marine Region, (831) 601-5928
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937