Category Archives: big game

Survey Shows Severe Decline in Mount San Gorgonio Desert Bighorn Sheep Population

Aerial and ground surveys of Southern California’s Mount San Gorgonio desert bighorn sheep population conducted during early March have confirmed a severe decline in numbers. Biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and partner agencies counted 60 animals, approximately one-third the number counted in the last helicopter survey conducted in March 2016.

Watch video of biologists preparing for the survey at: https://youtu.be/ecdag5Y6d1g

This reduction appears to be consistent with an outbreak of respiratory disease that CDFW has been investigating since December.

“Die-offs of bighorn sheep of this type and magnitude that have occurred in the past have almost always been triggered by contact with domestic sheep or goats,” CDFW Wildlife Biologist Dr. Jeff Villepique said.

In December 2018, multiple reports of dead or dying bighorn sheep in Whitewater Canyon and the Mission Creek drainages were confirmed by biologists working for CDFW. Tissue samples from carcasses were sent to pathologists at the California Animal Health and Food Safety laboratories. The investigation is ongoing, with 21 bighorn carcasses identified thus far.

Administering medical treatment to sick bighorn is not feasible due to many factors, including the remote location, the difficulty of capturing animals and inability to capture and treat the entire herd.

Southern California is home to approximately 4,800 bighorn sheep in 64 herd units. To date, there have been no reports of sheep in nearby herds being affected by the disease.

CDFW is one of several entities involved in managing bighorn sheep in California, and participates in the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Wild Sheep Working Group. The Group has declared respiratory disease to be “the biggest impediment to restoring and sustaining bighorn sheep populations.”

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Media Contacts:
Dr. Jeff Villepique, CDFW Inland Deserts Region, (909) 584-9012
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

 

CDFW Magnifies Efforts to Recruit Hunters and Anglers

In an effort to get more Californians involved in fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is partnering with the recreational fishing and hunting communities, state and federal agencies, and others to address barriers and opportunities to hunting and fishing in the state.

“Our goal is to support and encourage people to get outdoors and enjoy California’s wild places,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “The fishing and hunting opportunities in this state are unparalleled, they belong to all Californians and should be utilized by all of us. This effort is to make sure Californians know that.”

CDFW has formed an executive-level task force, hired a full-time coordinator to head-up the effort, hired a research scientist, and finalized a statewide recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) action plan. A staff-level working group is working to increase hunting and fishing participation by collaborating with diverse stakeholders to transform barriers to participation into opportunities. Some of the barriers CDFW will look at initially are access and opportunity challenges, public perception of fishing and hunting, and license structure and pricing. The effort will also focus on encouraging more adults to take up hunting and fishing for the first time.

Research shows spending time outdoors improves physical, mental and social well-being. Many hunters and anglers say the reason they participate in these activities is to enjoy the quality time with family and friends and to bring home great memories and healthy food.

California is home to some of the nation’s most diverse hunting and fishing opportunities, but participation in these activities has declined significantly since the 1970s and 1980s. Hunters and anglers play a crucial role in managing natural resources by regulating wildlife populations to maintain ecological and biological diversity, participating in wildlife surveys for scientific data collection, and reporting wildlife crimes. Hunters and anglers also help sustain a multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation industry and provide the primary funding source for state-level fish and wildlife conservation in California. The decline in participation poses an ever-increasing threat to wildlife conservation, the state’s long-standing hunting and fishing heritage, and Californians’ connection to the outdoors in general.

“The fishing and hunting community has rallied around CDFW, and we are now poised to tackle the challenges before us,” Bonham said.

To get involved or learn more about the state’s R3 efforts, please contact Jennifer.Benedet@wildlife.ca.gov.

Media Contacts:
Jen Benedet, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 903-9270
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 651-7824

Online Applications Now Available for 2019 Joice Island Wild Pig Hunts

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is offering wild pig hunting opportunities in March and April at the Joice Island Unit of the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area in Solano County.

The 2019 Joice Island pig hunt drawings will be administered online exclusively. CDFW is accepting applications until 4 p.m. on Feb. 14.

The limited-entry, permit-only hunts help control a small population of wild pigs on the Joice Island Unit, a 2,150-acre wetland area consisting of thick cattails, tules, brush and standing water. Hunters may only use shotguns with nonlead slugs or archery equipment. Dogs and bicycles are not allowed.

Four hunters will be drawn for nine consecutive weekends for a total of 36 hunters. The first hunt weekend will be reserved for apprentice hunters holding junior licenses, age 12 to 17. There is no charge to apply.

Apprentice Hunt Weekend – Junior License Holders Age 12 to 17 May Apply

March 2-3

General Hunt Weekends – Adults and Junior License Holders May Apply

March 9-10                                       April 6-7
March 16-17                                     April 13-14
March 23-24                                     April 20-21
March 30-31                                     April 27-28

Permit holders may bring one non-hunting partner. Junior license holders receiving a permit must be accompanied by an adult 18 or older.

To apply for both the apprentice and general hunts, please visit CDFW’s Apprentice Hunts webpage and either log in or create a new account. Navigate the drop-down menus and apply for the weekend of your choice. Permits with maps and additional information will be e-mailed to successful applicants.

CDFW reserves the right to cancel any of these hunts and close the area to all public users without prior notification due to unforeseen circumstances or emergencies.

For more information, please contact CDFW at (707) 425-3828.

Media Contacts:
Orlando Rocha, CDFW Grizzly Island Wildlife Area, (707) 425-3828
Shawn Overton, CDFW Grizzly Island Wildlife Area, (707) 425-3828
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

CDFW Investigating Die-Off of Desert Bighorn Sheep

Wildlife biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are investigating what appears to be a significant mortality event associated with respiratory disease among the San Gorgonio desert bighorn sheep population in Riverside County. CDFW has confirmed that at least 20 animals have died but suspects that total mortality may be greater.

“The significance of this outbreak to the San Gorgonio desert bighorn sheep population is being investigated,” explained Heidi Calvert, an environmental program manager with CDFW’s Inland Deserts Region. “Our top priority right now is to determine the source and nature of the disease so that we can identify the right management actions to mitigate future risk.”

CDFW staff began receiving reports of sick desert bighorn sheep in December 2018 and immediately began collecting samples for lab analysis. CDFW is continuing to survey and monitor the population to gather more information on the extent and magnitude of this loss to the population. Private landowners and partner agencies are assisting with this effort.

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Wild Sheep Working Group considers respiratory disease to be “the biggest impediment to restoring and sustaining bighorn sheep populations.” Respiratory disease in bighorn sheep is most commonly attributed to contact and/or proximity with domestic sheep and, to a lesser extent, domestic goats. Diseases that originate with domestic animals can pose a significant risk to bighorn sheep populations.

The affected desert bighorn population is located within Desert Bighorn Sheep Hunt Zone 5. The recent die-off will likely result in reducing the two hunting tags to zero in this zone for 2019.

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Media Contacts:
Heidi Calvert, CDFW Inland Deserts Region, (760) 872-0751 

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

CDFW Seeks Public Help for Humboldt County Elk Poaching Investigation

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking information about an elk poaching case currently under investigation in Humboldt County.

On Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, CDFW wildlife officers responded to a poaching report in the Maple Creek area, southeast of Blue Lake. During the investigation, officers discovered four dead Roosevelt cow (female) elk. An examination showed the animals were recently killed with a firearm, and one of the elk was pregnant.

CDFW closely manages the state’s Roosevelt elk herds. A limited number of hunting permits are available for this species in Humboldt County, and some hunters wait more than a decade to be successful in the drawing. Elk hunting season was not open at the time these animals were shot.

Officers are continuing their investigation, including processing evidence left at the crime scene. CDFW asks that anyone who has any information regarding this poaching crime to contact the statewide tip hotline, CalTIP, at 1 (888) 334-2258. Tips can also be sent via text to CALTIP, followed by a space and the message to tip411 (847411). CalTIP (Californians Turn In Poachers and Polluters) is a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide CDFW with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters.

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Media Contacts:
Warden John Fraley, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (707) 445-6493

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