2020-21 Hunting Licenses and Big Game Drawing Applications Now Available

California hunters can now purchase hunting licenses for the 2020-21 season, as well as apply for the Big Game Drawing online. Californians have many options to harvest wild protein, and at this time, the current COVID-19 pandemic is not expected to lead to the closure or delay of any hunting seasons. 2020 California Big Game Hunting Digest cover

The deadline to apply for the Big Game Drawing is June 2, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. The 2020 California Big Game Hunting Digest, which includes information about hunts, tag quotas, season dates and the Big Game Drawing, can be downloaded online at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=178428&inline. Printed copies will be mailed to all those who applied to last year’s Big Game Drawing. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website is the most reliable source for the Big Game Digest.

New this year, per Fish and Game Code, section 3031, a resident or nonresident must be under 16 years of age on July 1, 2020 in order to be eligible for a 2020-21 Junior Hunting License. The previous law, which allowed youth up to 18 years old to purchase a Junior Hunting License, has sunset.

“Now more than ever, we understand the public’s need to enjoy the benefits of nature. Spending time in the outdoors is beneficial to our overall health and wellness, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to practice physical distancing,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “This means avoiding crowded trails, parking lots and campgrounds. If you find that your favorite hunting spot is crowded, do not risk your health and the health of others. Please remember all seasons, limits, license, private property restrictions, and other laws and regulations still apply. Be smart and stay safe.”

CDFW also wants to remind hunters of the change that went into effect on July 1, 2019 requiring nonlead ammunition when taking any wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California. Nonlead ammunition is now required for all hunting in California.

Due to changes in the penal code regarding the purchase or transfer of ammunition, CDFW recommends purchasing ammunition well in advance of hunting and practicing with it in order to ensure firearms are sighted-in appropriately before heading into the field.

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Media Contact:
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

Volunteers Needed for Bighorn Sheep Survey

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and Society for Conservation of Bighorn Sheep (SCBS) are seeking volunteers to assist biologists with a bighorn sheep count in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties on Feb. 29 and March 1 (Saturday evening and all day Sunday).

No survey experience is necessary to participate but volunteers must pre-register to attend an orientation on Saturday, Feb. 29, at 6 p.m. at the Angeles National Forest Supervisor’s Office in Arcadia. Space is limited and volunteer spots are likely to be reserved quickly.

Volunteers will hike to designated observation sites in the San Gabriel Mountains early Sunday morning to count and record bighorn sheep. Volunteer groups will be led by a representative from CDFW, USFS or SCBS. Participants must be at least 16 years old and capable of hiking one mile in rugged terrain, although most survey routes are longer. In general, hikes will not be along trails and accessing survey points will involve scrambling over boulders, climbing up steep slopes and/or bush-whacking through chaparral.

Volunteers are encouraged to bring binoculars or spotting scopes in addition to hiking gear. Mountain weather can be unpredictable, and participants should be prepared to spend several hours hiking and additional time making observations in cold and windy weather. Volunteers will need to start hiking early Sunday morning.

Surveys for bighorn sheep in the San Gabriel range have been conducted annually since 1979. The mountain range once held an estimated 740 sheep, which made the San Gabriel population the largest population of desert bighorn sheep in California. The bighorn population declined more than 80 percent through the 1980s but appears to be on the increase with recent estimates yielding approximately 400 animals.

Please sign up online at www.sangabrielbighorn.org. If you do not have access to the internet, you may call (562) 342-2105 and leave a callback number to register.

Media Contacts:

Tim Daly, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

Zach Behrens, USFS Communications, (909) 382-2788

Nonprofit Organizations Encouraged to Apply for Fundraising Hunting Tags

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites nonprofit organizations to help wildlife by auctioning big game hunting license tags for the 2020-21 season.

For the 2020-21 season, up to eight deer tags, two elk tags, two desert bighorn sheep tags and one pronghorn antelope tag will be reserved for 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations to sell. Nonprofit organizations compete for the tags through an application process, and may then offer the tags up for auction to the public. Proceeds from the sale of these tags return to CDFW to fund projects that benefit bighorn sheep, deer, elk and pronghorn.

Last year’s auctions raised more than $564,000 for research and wildlife management. Past projects funded by the sale of these and other hunting tags include crucial habitat conservation, post-wildfire forest restoration, wildlife population studies and the installation of water sources to support wildlife during drought conditions.

A call for applications and the required application form are available on the CDFW website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/hunting/fundraising. Representatives of nonprofit groups may also request a printed application package by calling the CDFW Wildlife Branch at (916) 445-4034, sending a fax to (916) 445-4048 or by writing to:

Victoria Barr
CDFW Wildlife Branch
1812 Ninth St.
Sacramento, CA 95811

Applications must be received by 3 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019.

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

 

Bighorn sheep ram

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