California Fish and Game Commission Meets in Sacramento

California Fish and Game Commission logo

At its February meeting in Sacramento, the California Fish and Game Commission took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from the one-day meeting.

The Commission reelected Commissioner Eric Sklar as President and elected Commissioner Samantha Murray as Vice President. Current co-chair assignments were retained for the three committees: commissioners Peter Silva and Murray for the Marine Resources Committee, commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Silva for the Tribal Committee, and commissioners Sklar and Russell Burns for the Wildlife Resources Committee.

Commission Executive Director Melissa Miller-Henson announced plans to celebrate the Commission’s and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) joint 150th anniversary on April 2, 2020 at the State Capitol.

The Commission received a petition evaluation in which CDFW recommended that listing an evolutionarily significant unit (ESU) of mountain lion (southern and central coastal) as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act may be warranted. The Commission will decide whether or not listing may be warranted in April. Preceding this receipt, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham made a presentation about recent events related to mountain lions and a new significant change to CDFW mountain lion policy. The change expands the geographic range of sensitive populations of mountain lion from strictly the Santa Ana and Santa Monica mountain ranges to the entire range covered under the ESU in the listing petition.

The Commission adopted emergency regulations for recreational take of purple sea urchin at Caspar Cove in Mendocino County as part of a broader study to support recovery of kelp and species that depend on kelp.

The Commission determined that there is sufficient information to indicate that a change in the status of Clara Hunt’s milkvetch from threatened to endangered may be warranted and that it is now a candidate for change of species’ status from threatened to endangered. Clara Hunt’s milkvetch is a plant species in the legume family only found along the border between Napa and Sonoma counties.

After hearing impassioned arguments from stakeholders, the Commission voted unanimously to adopt its first Delta Fisheries Management Policy and an amended Striped Bass Policy.

“I’m proud of the work of our stakeholders, staff of the Commission and CDFW, and Commissioners in reaching this point, recognizing that this is just the beginning of a long effort to effect the changes in the policies to restore the health of the Delta,” said President Sklar.

President Sklar requested that the Commission add language to the Striped Bass Policy to support the “vitality” of the fishery. The newly adopted Delta Fisheries Management Policy calls out explicit support for all game fish fisheries, committing to the striped bass fishery as well as recovery of native species.

Commission President Sklar, Vice President Hostler-Carmesin and Commissioners Burns and Silva were present. Commissioner Murray was absent.

The full Commission agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at fgc.ca.gov. An archived video will also be available in coming days. The next meeting of the full Commission is scheduled for April 15 and 16 in Sacramento.

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The California Fish and Game Commission was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.

Media Contact:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

Registration Now Open for San Joaquin County Sandhill Crane Tours

Each September, more than 10,000 sandhill cranes descend upon the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta where they spend five months roosting and foraging in a protected wetlands area just west of Lodi.

During their stay at the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve and surrounding areas, the birds captivate onlookers with expressive song and unique social behavior, including a “dance” thought to be connected with courtship and bonding.

Registration is now open for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Sandhill Crane Wetland Tour, which offers guided tours of sandhill cranes in their fall-winter habitat. Guided tours, which begin Oct. 5, are offered mid-to-late afternoon during the first three weekends of each month from October through February.

“The sandhill cranes’ fly-in around sundown can be nothing short of spectacular. It’s a very worthwhile tour,” said CDFW Interpretive Services Supervisor David Moore.

Registration and additional information can be found at the CDFW Bay Delta Region’s Sandhill Crane Wetland Tour page.

The Woodbridge Ecological Reserve is also accessible at any time for self-guided tours. A series of informative displays are located at the reserve’s southern unit at 11154 W. Woodbridge Road in Lodi. Reserve staff recommend that guests stay through sunset to witness the sights and sounds of groups of sandhills returning to their roosting spots for the evening.

Please note that visitors who are age 16 or older must purchase a one-day Lands Pass or have a current hunting or fishing license in possession in order to access the reserve. Proceeds from Lands Pass purchases (which are less than $5) go toward wildlife conservation.

CDFW is also proud to co-sponsor the Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival from Nov. 1-3.

Media Contacts:
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958
David Moore, CDFW Bay Delta Region, (707) 766-8380

 

CDFW Awarded $8.5 Million to Expand Nutria Eradication Operations; Nutria Confirmed in Stockton, Heart of the Delta

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today was awarded $8.5 million in funding over three years by the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy to expand its nutria eradication operations.

The funding was awarded in a competitive process as part of the Delta Conservancy’s Proposition 1 Ecosystem Restoration and Water Quality Grant Program. The money complements state funding anticipated in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2019-20 budget, which together will establish a dedicated Nutria Eradication Program within CDFW and vastly expand field operations across the entire area of infestation.

The grant funding represents the second, significant award from the Delta Conservancy. In 2018, the Delta Conservancy awarded CDFW $1.2 million over three years that, along with grants from the Wildlife Conservation Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s State Wildlife Grant Program, largely enabled CDFW’s eradication efforts to get off the ground.

To date, CDFW has prioritized detection and eradication efforts in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in order to limit the invasive rodents’ spread and impact on California’s most important water resource and the heart of the state’s water delivery and infrastructure.

Last week, CDFW confirmed via trail camera video the first nutria detected in Stockton. This is the northernmost nutria detected to date and is approximately 16 river miles north of the nearest known nutria population near Manteca, where CDFW and its partners have been actively trapping. The Stockton detection is within the heart of the Delta. CDFW immediately responded with trapping in the area, redirecting additional resources to the Delta, and surveying for upstream source populations.

Since first discovering nutria in Merced County in 2017, CDFW and its partner agencies have taken or confirmed the take of 510 nutria in five counties – 430 from Merced County, 65 from San Joaquin County, 12 from Stanislaus County, two from Mariposa County and one from Fresno County. Nutria have also been confirmed in Tuolumne County.

Nutria, which are native to South America, have established populations in more than a dozen states, including Oregon, Washington, Texas, Louisiana, and the Delmarva Peninsula region of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.

In California, nutria pose a significant threat as an agricultural pest, a destroyer of critical wetlands needed by native wildlife, and a public safety risk as their destructive burrowing jeopardizes the state’s water delivery and flood control infrastructure. CDFW is working with both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to eradicate nutria from the state.

Any suspected nutria sightings should be reported immediately to CDFW’s toll-free public reporting hotline at (866) 440-9530. The e-mail address to report sightings is invasives@wildlife.ca.gov. CDFW’s nutria eradication webpage at wildlife.ca.gov/nutria offers references for identifying nutria and distinguishing nutria from other similar aquatic animals.

Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

CDFW Marks One-Year Anniversary of Nutria Eradication Effort: Biologists Report More Than 400 Invasive Rodents Captured to Date

One year after launching an Incident Command System and a formal effort to eradicate invasive nutria from the state, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reports significant progress in combatting the destructive, South American rodents, though much work remains.

In the early 1900s, nutria were imported and farmed in California for the fur trade. Following the market collapse, escaped and released nutria established small populations that were eventually eradicated by the late 1970s. In 2017, nutria were again discovered within the San Joaquin Valley.

Nutria pose a “triple threat” to California’s future as a top-rated agricultural pest, a destroyer of critical wetlands needed by native wildlife, and a public safety risk as their destructive burrowing jeopardizes the state’s water delivery and flood control infrastructure. CDFW has formed partnerships with both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to survey and eradicate nutria from the state.

To date:

  • CDFW and USDA have taken or confirmed the take of 410 nutria in five counties – 330 from Merced County, 65 from San Joaquin County, 12 from Stanislaus County, two from Mariposa County and one from Fresno County. Nutria have also been confirmed in Tuolumne County.
  • The eradication efforts have prioritized the one known nutria population in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in order to limit their spread and impact on California’s most important water resource and the heart of the state’s water delivery and infrastructure. Of the 65 nutria taken from San Joaquin County, 64 were captured within Walthall Slough near Manteca. Survey crews have not detected nutria elsewhere in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
  • Nutria are a semi-aquatic species never far from water. CDFW has identified approximately 1.8 million acres of habitat suitable for nutria in California, mostly in the state’s central regions. CDFW so far has assessed more than 300,000 acres in three counties: Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin.
  • In suitable nutria habitat, CDFW and its partners set up trail cameras to monitor for nutria presence and deploy traps to catch the nutria once their presence has been confirmed. Over the past year, the project has set up 487 camera stations, conducted more than 1,600 camera checks and deployed 995 trap sets for a total of 12,930 trap nights.
  • CDFW’s eradication efforts have the broad support of the state’s agricultural community. As a top-rated agricultural pest, nutria threaten California’s nearly $50 billion agricultural industry. San Joaquin Valley farmers have donated five tons of sweet potatoes to use as bait to trap nutria.
  • Nutria have been documented on federal, state and private property. Gaining access to private property is key to eradication efforts and to prevent isolated populations from re-infesting the state. More than 2,400 private property owners have granted CDFW written permission to survey and trap nutria on their land, which CDFW does at no cost to property owners.
  • CDFW has received widespread public support for its eradication efforts. CDFW’s Invasive Species “hotline” and corresponding e-mail account has received 357 nutria reports from the public over the past year. While most of these have turned out to be false reports – either sightings of other wildlife mistaken for nutria or reports that lack enough information to confirm – public reporting will continue to be important to determine the full extent of the infestation. When possible, reports should be accompanied by photos and videos. CDFW’s toll-free reporting hotline is (866) 440-9530. The e-mail address to report nutria sightings is invasives@wildlife.ca.gov. CDFW’s nutria eradication webpage at wildlife.ca.gov/nutria offers references for distinguishing nutria from other similar aquatic animals.
  • Public education and outreach are key components of CDFW’s eradication efforts. In addition to numerous nutria presentations in front of scientific, agricultural and community organizations, CDFW has partnered with the Delta Stewardship Council to produce a nutria identification pocket guide. The guide is available at http://deltacouncil.ca.gov/nutria-pocket-guide.
  • CDFW has secured more than $3 million in state and federal grants to support nutria eradication. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy has awarded CDFW $1.2 million over three years; California’s Wildlife Conservation Board has awarded CDFW $600,000 over three years; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s State Wildlife Grant Program has awarded CDFW $1.25 million over three years.
  • Future CDFW nutria efforts include using detection dogs to help locate remnant nutria or confirm their absence. CDFW also is in the early stages of developing a “Judas nutria” project where surgically sterilized nutria, which are social animals, are outfitted with radio telemetry collars and released back into the environment to lead biologists to other nutria.
  • CDFW’s eradication efforts are modeled after those in the Chesapeake Bay in the 2000s. That ongoing effort is led by the federal government and has removed more than 14,000 nutria from 250,000 acres in the Delmarva Peninsula. Though nutria are established in more than a dozen U.S. states, including Washington, Oregon, and, most notably, Louisiana, the Chesapeake Bay effort remains the only successful, large-scale nutria eradication in U.S. history.

Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

 

 

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