CDFW Seeks Authority to Refund Elk, Pronghorn Tags for Areas Impacted by Wildfires, Forest Closures

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is pursuing a regulation change that would allow elk and pronghorn (antelope) hunters whose seasons were cut short or eliminated due to wildfires and forest closures to receive a refund of their 2020 tag fees along with a restoration of their preference points used to acquire their tags. Eligible hunters would also receive an additional preference point for elk or pronghorn for the 2020 season.

“We need to do right by these hunters who have lost most if not all of their hunting opportunity in 2020 due to these unprecedented forest closures and wildfires,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “These are expensive tags that can take many years – sometimes a lifetime – to draw. Refunding tag fees and restoring preference points is the least we can do for this group that does so much to fund our scientific research and conservation of these iconic California species.”

The proposed change to the California Code of Regulations must be approved by the California Fish and Game Commission. On Thursday, Sept. 17, the Commission’s Wildlife Resources Committee approved the proposed regulation concept, which is expected to be taken up by the full Commission in December and if approved, would go into effect in April 2021.

The proposed regulation identifies 14 elk hunts and two pronghorn hunts whose tag holders would be eligible for a refund of tag fees and a restoration of their preference points after submitting their unused tag along with a signed statement that they were unable to hunt for the entire season or a significant portion of the season due to the statewide closure of national forests and other affected lands as a result of the September 2020 wildfires.

The 14 elk hunts eligible for tag refunds would be:

  • Marble Mountains Either-Sex Apprentice (Roosevelt), Sept. 9-20
  • Northeastern California Archery Either Sex (Rocky Mountain), Sept. 2-13
  • Marble Mountains Antlerless (Roosevelt), Sept. 9-20
  • Marble Mountain Bull (Roosevelt), Sept. 9-20
  • Northwestern California Antlerless (Roosevelt), Sept. 2-24
  • Northwestern California Bull (Roosevelt), Sept. 2-24
  • Siskiyou Antlerless (Roosevelt), Sept. 9-20
  • Siskiyou Bull (Roosevelt), Sept. 9-20
  • East Park Reservoir Antlerless (Tule), Sept. 5-Oct. 1
  • East Park Reservoir Bull (Tule), Sept. 5-Oct. 1
  • Lake Pillsbury Period 1 Antlerless (Tule), Sept.9-18
  • Northeastern California Either-Sex Apprentice (Rocky Mountain), Sept. 16-27
  • Northeastern California Bull (Rocky Mountain), Sept. 16-27
  • Northwestern California Either-Sex (Roosevelt), Sept. 2-24

The two pronghorn hunts eligible for tag refunds would be:

  • Zone 4 Lassen Period 2 General Buck, Sept. 5-13
  • Zone 3 Likely Tables Period 2 General Buck, Sept. 5-13

The proposed regulation does not include a refund for deer tag holders, whose hunting seasons generally are longer and whose tags are less expensive. Some premium deer tags may be returned to CDFW with a request to have preference points reinstated and one preference point awarded for the species for the current hunt year prior to the season opening. Tag return and preference point eligibility requirements and additional information is available on CDFW’s website.

A California resident elk tag costs $461.50, not including application and processing fees. A California resident pronghorn tag costs $155.27, not including application and processing fees. Application and processing fees would not be eligible for refunds. Hunting license fees similarly cannot be refunded.


Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858

California Fish and Game Commission Meets Remotely

On the second day of its April remote meeting, 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 today’s part of the meeting (see information from yesterday).

The Commission acknowledged robust public participation using remote technology.FGC Logo

“While we all are learning this remote world together, this meeting proved that government can continue with public input,” said Commission President Eric Sklar. “Governor Newsom recently said we expect a mid-May peak of COVID-19. I implore Californians to stay healthy and stay home to help save lives.”

The Commission approved the mammal hunting regulations and increased the number of elk tags in the northwest management unit. This increased hunting opportunity for the state’s hunting public, based on the best-available scientific data, is due to robust elk populations in this part of the state. The recovery of these elk is a great success story in California wildlife conservation.

The Commission approved the waterfowl daily and seasonal limits for ducks and geese for the 2020-21 hunting season. The northern pintail limit will remain at one pintail per day due to the current status of the population. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to improve the models to address the public’s concerns that pintail limits are too low.

The Commission adopted proposed regulations for public use on CDFW lands, including wildlife areas and ecological reserves. The regulations designate one new wildlife area and seven new ecological reserves, remove areas from the regulations where CDFW no longer has management authority, authorize site-specific public uses and make minor changes to clarify the regulations.

The Commission voted unanimously that listing of the Shasta snow-wreath may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review by CDFW.

The Commission voted unanimously that listing of an evolutionarily significant unit of mountain lions may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review by the CDFW.

Commission President Sklar, Commission Vice President Samantha Murray, and Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin, Russell Burns and Peter Silva participated in the call.

The full Commission agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at An archived audio file will be available in coming days. The next meeting of the full Commission is a teleconference scheduled for May 14, 2020.


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.

Helicopter Elk Surveys to Be Conducted in Mendocino County

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is planning to conduct helicopter surveys of elk in Mendocino County on March 12, 13, 14 and 15.

Aerial surveying is a common technique used by wildlife biologists to count deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep populations throughout the state.

Many of the elk living in Mendocino County are found on private property, which means residents, tourists and motorists passing through the area may notice low-flying helicopters surveying for elk over private property during these days.

For additional information regarding the Mendocino elk helicopter surveys, please contact Angela Moran at (707) 445-5363.


Media Contacts:
Angela Moran, CDFW Northern Region, (707) 445-5363
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

Elk, Pronghorn Antelope Captures to Be Conducted in Northern California

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is planning to capture numerous elk and pronghorn antelope in northern California over the next two weeks.

Under the direction of CDFW veterinary staff, CDFW wildlife biologists will lead the captures. Capture crews will locate elk and pronghorn via helicopter, capture them with net guns and restrain the captured animals for tagging and collaring.

From Feb. 6-8, CDFW will capture as many as 10 adult Roosevelt elk in Humboldt County in northwestern California. From Feb. 9-13, CDFW will capture up to 22 Rocky Mountain elk in Shasta, Lassen, Modoc and Siskiyou counties in northeastern California. Pronghorn captures are scheduled for Feb. 14-15, also in northeastern California.

The elk will be captured on lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and National Park Service (NPS) as well as on private properties with permission from landowners. CDFW is grateful to the USFS, NPS, timberland owners and other private landowners that are providing access to their lands for the captures.

Each elk will be ear tagged and fitted with a GPS collar. The collars will provide detailed information about elk for approximately five years. The information will enhance CDFW’s knowledge of current elk distribution, abundance, survival and habitat use.

For additional information regarding captures in Shasta, Lassen, Modoc or Siskiyou counties, please contact CDFW wildlife biologist Erin Nigon at (530) 598-6011. For information regarding captures in Humboldt County, please contact CDFW wildlife biologist Carrington Hilson at (707) 502-4078. For information on pronghorn captures, please contact biologist Richard Shinn at (530) 233-3581

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 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.