CDFW Accepting Applications for Deer and Pig Hunting in Western Merced County

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting applications for a limited number of deer and pig hunting permits for opening weekend of the A Zone general season, Aug. 8–9, 2020. This is not a special hunt, but rather a drawing to control the number of hunters on popular public land during opening weekend.

Locations for this hunt include Upper and Lower Cottonwood Creek and the San Luis Reservoir wildlife areas. Reservations are required to access the wildlife areas during opening weekend and only 30 permits will be issued for each day, Saturday, Aug. 8 and Sunday, Aug. 9. Hunters can download the application online at wildlife.ca.gov/lands/places-to-visit/cottonwood-creek-wa. Hunters can also request an access permit application by calling CDFW’s Los Banos office at (209) 826-0463 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Applications may be submitted via email to ryan.jones@wildlife.ca.gov or mailed to CDFW’s Los Banos office at 18110 W. Henry Miller Avenue, Los Banos, CA 93635.

Only official applications will be accepted and must be received before 4 p.m. on July 3. Reservations will be selected by a computerized drawing at 11 a.m. on July 6. The drawing will be open to the public. Successful applicants will be notified by mail within five working days of the drawing. Results will not be given over the phone.

Up to three people may apply for the hunt as one party by including all required information on the 2020 Zone A application form. Junior license holders who are 12 years of age or older may also apply if accompanied by an adult hunter.

Applicants may apply for a one-day hunt on one area only. An individual’s name may appear in the drawing only once and additional or duplicate applications will be disqualified from the drawing.

All hunters are required to use non-lead ammunition when hunting with a firearm anywhere in California.

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Media Contacts:
Ryan Jones, CDFW Los Banos Wildlife Area, (209) 826-0463
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

girl wearing Hunter Education sweatshirt studying mobile device

California Temporarily Authorizes Completion of Hunter Education Courses Online

In response to the delay of in-person California hunter education classes due to COVID-19, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is temporarily allowing new hunters to complete their education requirements entirely online.

Prior to COVID-19, California offered a traditional in-person course or a hybrid online/in-person class with a certified Hunter Education Instructor (HEI). Because all classroom instruction opportunities have been suspended, California will temporarily waive the in-person requirement, allowing students to complete the full course of instruction online.

“Online-only certification is a temporary solution to allow Californians the ability to fulfill their hunter education requirements and obtain a hunting license during these unique times,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “We don’t want anyone to miss out on the chance to earn their certification before the fall hunting seasons, so we believe this is a reasonable solution, given the circumstances.”

When deemed safe to do so, CDFW intends to return to the prior system, including a minimum level of in-person instruction with a certified HEI. “We value our 1,000 extremely dedicated volunteer instructors enormously, and we’re anxious to see them back in front of students as soon as possible,” Bess added.

Effective immediately, prospective hunters may earn their hunter education certification online. More information is available at  https://wildlife.ca.gov/hunter-education. The cost for the course is $24.95. Successful prospective hunters who complete and pass the online course will be able to immediately print a paper Hunter Education Completion Certificate, which will qualify them to purchase a hunting license.  Their CDFW online license profile will automatically be updated with their Hunter Education Certification within two days.

Prospective hunters are advised that the deadline to apply for California’s Big Game draw is June 2, 2020. CDFW advises new hunters to set a goal of completing the online certification by May 31, to allow time for the automatic update of their CDFW license profile. CDFW license profiles can also be updated by presenting the paper certificate to a CDFW License Agent.

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CDFW Accepting Applications for Special Draw Deer Hunt on the Knoxville Wildlife Area in Napa County

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting applications for a limited, lottery draw deer hunt scheduled for opening week of the A-Zone general deer season on the Knoxville Wildlife area in Napa County.

The 21,000-acre Knoxville Wildlife Area is located approximately 1.5 miles north of Lake Berryessa. This special lottery draw deer hunt was created to limit the number of hunters on the wildlife area during opening week and to improve the hunting experience.

“This will be the second year of our special draw for the opening week of deer season. We essentially close the wildlife area to other uses and allow drawn hunters to have the whole area to themselves,” said Stacy Martinelli, wildlife biologist for Napa and Sonoma counties.

Only 120 hunt permits will be issued for the special lottery draw. The hunt permit is valid for the single hunt period, August 8-14, 2020. The Knoxville Wildlife Area will be closed to all other users during the hunt period.

For more information and to apply for the lottery draw, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/regions/3/hunts/knoxville-deer-draw.

Applications are being accepted until June 20, 2020.

Successful applicants will be selected through a random computerized draw and will be notified by email four to six weeks before the hunt period. Up to four hunters may apply as one party by including all required information in the online application. Multiple applications from any hunter will result in disqualification from the drawing. Substitutions of hunt party members will not be permitted.

Hunters must possess a valid 2020-21 California hunting license prior to applying for the lottery draw.

Deer hunt preference points will not be considered for this lottery draw, nor will preference points be affected if drawn for this special hunt.

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Media Contact:
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120

riparian brush rabbit

Deadly Disease Detected in California Wild Rabbits for the First Time

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), in conjunction with the California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab, San Bernardino has diagnosed Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) in a black-tailed jackrabbit carcass submitted from private property near Palm Springs in early May. Samples submitted to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Plum Island, New York, confirmed the presence of the RHD virus type 2 (RHDV2) in California for the first time. This disease is highly contagious and often lethal to both wild and domestic rabbits. The carcass that was tested was one of about 10 dead jackrabbits observed on the Palm Springs property.

RHDV2 is not related to coronavirus; it is a calicivirus that does not affect humans or domestic animals other than rabbits. At this time, no other California rabbit populations are known to be infected, but the disease has spread quickly in other states, prompting CDFW biologists to prepare for more reports in the coming months. A “quick facts” reference guide can be found on CDFW’s website.

Since March 2020, RHDV2 has caused mortalities of both wild and domestic rabbits in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Texas and Mexico. Deaths of both wild rabbits and jackrabbits have occurred. Infected rabbits and jackrabbits may exhibit no symptoms leading up to their sudden death, or may suffer from fever, swelling, internal bleeding and liver necrosis. The range of susceptible species in North America is currently unknown, but all rabbit, jackrabbit, hare and pika species are likely susceptible.

CDFW Senior Wildlife Veterinarian Deana Clifford noted the introduction of RHDV2 to California could significantly impact wild rabbit populations, particularly those already at risk, such as the endangered riparian brush rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani riparius) and those with limited distribution in the state, such as the pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis).

“Unfortunately, we may also see impacts to species that depend on rabbits for food, as rabbits are a common prey species for many predators,” noted Dr. Clifford.

CDFW will carefully monitor the progression of RHDV2 in California, including investigating and testing rabbits found dead, monitoring populations of endangered rabbits and working with partners, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Public reports are an extremely helpful tool as wildlife veterinarians monitor the situation. CDFW is asking anyone who lives, works or recreates in wild rabbit habitat to report any sightings of sick or dead rabbits to CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory. To report sightings of sick or dead wild rabbits, hares or pikas contact the CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab at (916) 358-2790 or file an online mortality report through CDFW’s website.

Outdoor recreationists should take precaution when hiking, camping or backpacking and not handle or disturb carcasses to minimize the potential spread of RHDV2. Additionally, hunters should take precautions to prevent spreading the virus, such as wearing gloves when field dressing rabbits, washing hands and burying remains onsite so that scavengers cannot spread the virus. The virus is hardy and can remain viable on meat, fur, clothing and equipment for a very long time, making it easily transmissible to other areas.

In California, hunting season for brush rabbits and cottontails opens July 1 and runs through the last Sunday in January. The season is open statewide, except for a closed area in the Central Valley near the riparian brush rabbit range. Hunting season for jackrabbits is year-round and statewide.

A vaccine for RHDV2 is not currently available in the U.S., thus domestic rabbit owners should practice good biosecurity measures to protect their animals from this disease, such as washing hands before and after working with rabbits, not sharing equipment with other owners and keeping their rabbits isolated from wild or feral rabbits.

Domestic rabbit owners who have a sick rabbit should contact their veterinarian. If domestic rabbits are found dead, please contact the local CDFA Animal Health Branch or call (916) 900-5002.

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Media Contacts:
Dr. Deana Clifford, CDFW Wildlife Investigations Laboratory, (916) 358-2378
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

Riparian brush rabbit photo courtesy of Moose Peterson. All rights reserved.

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 fgc.ca.gov. 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.

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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.