CDFW Offering Hunts of a Lifetime

Drawings for ‘Golden Opportunity,’ Open Zone Deer Tags
to Benefit Wildlife Conservation

For the first-time ever, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will raffle off two “Golden Opportunity” fundraising deer tags to the general hunting public. These rare tags allow hunters to take any legal buck by any legal means anywhere in the state beginning July 10, 2021, through the end of the year.

CDFW’s Golden Opportunity tags typically are sold at auction by partnering, nonprofit wildlife conservation organizations to raise funds for big game management, habitat and scientific research in California. In 2019, Golden Opportunity tags brought an average price of $48,200 each. Two of these once-in-a-lifetime tags are now available to the hunting public through CDFW’s 2021 Big Game Drawing for a $7.05 application fee.

Along with the Golden Opportunity tags, CDFW is also announcing additional chances to win a coveted “Open Zone Deer Tag.” These fundraising tags allow hunters to hunt in any deer zone of their choice during its open season and are likewise mostly sold at auction. Four Open Zone Deer Tags will be available to hunters in CDFW’s 2021 Big Game Drawing for a $7.05 application fee. This is an increase from one Open Zone Deer Tag offered in the drawing in previous years.

“The hunting public truly has some amazing opportunities this year to win a dream hunt for the price of just a few dollars,” said Stafford Lehr, CDFW Deputy Director for Wildlife and Fisheries. “COVID-19 disrupted the operations of many of the conservation organizations we partner with to help sell these tags and raise critical funds for wildlife. As a result, we have some very special deer hunts to add and offer up through our fundraising tag raffle this year.”

In 2019, the auction of five Golden Opportunity deer tags collectively raised $241,000 for conservation. The auction of five Open Zone deer tags in 2019 generated a combined $50,000.

Applications for both the Golden Opportunity and Open Zone Deer Tags are on sale now through June 2, 2021, and are available at CDFW’s Online License Sales and Services website and at retail agents statewide that sell California hunting and fishing licenses.

The tags are available to both California residents and nonresidents. There are no limits on application purchases. Winners are awarded the tags at no additional cost. Preference points do not apply. They are neither lost nor gained as part of the drawing.

For more information, please visit CDFW’s Fundraising Random Drawing Tags web page.


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

Aquarium Moss Balls Threaten to Spread Invasive Mussels

A zebra mussel on an aquarium moss ball. Photo courtesy of Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is asking retailers and consumers to help stop the spread of a dangerous invasive mussel that has been found in aquarium moss balls sold in California and nationwide.

CDFW was notified last week that zebra mussels, highly invasive freshwater mussels which are illegal to possess in California, were found on aquatic moss balls at a national pet supply retailer. Investigators traced the origin of the mussel-contaminated moss balls to a distributor in Southern California. CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division worked with the distributor to immediately cease outgoing shipments and prevent the receipt of additional importations. State and federal law enforcement agencies continue to investigate the potential supply chains associated with this product, and have since identified several additional suppliers to California and nationwide.

“If zebra mussels escape from aquaria and into the environment, they pose the risk of causing enormous environmental and economic impacts,” said Martha Volkoff, CDFW environmental program manager. “Once introduced to rivers, creeks, lakes and canals, mussels multiply quickly, encrust surfaces and disrupt ecosystems, water delivery systems and recreational opportunities. It is imperative that pet suppliers and aquarists take action to prevent these mussels that have entered the aquarium trade from reaching our waterways.”

California law prohibits possession, importation, shipment and release of zebra mussels in any waters within the state. Possession of zebra mussels in California, live or dead, and whether intentional or not, is a violation of California Fish and Game Code section 2301.

CDFW is calling upon pet supply retailers and home aquarium enthusiasts to prevent the spread of mussels from aquariums.


  • Immediately pull moss balls from your shelves and store in a secure location until they can be destroyed. Also inspect all other moist and aquatic plant products. All moss balls, and any other products found to be contaminated with mussels should be placed in a bag, frozen overnight and disposed of in the municipal trash.
  • Immediately inspect all fish tanks and filtration systems for mussels. If mussels are found, cease sale of all products from those tanks. Remove all mussels and live plants, place in a bag, freeze overnight and dispose of in the municipal trash. Clean and disinfect all aquaria, filters and decorations.


If you have added moss balls to your aquarium or fish bowl in the past year, assume that you may have introduced zebra mussels and take one of the following actions:

Alternative 1. If you observe mussels in your aquaria, per U.S. Fish and Wildlife recommendations, empty and disinfect the aquarium and all of its contents: Even if you do not observe mussels consider decontaminating your tank and all of its contents. (Considering the significant investment many aquarists make in establishing and maintaining their aquaria, disinfecting and reestablishing a system per these recommendations may not be a realistic expectation. If so, please adhere to Alternative 2.)

Alternative 2. Quarantine and monitor your aquarium for at least six months. Complete instructions for quarantining your tank, and an observation log to assist you with monitoring your tank, are available on CDFW’s website: The quarantine would end six months after no mussels are observed.

For additional information and guidance, please call CDFW’s Invasive Mussel Hotline at (866) 440-9530 or visit


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

Nature Is Calling All California Families: CDFW Announces Nature Bowl 2021

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is inviting families across the state to participate in the fun and educational Nature Bowl 2021: Family Challenge Edition.

Nature Bowl has been an exciting science event for teams of third- through sixth-grade students for more than 35 years. Students usually compete in person at natural resource sites throughout CDFW’s North Central Region.

Last year saw the event cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, Nature Bowl has been reformatted for the times as a nature challenge to all California families with school-age students.

Just like the spring before us, it’s time for rejuvenation, time to emerge from winter hibernation, time to get outside and give your family a healthy dose of nature.

Your challenge is to work together as a family to compete in five nature-themed activities – and possibly win cool nature-related prizes.

Activity Challenges:

  • Nature Relay: Take a scavenger hunt safari to see the natural world nearby.*
  • Nature Investigations: Discover native plants, animals in your backyard or neighborhood.
  • Bell Ringers: Invent a fast-paced family game using Nature Bowl 2021 vocabulary.
  • Team Problem Solving: Decipher the events in 12 nature photographs.*
  • Enviromercials: Create a 60-second ad on a current nature topic specific to California.

The Nature Bowl Family Challenge is open from March 15 through May 14, 2021. Contact Genelle Treaster at CDFW’s North Central Region to register and receive your electronic entry package with details, worksheets and resources.

Chinook Salmon

CDFW to Host Virtual Public Meeting on Ocean Salmon Fisheries

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites the public to attend its upcoming annual Salmon Information Meeting. The meeting will feature the outlook for this year’s sport and commercial ocean salmon fisheries, in addition to a review of last year’s salmon fisheries and spawning escapement.

The meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. via webinar.

Stakeholders are encouraged to provide input on potential fishing seasons to a panel of California salmon scientists, managers and fishery representatives who will be directly involved in the upcoming Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meetings in March and April.

The 2021 Salmon Information Meeting marks the beginning of a two-month long public process used to develop annual sport and commercial ocean salmon fishing regulations. The process involves collaborative negotiations with west coast states, federal agencies, tribal comanagers, and stakeholders interested in salmon fishery management and conservation. Public input will help California representatives develop a range of recommended season alternatives during the March 2-5 and 8-11, 2021 PFMC meeting. The PFMC will finalize the recommended season dates at its April 6-9 and 12-15, 2021 meeting.

Salmon Information Meeting details and instructions for attendance are available on CDFW’s Ocean Salmon web page, along with a calendar of events and other opportunities for public engagement in the 2021 preseason process. A summary of key information and meeting outcomes will be posted on the Marine Management News blogsite after the meeting.


Media Contacts
Ian Pritchard, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2891
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

Special Post-Season Waterfowl Hunt Weekend Reserved for Veterans and Active Military Personnel Feb. 13-14

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will reopen and staff nearly two dozen of the state’s most popular waterfowl hunting areas to welcome veterans and active military personnel for a special hunt weekend Feb. 13 and 14.

The first Veterans and Active Military Waterfowl Hunting Days take place the second weekend in February throughout the Balance of the State, Southern San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California waterfowl zones on both private property and public land for eligible hunters.

Species and daily bag limits are the same as the regular season with the following exceptions: Brant are not open to take and geese are not allowed to be taken in the Balance of State Zone on these days.

In addition to a valid California hunting license, California duck validation, federal duck stamp and Harvest Information Program (HIP) validation, any person participating in these hunts must possess and present upon demand verification of eligibility. Acceptable verification includes: a Veteran ID Card, military ID card for active duty personnel, or a state-issued driver license or ID card with veteran designation. Qualifying veterans are those defined in Section 101, Title 38, of the United States Code. Absence of verification may subject the hunter to citation.

Among those public areas reopening for Veterans and Active Military Waterfowl Hunting Days: The Little Dry Creek Unit of the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area, Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, Delevan National Wildlife Refuge, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Sutter National Wildlife Refuge, Grizzly Island Wildlife Area, Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, Kern National Wildlife Refuge, Los Banos Wildlife Area, Mendota Wildlife Area, Merced National Wildlife Refuge, San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, North Grasslands Wildlife Area, San Jacinto Wildlife Area, Volta Wildlife Area, Wister Unit of the Imperial Wildlife Area and Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area.

A wildlife area pass is required to hunt on Type A and Type B state-operated wildlife areas and national wildlife refuges during the hunt weekend. These items are not available for sale at hunter check stations and must be purchased ahead of time. All 2020 Type A and Type B Wildlife Area Season Passes and Type A One and Two-Day Wildlife Area Passes will be accepted during the hunt weekend. A Type A or Type B Season Pass is required to hunt on Type B Wildlife Areas.

As of Feb. 1, overnight camping is once again allowed on state-operated wildlife areas and federal refuges reopening for the Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days Feb. 6-7 and the Veterans and Active Military Waterfowl Hunting Days Feb. 13-14. Please check with the individual property for entry procedures, specific details and other regulations.

Waterfowl hunters are strongly encouraged to review the 2020 CDFW Wildlife Area Operational Changes due to COVID-19 webpage prior to visiting any state-operated wildlife area or refuge in order to understand all required health and safety practices in place to help protect visitors and staff. Waterfowl hunters are further advised to check with the individual property they are planning to hunt for specific entry procedures, details and other regulations.

Below are general COVID-19 safety guidelines to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus in the outdoors:

  • Stay Local: Stay close to home during this pandemic period. If you or anyone in your household is feeling sick, please remain at home and plan your trip for another time. 
  • Plan Ahead: The ongoing pandemic response continues to be dynamic. Prior to leaving home, check to ensure your destination is open, if parking is available and what visitor guidelines may be in effect.
  • Stay Safer at Six Feet: No matter the recreational activity, maintain a physical distance of six feet or more. Those camping together should only include people within your immediate household. This means no guests or friends, and no gatherings or parties.
  • Keep Clean: Be prepared as not all services may be available. Restrooms may be unavailable or closed. Bring soap/hand sanitizer. Please pack out all trash.

Stay Covered: The state requires you to wear a face covering when you cannot maintain a physical distance of six feet or more. Individuals must have a face covering with them at all times.

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

Bill Self of Dublin is an Air Force veteran, retired educator, and lifelong California sportsman. He and his fellow veterans along with active military personnel will enjoy an extra weekend of duck hunting Feb. 13 and 14 during California’s first Veterans and Active Military Waterfowl Hunting Days. Photo courtesy of Edward Lee.