Two mountain lions walk through woods in daylight

Drivers Encouraged to be Alert and Aware During Watch Out for Wildlife Week

They aren’t watching out for you, so you need watch out for them.

This time of year, the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions typically peak as animals start migrating to winter habitat, mating season begins for deer and elk, and bears spend more time foraging before hibernation. To help reduce collisions, Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) remind motorists to be on the lookout during Watch Out for Wildlife Week, which runs Sept. 15-21.

Watch Out for Wildlife Week marks the beginning of the migration season for California’s wildlife, particularly elk and deer. Many of California’s roadways cut through these animals’ routes. It is vital that drivers be especially alert now through December to avoid collisions with wild animals. These crashes not only harm wildlife, but they can damage vehicles and cause injury and death to drivers and passengers.

“Caltrans is dedicated to improving the safety of California drivers, which includes being responsible when it comes to the environment,” said Caltrans Acting Director Bob Franzoia. “This can mean installing flashing warning signs and building ramps and larger culverts for safer passage over and under our roads.”

“From September through December, wildlife often exhibit natural behaviors that can increase their movements and activity nearer to humans and roadways,” said CDFW Conflict Programs Coordinator Vicky Monroe. “That makes large animals such as deer, bears and mountain lions more likely to be killed or injured by wildlife-vehicle collisions.”

According to the California Highway Patrol, 15 people died and 810 people were injured in 4,368 collisions with animals on state, county and local roadways throughout California between 2017 and 2018. The UC Davis Road Ecology Center estimates the total annual cost of animalvehicle conflicts in California to be at least $307 million in 2018.

Wildlife experts offer the following tips for motorists:

  • Be extra alert when driving near areas wildlife frequent, such as streams and rivers, and reduce your speed especially around curves.
  • Don’t text and drive! Leave your phone alone; it can wait.
  • Pay extra attention driving during the morning and evening hours when wildlife are often most active.
  • If you see an animal on or near the road, know that others may be following.
  • Don’t litter. Trash and food odors can attract animals to roadways.
  • Pay attention to road shoulders. Look for movement or reflecting eyes. Slow down and honk your horn if you see an animal on or near the road.
  • Respect wildlife. California is their home too.

The Watch Out for Wildlife campaign is supported by Caltrans, CDFW, Defenders of Wildlife and the UC Davis Road Ecology Center.

Here are a few examples of what Caltrans, CDFW and their partners are doing to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, improve awareness of key issues and improve ecological sustainability:

Twin Gulches Undercrossings Provide Safe Passage for Pacific Fishers on State Route 299

Caltrans District 2 staff continue to monitor the Twin Gulches undercrossings that were constructed to provide safe passage for wildlife, including a rare species, the Pacific fisher. These crossings were constructed as part of the Twin Gulches Curve Improvement Project, which was finished in 2016. Photos from four trail cameras currently in place at the inlets and outlets of the culverts have captured several species using these structures.

A brown Pacific fisher with a black muzzle walks through an oversized steels culvert at night
A rare Pacific fisher passes through an oversized culvert constructed specifically for wildlife west of Redding under SR-299.

Construction of Wildlife Undercrossings Scheduled near Placerville

The Camino Safety Project east of Placerville in El Dorado County will go to construction next year and will include a 12-foot by 12-foot box culvert as a wildlife undercrossing, eight-foot wildlife fence, and four wildlife escape ramps for animals that may become trapped in the right-of-way. Camera monitoring and wildlife tracking show the project on U.S. Highway 50 will benefit deer, coyotes, foxes, and other species.

A doe and fawn walk through green, gold, and brown woodland
A doe and fawn traverse a patch of woodland near SR-50 and the site of a proposed box culvert that will be built for wildlife, as part of the Camino Safety Project in summer 2020. Caltrans photo

SR-68 Wildlife Crossing Improvements Planned in Monterey County

Caltrans has started environmental studies for the SR-68 Corridor Improvements Project that will include wildlife connectivity improvements near Monterey. The project follows recommendations from the Route 68 Scenic Highway Plan completed by the Transportation Agency of Monterey County (TAMC) in 2017. At TAMC’s request, Pathways for Wildlife installed wildlife cameras at culverts that cross under the highway. Their data were used to identify locations along the corridor where future improvements will be made to promote safe passage for wildlife under SR-68.

A tawny, faintly-marked bobcat walks out of a dark culvert
A bobcat crosses under SR-68 in Monterey County. Photo courtesy of Pathways for Wildlife

Southern California’s Liberty Canyon Wildlife Overpass

The storied Liberty Canyon Wildlife Overpass would be the largest stand-alone bridge built specifically for wildlife in the country once constructed. The overpass would reconnect the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills in Los Angeles County and span 10 lanes of traffic on U.S. Highway 101 and a frontage road. Caltrans and its partners have recently entered the  design phase for the bridge, which is a significant milestone in delivering a construction project. Fundraising efforts to raise $60 million for construction costs are ongoing.

Grant-funded Work to Improve Wildlife Connectivity Underway in Ventura County

Thanks to an Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program grant from the California Natural Resources Agency, Caltrans District 7 is installing upgrades to a wildlife undercrossing on SR-118 in Ventura County. These modifications include adding directional wildlife fencing and a ramp to better guide wildlife to the safe passageway. The National Park Service will help Caltrans monitor the success of this project after construction.

A new chain-link fence on undeveloped land ends at a freeway underpass
Chain-link fencing on SR-118 in Ventura County guides animals along the Mejico Creek corridor and safely under the highway.

Partnering Efforts Underway

Caltrans continues to partner with external agencies and nongovernmental organizations around the state to identify solutions for reducing roadkill. Caltrans’ District 2 office in Redding is a partner on the Elk Strike Prevention Team dedicated to identifying ways to reduce the number of elk-vehicle collisions on SR-97. Other team members include the California Highway Patrol, the UC Davis Road Ecology Center, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the California Deer Association.

The Caltrans’ District 8 office in San Bernardino has teamed up with The Nature Conservancy, Cal Poly Pomona, and UC Davis mountain lion researcher Winston Vickers to conduct field work on assessing wildlife connectivity near Interstate 15 in Riverside and San Diego counties. The team is particularly focused on studying the movement of mountain lions across the highway between the Temecula Creek Bridge and the Riverside/San Diego county line. Study results will help inform the development of conceptual design improvements for the wildlife corridor.

An 8-lane freeway cuts through dry, rocky, uneven terrain
I-15 in Riverside County is a deadly barrier through mountain lion habitat.

Wildlife-vehicle Collision Hotspot Analysis and Other Research

In partnership with the Western Transportation Institute, Caltrans recently completed a hotspot analysis that identifies the stretches of California highways with the highest frequencies of deer-vehicle collisions. This project will help determine where potential improvements may be needed to improve roadway safety. The report is available for download through the Western Transportation Institute’s (WTI) webpage.

Caltrans is funding research being completed by the U.S. Geological Survey and WTI to develop ways to help threatened and endangered amphibians and reptiles move around. Researchers are also developing crossing designs for amphibians and reptiles, including a low-lying bridge concept being tested on a dirt road in the Sierra National Forest. If adopted for use on California’s state highways, such a bridge would provide more space than traditional small diameter culverts for small-bodied amphibians and reptiles to move beneath roadways. Additionally, Caltrans is participating in a Pooled Fund Study with several other state departments of transportation to investigate cost-effective measures for reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions.

A mule deer walks across a paved two-lane road with a double-yellow line
This mule deer crossing a California highway is a good reminder to motorists to be alert to other users of the State Highway System.

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Media Contacts:
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420
Alisa Becerra, Caltrans Public Affairs, (916) 919-1701

fire damage at ecological reserve

Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve Closed Due to Fire

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has announced the immediate closure of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in Riverside County as a result of the Tenaja Incident (fire). Although the fire was largely under control as of Friday, Sept. 13, CDFW staff has closed the reserve to public access in order to perform repairs to critical infrastructure and allow firefighters to completely extinguish parts of the property that may still be smoldering.

The 7,500-acre reserve will be closed to all public access and activities, including biking, hiking and equestrian use, until further notice.

 

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Media Contacts:
Richard Kim, CDFW Inland Deserts Region, (760) 922-6783
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

Academy Graduation August 2019

CDFW Warden Academy Graduates 31 New Wildlife Officers

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is pleased to announce the addition of 31 Wildlife Officer Academy graduates to the Law Enforcement Division.

The Wildlife Officer Academy Class 62 graduation ceremony took place Friday, Aug. 9, at the Paradise Performing Arts Center in Paradise, Butte County. The 31 newly graduated wildlife officers will begin the CDFW Field Training Program to put their training into practice under the close supervision of experienced Field Training Officers (FTOs). Three additional cadets paid their way through the Academy as “self-sponsors” in the interest of applying for a wildlife officer position with the CDFW Law Enforcement Division or a different law enforcement agency.

CDFW’s Wildlife Officer Academy is certified through the California Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) and offers training consistent with every law enforcement agency in California. Field training with experienced FTOs is also mandated by POST to be sure new wildlife officers can apply the skills they learned during the academy to real life circumstances. The Field Training Program is the final stage of formal training. Upon successful completion, these officers will begin patrolling California to protect the natural resources of this great state.

The Academy has been located at Butte College since 2008 and provides peace officer academy training to California’s prospective wildlife officers. That partnership provided CDFW a state-of-the-art POST-certified academy facility with nearly 50 years of police training history.

CDFW recognizes the citizens of Butte County, and Paradise in particular, for their steadfast resolve to overcome the devastating Camp Fire. Some of those affected by the disaster are instructors, caretakers of Butte College, nearby business owners and employees, and others who keep the Academy and Butte College moving forward. “We acknowledge the efforts of those who trained our cadets while at the same time recovering from devastating losses,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “Congratulations to the staff and graduating wildlife officers of Academy 62 for your accomplishments during trying times.”

Wildlife officers make contact with more than 295,000 people and issue more than 15,000 citations annually. These officers primarily work alone, in remote areas, contacting subjects who almost always have some form of weapon, and they do so knowing that backup could be hours away. Wildlife officers have large patrol districts and great responsibilities, and frequently a sole officer will cover an entire county. The average California wildlife officer’s patrol district exceeds 500 square miles.

For more information about becoming a wildlife officer and the application timeline, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/enforcement/career.

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Media Contact:
Capt. Patrick Foy , CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692

 

California Fish and Game Commission Meets in Sacramento

At its August 2019 meeting in Sacramento, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from the two-day meeting.

The Commission and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division David Bess presented an award to Jessica Brown, who earned the title of 2018 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year. Brown is Supervising City Attorney for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Environmental Justice Unit. As she accepted the award, Brown acknowledged her team of superb prosecutors, all of whom are highly dedicated to the successful prosecution of fish and wildlife cases. Brown, along with her team, has shown steadfast dedication to CDFW’s cases and to protecting and conserving California’s natural resources.

At the Commission meeting Chief Bess also presented the Wildlife Officer of the Year Award to Warden Anastasia Norris for her exceptional efforts to investigate highly technical petroleum pollution cases and guide them to conviction. She took the initiative to become a pipeline and corrosion expert and this has benefitted CDFW in many oil spill cases. Her work on the May 2015 Refugio oil spill in Santa Barbara kept her stationed away from her family for three months. Norris accepted the award with her family present.

The Commission honored Valerie Termini for her service as Executive Director from 2016-2018. Termini was the first ever female Executive Director of the Commission and brought integrity and professionalism to the position. President Eric Sklar presented Termini with a Commission resolution and gift from the commissioners. Termini served as Executive Director until CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham requested she serve in an acting role as CDFW Chief Deputy Director in November, a position to which she was officially appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in June.

The Commission began the regulatory process to ban possession of live nutria, a large, brown, fur-bearing, aquatic rodent native to South America. CDFW is seeking a regulatory change from the Commission in order to prevent further spread of this persistent invasive species. 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 has a robust detection and eradication effort underway 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.

The Commission also determined that listing San Bernardino kangaroo rat as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review of the species and the Commission will make a final decision at a future meeting. During the status review, the San Bernardino kangaroo rat is protected under CESA as a candidate species.

The Commission also directed staff to continue working with CDFW and stakeholders to revise a draft Delta fisheries management policy, including potential revisions to the existing striped bass policy.

President Sklar and Commissioners Russell Burns, Samantha Murray and Peter Silva were present. Commission Vice President Jacque Hostler-Carmesin was absent.

The full Commission agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at www.fgc.ca.gov. An archived video will also be available in coming days.

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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

Wildlife Officers Shut Down Illegal Marijuana Grows in Tulare County

Meth, Firearms and Trash Pit Discovered Near Restored Wetlands

On June 21, wildlife officers at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) served a search warrant on an illegal marijuana grow in Tulare County. The parcel was located south of the city of Alpaugh. Assistance was provided by members of the Southern Tri Counties High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area team.

A records check confirmed the parcel was not permitted by the county nor licensed by the state for commercial cannabis cultivation. In addition, the site had not taken the necessary steps to notify CDFW of their activities, which is a requirement in the licensing process.

The location was in close proximity to the Atwell Island Recreational area which consists of 8,000 acres of restored native grassland, wetland and alkali sink habitats. It is an important habitat for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds and is one of the few remaining wetlands in the area.

“Tulare county is home to over 20 listed state species and 10 listed federal species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “It is a thoughtless act to leave trash and harmful chemicals near protected habitats that threatened and endangered wildlife call home.”

On site, officers located numerous fertilizer and pesticide containers, including a 55-gallon drum of roundup. The suspects had constructed a large lined water pit where they pre-mixed chemicals to water the plants. This unsecured set up was particularly alarming because the neighboring bird population could inadvertently be exposed to these harmful chemicals. The property was also littered with trash and had a huge open trash pit.

Officers removed 1,581 of illegal marijuana plants and approximately 1,000 lbs. of processed marijuana. CDFW seized three firearms, one being an AK-47, $8,980 in cash and 18.5 grams of methamphetamine. CDFW took all eight suspects into custody who were all charged with seven different violations including three felonies.

In addition, while officers were driving up the road to serve the warrant, they observed another illegal cultivation site in plain view with two subjects actively working in a 500-plant grow. Those two individuals were also taken into custody and booked into jail on felony charges.

Charges for all suspects include felony cultivation, possession of methamphetamine and a loaded gun, possession of an assault rifle, drug sales, resisting arrest and water code violations. Along with this, clean-up of the property will also be requested to help restore the surrounding wildlife habitat and ecology.

CDFW encourages the public to report environmental crimes such as water pollution, water diversions and poaching to the CalTIP hotline by calling (888) 334-2258 or by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891