Category Archives: Public Safety

California Black Bears are Back in Action: Stash Food and Trash

California’s black bears are waking up hungry from their winter downtime. To help minimize unwanted bear foraging behavior, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding those living in or visiting bear country to store food and dispose of garbage properly.

Black bears typically prefer remote mountainous areas. However, as more people frequent or live in natural bear habitat, the abundance of food and garbage associated with human activities is a temptation hungry bears find hard to resist.

“Over the years, we have seen bear behavior change significantly in areas where more people live and recreate in bear habitat,” said Vicky Monroe, CDFW’s Conflict Programs Coordinator. “Beginning with spring and into late fall, we receive a steady stream of calls from the public reporting anything from bears breaking into cabins and tents to bears stealing food off picnic tables.”

Black bears, like other bear species, have a highly specialized sense of smell, which can sometimes lead them to towns and recreation areas where they may quickly find an overflowing garbage can or someone’s leftover hamburger and French fries.

The public can help bears stay out of human settlements and stick to their natural diet by properly disposing of leftover food and garbage. Additional suggestions include:

  • Residents and vacationers should remove any food attractants from around their home or rental. Pet food, barbecue grills and bird feeders are also attractants. Store trash in bear-resistant storage sheds until trash pickup day.
  • Use sensory deterrents (such as ammonia), electric mats and bear-resistant fencing to exclude hungry and curious bears from gaining access to attractants.
  • Visitors to towns and tourist areas should not pile trash in a trash can or bin that is already overflowing – take trash to a proper receptacle or another location if necessary.
  • Keep campsites and other recreation areas clean. Use bear-resistant coolers and store all food in bear lockers.
  • Never feed wildlife.

Additional information can be found on CDFW’s website, including tips on how to keep California black bears wild, information about bear proof containers and information about black bear biology.

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Media Contacts:
Lesa Johnston, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 322-8933
Victoria Monroe, CDFW Human-Wildlife Conflict Program, (916) 856-8335

CDFW Reminds Public to Leave Young Wildlife Alone

Late spring and early summer is the peak time for California’s wildlife to have their young, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is issuing a reminder to well-intentioned people to not interact with young wildlife – even if they find an animal that appears to be abandoned.

It may be hard to resist scooping up a young wild animal that looks vulnerable and alone but human intervention may cause more harm than good. Young animals removed from their natural environment typically do not survive or may not develop the appropriate survival skills needed to be released back into the wild.

“It is a common mistake to believe a young animal has been abandoned when it is found alone, even if the mother has not been observed in the area for a long period of time,” said Nicole Carion, CDFW’s statewide wildlife rehabilitation coordinator. “Chances are the mother is off foraging, or is nearby, waiting for you to leave.”

Adult female deer often stash their fawns in tall grass or brush for many hours while they are out foraging for food. A female mountain lion may spend as much as 50 percent of her time away from her kittens.

After leaving the nest, fledgling birds spend significant time on the ground while learning to fly with their parents somewhere nearby.

If a young animal is in distress, or you are unsure, contact a wildlife rehabilitation facility and speak to personnel to determine the best course of action.

For an injured, orphaned or sick bear, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, wild pig or mountain lion, contact CDFW directly, as most wildlife rehabilitators are only allowed to possess small mammals and birds. Although some wildlife rehabilitators are allowed to accept fawns, injured or sick adult deer should be reported directly to CDFW for public safety reasons.

Anyone who removes a young animal from the wild is required to notify CDFW or take the animal to a state and federally permitted wildlife rehabilitator within 48 hours. These animals may need specialized care and feeding that is best done by trained wildlife care specialists.

It is important to note that wild animals – even young ones – can cause serious injury with their sharp claws, hooves and teeth, especially when injured and scared. They may also carry ticks, fleas and lice, and can transmit diseases to humans, including rabies and tularemia.

To learn more about how to live and recreate responsibly where wildlife is near, please visit CDFW’s Keep Me Wild website at www.keepmewild.org.

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Media Contacts:
Nicole Carion, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (530) 357-3986
Lesa Johnston, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 322-8933

Shake, Rattle and Roll: Rattlesnake Season is here

With the coming of spring and warmer weather conditions, snakes of many species are through hunkering down, making human encounters with these elusive creatures more likely. Although most native snakes are harmless, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommends giving the venomous rattlesnake a wide berth and knowing what to do in the rare event of a bite.

“Snakes really get an unfair bad rap, when they actually play an important role in California’s ecosystems,” said CDFW’s Keep Me Wild program coordinator Lesa Johnston. “Like most wild animals, snakes prefer to keep to themselves and are not naturally aggressive. Taking the time to learn about safety precautions before going outdoors can make all the difference.”

Rattlesnakes are widespread in California and are found in a variety of habitat throughout the state from coastal to desert. They may also turn up around homes and yards in brushy areas and under wood piles. Generally not aggressive, rattlesnakes will likely retreat if given room and not provoked or threatened. Most bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally brushed against by someone walking or climbing.

On occasion, rattlesnake bites have caused severe injury – even death. However, the potential of encountering a rattlesnake should not deter anyone from venturing outdoors. The California Poison Control System notes that the chances of being bitten are small compared to the risk of other environmental injuries. Most bites occur between the months of April and October when snakes and humans are most active outdoors.

CDFW provides tips for safely living in snake country on its website, as well as tips for keeping snakes out of your yard and what do to do (and not do) in the event of a snake bite.

Additional resources can be found on the CaliforniaHerps.com Living with Rattlesnakes webpage.

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Media Contact:
Lesa Johnston, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 322-8933

Water Bird Die-off at Salton Sea

Thousands of water birds died of an avian cholera outbreak at the south end of the Salton Sea between Jan. 8-17. Outbreaks like this one occur annually as a result of birds flocking closely together during migration.

On Jan. 8, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) began receiving reports of hundreds of dead birds at the south end of the Salton Sea from local waterfowl hunters and staff at the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge (SBNWR). CDFW investigated the event and discovered over a thousand bird carcasses concentrated around Bruchard Bay west of the New River. Over the next week, staff from CDFW and SBNWR collected more than 1,200 carcasses consisting of mainly Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Black-necked Stilts and Gulls. Most carcasses were incinerated at SBNWR to reduce the spread of disease; however, several samples were shipped to the CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab in Rancho Cordova to determine the cause of death. The samples tested positive for avian cholera.

avian chol 2

Avian cholera is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida. Outbreaks occur annually during the winter in California and may result in the deaths of thousands of birds. Waterfowl and coots are the most commonly affected. Pasteurella multocida is released into the environment by dead and dying birds or asymptomatic carriers, and is transmitted through direct bird-to-bird contact or through the ingestion of contaminated food or water. Predatory and scavenging birds may acquire avian cholera by feeding on infected birds. Avian cholera is transmitted easily between birds when they flock together in high densities. Birds are most susceptible to the disease during stressful periods, especially during the winter months when birds congregate at key water sources during migration, and the weather is cold and damp.

Avian cholera can affect rabbits and mice but not other mammals. It is not considered a high risk disease for humans. However, hunters should always cook their game thoroughly. For more information, please refer to the full Field Guide to Wildlife Diseases.

CDFW staff will continue monitoring and collecting carcasses around the Salton Sea over the next few weeks. CDFW’s Bermuda Dunes Field Office, Wildlife Investigations Lab and local game wardens will continue to coordinate with partners, including staff at SBNWR and the Imperial Wildlife Area – Wister Unit to share information and prepare to respond should the die off increase.

CDFW is also asking club owners and habitat managers to make a report if multiple dead birds are found on their property. Reports can be made to CDFW’s Dead Bird Hotline at 1 (877) 968-2473.

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

 

CDFW and Partners Clean-Up Black Market Marijuana Grow in Orange County

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and Orange County Parks (OC Parks) completed a clean-up of a black market marijuana grow at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

The team clean-up effort was conducted in two phases (Dec. and Jan.) and removed approximately 3,120 pounds of trash, 1,500 feet of plastic irrigation piping, 24 ounces of pesticides as well as other forms of garbage that can be detrimental to the environment.

For the clean-up, OC Parks worked with a specialized hazmat contractor, Clean Harbors, to ensure the pesticide was removed and disposed of correctly. Through testing, the pesticide was confirmed to be carbofuran, a highly toxic and banned substance. Just a teaspoon can kill a 300-pound black bear.

“Protecting California’s natural resources takes commitment from federal, state, county and city entities. I commend all those that were involved in this effort to identify the black market grow, eradicate it and clean it up,” said David Bess, Deputy Director and Chief of the CDFW Law Enforcement Division. “Working together, we can protect the environment and help the permitted cannabis market thrive.”

During routine flights over Orange County with the National Guard’s Counter Drug Unit, CDFW spotted a black market marijuana grow. On Sept. 27, CDFW and Newport Beach Police Department conducted an eradication mission at the site. Attempts to apprehend the suspects were unsuccessful.

Officers eradicated 500 plants and confiscated 75 pounds of processed marijuana. The grow, when in full production, contained almost 1,500 plants. During the eradication, CDFW documented numerous environmental violations including streambed alterations, haphazard pesticides left on the property, trash within 150 feet of a waterway and a poached deer.

Between 2013 and 2018, CDFW has removed more than 2.4 million feet of irrigation pipe, 50 tons of fertilizer and 65 gallons of chemicals (many illegal in the U.S.) on black market grows. CDFW has also removed 709 dams and water diversions resulting in restoration of 800 million gallons of water back into local watersheds.

CDFW would like to remind 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 whatever the desired message, to 847411 (tip411).

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