Category Archives: Public Safety

Four Black Bears Transferred to Oakland Zoo Under Unique Circumstances

A female black bear and her three cubs were transferred to Oakland Zoo from the care of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Wildlife Investigations Lab on Tuesday.

Though it is CDFW policy not to place large adult mammals into captivity, a sequence of unique circumstances provided these bears an opportunity for a life as educational ambassadors at Oakland Zoo’s upcoming California Trail exhibit, rather than euthanasia for the sow and attempted rehabilitation of the cubs.

In the early hours of Monday, May 15, the sow and cubs broke into a home in Pine Mountain Club in Kern County. The elderly resident of the home attempted to haze the bears by banging pots and pans to no avail. The sow charged and swiped at the resident, causing injury to her left arm. She was treated at a local hospital and is recovering.

Per the CDFW public safety policy, a black bear that is known to have attacked or injured a human is deemed a public safety bear and must be euthanized.

During the investigation, CDFW learned of eight other incidents in the same vicinity over the three weeks leading up to the incident involving a sow with three cubs, believed to be the same four bears. These incidents were not reported to CDFW. None of these incidents resulted in human injury, however the bears did significant property damage to vehicles, garages and homes.

On the night of May 15, CDFW set a culvert trap in Pine Mountain Club and by the early morning of May 16, the sow and her cubs were safely captured. CDFW transported them to a holding facility at the Wildlife Investigations Laboratory near Sacramento. The cubs were approximately 12-15 lbs. and not yet weaned from the sow.

CDFW decided to hold and monitor all four bears until the cubs were weaned, with the hope that the cubs could be rehabilitated and eventually returned to their natural habitat. As a known public safety animal, the sow was to be euthanized per CDFW policy.

However as monitoring continued, CDFW staff determined that the bears were habituated to humans and not suitable candidates for release. CDFW began to search for a captive facility for the cubs.

Oakland Zoo requested to take the three cubs, as well as the sow, for their 56-acre California Trail expansion, its focus to highlight California’s natural habitat as part of an initiative to emphasize native species and educate the public about human-wildlife issues. In the interest of the cubs’ well-being and outreach opportunity, CDFW supported this unique strategy of placing the sow into captivity.

The exhibit, scheduled to open in summer of 2018, is intended to mimic California habitat, educate visitors about wildlife in California and inspire people to take action for the future of the state’s wildlife resources and habitats.

“Oakland Zoo is very grateful to be in a position to provide a home for these bears,” said Dr. Joel Parrott, President and CEO of Oakland Zoo. “They are an important example of the human-wildlife conflict and highlight how we need to care for wildlife throughout California.”

“We are so happy to be able to help these four bears,” said Colleen Kinzley, Director of Animal Care, Conservation and Research at Oakland Zoo. “As too often is the case when wild animals come into conflict with humans, it’s the animals that lose. Oakland Zoo’s purpose is to help people understand the challenges and the responsibilities of living with wildlife. Our first responsibility will be to provide these bears a rich life in a complex natural habitat that will be part of our new California Trail exhibit opening in 2018. We will share their story and help people to understand the role we all have in preventing these types of situations.”

Tuesday’s transfer of a sow, predestined for euthanasia, with her three cubs was highly unusual. No opportunity for transfer of a known public safety animal has previously existed. This situation is unique and does not set precedent for future outcomes for other habituated bears, public safety animals or nuisance wildlife. Additionally, captivity is far from an ideal outcome for a wild bear.

The best outcome for these black bears would have been to exhibit natural, healthy behaviors in their native habitat, free of human-related attractants, wildlife feeding issues and eventual habituation. During CDFW’s investigation, Pine Mountain Club residents reported that the sow had been well known in the area for a couple of years and they believed this was her first litter of cubs. The sow was known to scavenge for human-related food sources, cause property damage, and was teaching her cubs how to enter vehicles and homes in search of food. As a result of habituation, these bears did not recognize how to search for or rely on natural food sources.

“We are thankful for the unique opportunity Oakland Zoo has provided for these bears, and for the partnership that developed because of it,” said CDFW Wildlife Veterinarian Brandon Munk. “These four bears will have a new facility to call home and a group of people to help care for them. While it is always best to keep wildlife in the wild, sometimes that is not a good option. Wildlife that habituates to humans or becomes a public safety concern are not good candidates to be released back into the wild. There will never be enough space in zoos to place habituated or public safety animals, so we all must do our part to keep wildlife wild, by not feeding wildlife.”

Despite extensive public education and outreach in Pine Mountain Club about how to live in bear country, many residents are known to feed bears. Not only is feeding wild animals illegal, giving them access to human food and garbage causes them to lose their natural foraging habits and can make them aggressive.

CDFW regularly educates communities about how to keep both humans and wild animals safe. CDFW will continue to reach out to Pine Mountain Club and surrounding communities to create bear-aware communities and prevent future circumstances like this. Learn more at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild.

Video B-roll:

https://youtu.be/1ZIYVmwn9to

https://youtu.be/MGJcyVg_i44

Still photos:

www.flickr.com/californiadfg

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Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937
Erin Harrison, Oakland Zoo Marketing and Communications, (510) 632-9525 ext. 135

 

Be ‘Bear Aware’ this Spring and Summer

As spring and summer beckon people outdoors, California’s black bears are also active after a long winter hibernation. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) takes this opportunity to highlight the native black bear – one of most adaptable animals in the state – and encourages citizens to help reduce nuisance encounters with this iconic mammal by being “bear aware,” which means taking responsible actions that promote responsible behavior while living and recreating in bear country.

California has a healthy population of black bears that typically prefer remote mountainous areas. But as more people frequent parks and wilderness areas and choose to live in or near bear habitat, bears become more accustomed to the presence of people and as a result display less shy and elusive behavior.

“Over the years, we have seen bear behavior patterns change significantly”, said Marc Kenyon, manager of CDFW’s human/wildlife conflict program. “Each spring and summer we receive hundreds of calls from the public reporting anything from bears raiding food in campgrounds to bears taking dips in residential swimming pools. Bears have also been known to break into homes and cabins and steal food right off of the kitchen counter – sometimes while the occupants are home.”

Kenyon notes that bears have a highly specialized sense of smell. According to Kenyon, a bear can smell bacon frying from about three miles away, given the right conditions. An animal that is specialized at finding food sources coupled with greater numbers of people at its doorstep, can create a storm of human/wildlife conflicts. However, nuisance-bear behavior may be significantly reduced – or even eliminated, if people change their behavior.

Tips for Bear-proofing your Home, Rental or Timeshare:

In settled areas close to bear habitat, bears may venture in searching for food. The best defense against bear break-ins and bears in your yard is to eliminate attractants to your property by following these tips: 

  • Purchase and properly use a bear-proof garbage container.
  • Wait to put trash out until the morning of collection day.
  • Do not leave trash, groceries or pet food in your car.
  • Keep garbage cans clean and deodorize them with bleach or ammonia.
  • Keep barbecue grills clean and stored in a garage or shed when not in use.
  • Only provide bird feeders during November through March and make them inaccessible to bears.
  • Do not leave any scented products outside, even non-food items such as suntan lotion, insect repellent, soap or candles.
  • Keep doors and windows closed and locked.
  • Consider installing motion-detector alarms and/or electric fencing.
  • Harvest fruit off trees as soon as it is ripe, and promptly collect fruit that falls.
  • Bring pets in at night. Provide safe and secure quarters for livestock at night.
  • Consider composting bins as opposed to open composting.
  • Securely block access to potential hibernation sites such as crawl spaces under decks and buildings.
  • Do not spray bear spray around property – when it dries, it can serve as an attractant.
  • Do not feed deer or other wildlife – not only can it be unlawful, it will attract bears to your property.

Tips for Bear-proofing your Campsite:

Maintaining a clean campsite is the responsible and safe thing to do when visiting bear country. Here are a few tips for bear proofing your campsite: 

  • Haul garbage out of camp regularly – check with camp host or other camp personnel about safe garbage storage. Use bear lockers if available.
  • Store food (including pet food) and toiletries in bear-proof containers or in an airtight container in the trunk of your vehicle if bear lockers are not available. In some areas, food storage in the trunk is not advisable. Check with camp or park personnel.
  • Clean dishes and store food and garbage immediately after meals.
  • Clean your grill after each use.
  • Never keep food or toiletries in your tent.
  • Change out of clothes you cooked in before going to bed.
  • Do not clean fish in camp.
  • Do not leave pets unattended in camp or sleeping outside.

Tips for Hiking in Bear Country:

  • Bears may react defensively if your presence is not known – make noise while hiking. Talk loudly or whistle.
  • If possible, travel with a group of people.
  • Avoid thick brush and walk with the wind at your back so your scent is ahead of you.
  • Watch for bear sign along trails – scat, tracks and stripped bark off trees.
  • Avoid sites where dead animal carcasses are observed.
  • If you see a bear, avoid it and give it the opportunity to avoid you.
  • Leash dogs while hiking in bear country – dogs can surprise and aggravate bears – bringing the bear back to you when the dog flees from the bear.

Facts about Black Bears: 

  • Black bears are the only bear species found in California. They range in color from blonde to black, with cinnamon brown being the most common.
  • There are an estimated 35,000 bears in California.
  • Males are much larger than females and can weigh up to 500 pounds, although average weight is about 300 pounds.
  • Black bears can sprint up to 35 mph and they are strong swimmers and great tree climbers.
  • Bears are omnivorous eating foods ranging from berries, plants, nuts and roots to honey, honeycomb, insects, larvae, carrion and small mammals.
  • Bears typically mate in June and July.
  • As winter approaches, bears will forage for food up to 20 hours a day, storing enough fat to sustain them through hibernation. Bears often hibernate in large hollow trees 40 to 60 feet off the ground.
  • Bear cubs are born in winter dens in January and February and are hairless, deaf and blind.
  • Black bear attacks are rare in California and typically are defensive in nature because the bear is surprised or defending cubs; however, bears accustomed to people may become too bold and act aggressively.
  • Female black bears will often send cubs up a tree and leave the area in response to a perceived threat. Do not remain in the area – when you leave, she will come back for her cubs.

For more information about black bear biology, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Mammals/Black-Bear/Biology.

For information about bear-proof containers and where to buy them, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild/Products.

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

California Wildlife Officers Recognized for Special Service Acts, with Medal of Valor Awards

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers Chad Edwards and Michael Dilts received awards today at the 2017 Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor Ceremony in Sacramento. These annual awards recognize state employees for heroic acts of bravery. Wardens Edwards and Dilts each received the “Special Service Award” (Silver Medal): For an act of heroism by a State employee extending above and beyond the normal call of duty or service performed at personal risk to his or her safety to save human life or State property.
 
Edwards, Chad 2Warden Chad Edwards (Siskiyou County)

In September 2014, an arsonist ignited a brush fire on the outskirts of the town of Weed. The fire spread into town where it burned more than 150 homes and numerous commercial structures in a matter of hours. Warden Edwards heard the radio traffic regarding the fire and immediately responded to the area. He evacuated homes by transporting people in his patrol truck and flagged down other evacuees with empty seats in their cars, and coordinated for them to shuttle people out. Working through the chaos of the actively burning areas and aerial retardant dump, Warden Edwards made trip after trip into the burning neighborhoods to rescue stranded families, senior citizens and pets. He was ultimately an integral part of the investigation that brought the arsonist to justice. Warden Edwards acted with bravery and heroism extending above and beyond the normal call of duty to save human life. Amazingly, no lives were lost in this fire, due in part to the actions of Warden Edwards.

Dilts, Michael (1)Warden Michael Dilts  (Patrol Vessel Coho, Los Angeles County)
In July 2016, Warden Dilts was patrolling in the Seal Beach area near the San Gabriel River when he was flagged down by two pedestrians who told him that a vehicle was in the river and the female driver still inside. In the front seat of the partially submerged van, Warden Dilts found a woman who was making no attempt to escape. He immediately radioed for additional officer assistance, removed and secured his heavy duty belt and entered the water. Warden Dilts swam to the sinking van, extricated the driver and, relying upon lifeguard skills from past employment, pulled her back to shore. Thanks to the quick actions and dedication of Warden Dilts, the driver was rescued and the fully submerged van was recovered from the river.
 

“Year after year I find myself awestruck and proud of the outstanding service and brave acts of our fine wildlife officers,” said CDFW Chief of Law Enforcement David Bess. “The daily duties of our peace officers, like all others, comes with a known and certain inherent risk of danger, yet without hesitation they accept these risks and responsibilities. These awards recognize our officers who, through their selfless acts, exuded confidence in their training and preparedness to take their public service responsibilities to a level of heroism.”

 

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

Joe DeAnda, CalHR, (916) 322-6944

May 2017 California Department of Fish and Wildlife Calendar

 

DATE — EVENT

Various Days — Guided Wetland Tours at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, 3207 Rutherford Road, Gridley (95948). A wildlife naturalist will lead a group, school or organization on a half-mile route through diverse wetlands. General information includes wildlife identification, behavior patterns and conservation efforts. Tours can be catered to include requested information. The minimum group size is 18 people and reservations are required. For more information, please call (530) 846-7505 or email lori.dieter@wildlife.ca.gov.

Various Days — Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Access Permit Application Deadline for Multiple Hunting Opportunities. Wild pig, deer, bear, turkey, dove and quail hunts are available through the SHARE program. A $10.50 non-refundable application fee (plus handling fees) will be charged for each hunt choice. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/share.

Weekends — Ecological Reserve Tours at Elkhorn Slough. Volunteers lead walks every Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Binoculars and bird books are available for the public to borrow at no cost. The visitor center and main overlook are fully accessible. The day use permit fee is $4.12 per person, ages 16 and older (permits may be purchased on-site). Groups of five should please notify staff that they are coming and groups of 10 or more can request a separate tour. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/lands/places-to-visit/elkhorn-slough-er.

1 Northern California Red Abalone Season Opens. Northern California red abalone season is opening one month later than normal this season as low numbers of abalone seen in deeper waters (below 28 feet) during dive surveys prompted the California Fish and Game Commission to reduce the catch of red abalone for 2017. The months of April and November are closed this year and the number of abalone on the report card has been reduced from 18 to 12. Other regulations remain unchanged, including the start time of 8 a.m. For more information, please visit https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/north-coast-abalone-season-dates-regulations-change/ or contact Jerry Kashiwada at (707) 964-5791 or jerry.kashiwada@wildlife.ca.gov.

1 — Archery Only Spring Turkey and Additional Junior Spring Turkey Seasons Open. Season extends through May 14, 2017. For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

1 — Recreational Pacific Halibut Fishery Opens. There will be four open periods for the 2017 fishery: May 1-June 15, July 1-15, Aug. 1-15 and Sept. 1-Oct. 31, or until the quota is reached, whichever is earlier. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/pacific-halibut.

6 — Take It Outside California! Elkhorn Slough Reserve, 1700 Elkhorn Road, Watsonville (95076), 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event will feature games, crafts and guided trail walks. The cost is $4.12 for trail use and no pets are allowed. For more information, please contact Virginia Guhin at virginia.guhin@wildlife.ca.gov.

12-13 — Monterey Bay Youth Outdoor Day, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Fishing Passport Program will quiz kids on different aspects of sport fish and fishing, provide California Fishing Passports and California Finfish and Shellfish Identification books, and provide fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing information. More than 40 organizations will be represented and the event is free. For more information, please visit www.mbyod.org/.

13 — Gray Lodge Wildlife Area Kids’ Fishing Day, 7 a.m. to noon, 3207 Rutherford Road, Gridley (95948). Youths 15 and under can compete for the biggest catfish in the morning at the free event, and fishing poles and bait will be available. The event will include prizes and lunch for participating youths and a bicycle will be awarded to the holder of the largest fish. Anglers age 16 and over who have a valid California Sport Fishing License may fish from this location after noon. For more information, please contact the Gridley Recreation Department at (530) 846-3264 or Gray Lodge Wildlife Area at (530) 846-7505.

15 — Recreational Ocean Salmon Season Reopens from the Point Arena to Pigeon Point. For more information, please visit the Ocean Salmon webpage at www.wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon or call the Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (707) 576-3429.

20 — Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs, 7 a.m. to noon, Bidwell Park, Chico. To kick off National Fishing Week, the city of Chico will host this free children’s fishing event for kids 15 and under. Tackle, bait and instruction are provided and the lake will be stocked with 8,000 lbs. of catfish. For more information, please call (530) 891-4757. 

24 — California Fish and Game Commission Wildlife Resources Committee Meeting, time to be determined, Resources Building, First Floor Auditorium, 1416 Ninth Street, Sacramento (95814). For more information, please visit www.fgc.ca.gov/meetings/2017/index.aspx.

24 — Delta Fisheries Forum, 1-4 p.m., Resources Building, First Floor Auditorium, 1416 Ninth St., Sacramento (95814). Interested stakeholders are invited to join a forum to explore and discuss the future of fisheries management in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Jointly sponsored by the California Fish and Game Commission and CDFW. For more information, please see www.fgc.ca.gov.

25 — California Wildlife Conservation Board Meeting, 10 a.m., State Capitol, Room 112, Sacramento (95814). For more information, please visit www.wcb.ca.gov.

31 — Nomination Deadline for Fisheries Restoration Grant Program Peer Review Committee. The CDFW Fisheries Restoration Grant Program (FRGP) is seeking nominations from the public to fill three vacancies on the FRGP Peer Review Committee. Applications are sought for the timber industry, agricultural industry, and academic or research positions. For more information, please visit https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/nominations-now-being-accepted-for-fisheries-restoration-grant-program-peer-review-committee-7/.

Media Contact:
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

Mountain Lion DNA Found Inside Pescadero Home

A trace of mountain lion DNA was identified in a blood sample taken from inside a home in Pescadero, confirming reports that a mountain lion entered an occupied home and took a dog off the bed where the homeowner was sleeping.

On Monday, Apr. 17, 2017, a Pescadero homeowner called 911 at 3 a.m. to report an animal had entered her home through an open door and taken her 15-pound dog, which was sleeping on the end of her bed. San Mateo County Sheriff’s deputies responded and although they did not find the dog, they reported seeing wet paw prints at the entrance to the bedroom. They notified the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and a wildlife officer responded later that morning. The wet prints had dried and were no longer visible. The wildlife officer was unable to find any other tracks or obvious sign of a mountain lion. He did discover a small drop of blood on the door, which he collected for analysis.

Due to the nature of the report, the wildlife officer drove the blood sample to the CDFW Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Sacramento the same day. Forensic analysis confirmed the blood found in the home was predominantly domestic dog, with trace amounts of mountain lion DNA, confirming a mountain lion had entered the home and taken the dog.

The property owners are eligible for a depredation permit, which would allow them or an agent acting on their behalf to take the offending mountain lion. However, they opted not to receive the permit. No further action will be taken by CDFW.

CDFW stresses that this lion’s behavior is extremely rare. Most mountain lions are elusive in nature and rarely seen. CDFW urges residents in the area to take all reasonable actions to secure their properties and domestic pets to better coexist with not only mountain lions, but all wildlife. For tips, please see www.wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild.

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