Category Archives: Public Safety

‘County Fire’ Forces Closure of Knoxville Wildlife Area

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has announced that the Knoxville Wildlife Area located in northeastern Napa County is now closed until further notice because of the County Fire.

The Knoxville-Berryessa Road, which runs through the wildlife area, is currently closed. Due to the uncertain nature of the fire it is unknown when the wildlife area will reopen. A follow-up press release will be issued regarding the reopening of the wildlife area when ground conditions warrant.

To monitor the status of the County Fire, please visit www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents.

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

California Black Bears are on the Move

California’s black bears are active and hungry after a period of hunkering down through the winter. As a reminder, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) encourages people to help reduce unwanted encounters with this large mammal by being “bear aware.” People who visit or live in bear country can take actions that promote responsible behavior and safe co-existence with bears.

Black bears are the only bear species in California. They generally prefer mountainous areas and natural habitat. However, as more people visit parks and wilderness areas and choose to live in or near bear habitat, some bears may become used to the presence of people and as a result display less shy and avoidant behavior.

“Over the years, reported human-bear conflicts have increased significantly,” said Vicky Monroe, CDFW’s Wildlife Conflict Programs Coordinator. “Each spring and summer we receive numerous calls from the public reporting anything from black bears eating food off campground picnic tables to bears taking dips in residential swimming pools.”

Black bears have a diverse diet and can eat nearly anything, from berries and insects to pet food, human trash and road kill. They also have a highly specialized sense of smell, which can sometimes lead them to enter homes, cabins and tents while following their nose (and stomach) to a food source. Local communities and areas of human activity in or around bear habitat can provide a tempting food supply for a hungry bear. However, unwanted and/or destructive bear activity may be significantly reduced or even eliminated, when people are mindful and remember to remove attractants and access to food.

Tips for Bear-proofing your Home, Rental or Timeshare

Bears may venture into areas of human activity close to bear habitat, in search of 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.
  • It is advised to not hang bird feeders in bear country. If you must, only do so during November through March and make them inaccessible to bears. Keep in mind bears are excellent climbers.
  • 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 when unoccupied.
  • 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 – this 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.
  • If in the backcountry, store food in a bear-resistant food canister.
  • Use bear resistant ice chests (some jurisdictions will only allow ice chests that are approved as bear resistant)

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.

Black Bear Safety Reminders

  • Black bear behavior is not always predictable. Human-bear attacks are rare in California; however, they do occur. There is no single safety strategy applicable to every bear encounter.
  • Individual bears can display varying levels of tolerance and temperament.
  • Prevention is better than confrontation.
  • Keep as much distance as possible between you and the bear.
  • Share this information with your children. Make sure they know to tell you if they see a bear in the area. Be Bear Aware.

Black Bear Encounters

These are general guidelines based on research by wildlife managers and scientists, intended to help keep you safe in the event of a black bear encounter. Keep in mind that safety tips for grizzly bears are not the same as for black bear. California does not have grizzly bears.

  • If a bear breaks into your home, do not confront the bear. Most bears will quickly look for an escape route. Move away to a safe place. Do not block exit points. If the bear does not leave, call 911.
  • If you encounter a bear in your yard, chances are it will move on if there is nothing for the bear to forage. If there is enough distance between you and the bear, you can encourage the bear to leave by using noisemakers or blowing a whistle.
  • If you encounter a bear while hiking and it does not see you. Back away and increase your distance. Clap hands or make noise so the bear knows you are there and will move on.
  • If you encounter a bear on the trail and it sees you. Do not make eye contact. Back away, do not run. Let the bear know you are not a threat. Give it a chance to leave.
  • If a bear approaches you, make yourself look bigger by lifting and waving arms. Use noisemakers, or yell at the bear. If small children are present, keep them close to you.Carry and know how to use bear spray as a deterrent. In the event of a black bear attack, it is usually recommended to fight back. However, each situation is different. Prevention is the key.

Black Bear Facts

  • 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, roots, and honey, honeycomb, insects, larvae, carrion and small mammals.
  • Bears typically mate in June and July.
  • 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 Contacts:
Victoria Monroe, CDFW Wildlife Conflict Program, (916) 856-8335
Lesa Johnston, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 322-8933

 

Commercial Rock Crab Fishery Continues to be Extended Northward to near the Mendocino/ Humboldt County Line

Following the recommendation of state health agencies, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced today that it will be extending the area open to commercial rock crab fishing from the Sonoma/Mendocino County line to near the Mendocino/Humboldt County line at 40° 00.00 ‘ N. Lat. This will open all commercial rock crab fishing from 40° 00.00 ‘ N. Lat. south to the California/Mexico border.

On Nov. 8, 2016, upon the recommendation of the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham submitted to the Office of Administrative Law an emergency rulemaking to close the commercial rock crab fishery north of Pigeon Point, San Mateo County. Since that time, new authority established in the Fish and Game Code, section 5523, allowed the Director to open portions of the fishery upon the recommendation from the Director of OEHHA. The fishery was last modified in March 2018, when it was opened between Salt Point, Sonoma County and the Sonoma/Mendocino County line. State and federal laws prohibit the commercial distribution of seafood products that contain domoic acid levels above the federal action level of 30 parts per million in the viscera. The recreational fishery for rock crab remains open statewide with a warning from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to recreational anglers to avoid consuming the viscera of rock crab caught north of the Mendocino/Humboldt County line to the California/Oregon border.

Closure of the commercial rock crab fishery north of 40° 00.00 ‘ N. Lat. near the Mendocino/Humboldt County line to the California/Oregon border shall remain in effect until the Director of OEHHA, in consultation with the Director of CDPH, determines that domoic acid levels no longer pose a significant risk to public health and recommends the fishery be opened. CDFW will continue to coordinate with fishermen, CDPH, and OEHHA to test domoic acid levels in rock crab within the closure area of the coast. Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin that can accumulate in shellfish, other invertebrates and sometimes fish. It causes illness and sometimes death in a variety of birds and marine mammals that consume affected organisms. At low levels, domoic acid exposure can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness in humans. At higher levels, it can cause persistent short-term memory loss, seizures and can in some cases be fatal.

For more information:

Memo from Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (4/20/2018)

CDFW Declaration (4/20/2018)

www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Health-Advisories

www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab

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Media Contacts:
Christy Juhasz, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2887
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

Opening of Commercial Rock Crab Fishery Extended to Sonoma/Mendocino County Line

Following the recommendation of state health agencies, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced today that it has extended the area open to commercial rock crab fishing from the Sonoma/Mendocino County line (38° 46.1′ N. Lat., near Gualala, Mendocino County) south to the California/Mexico border.

At the recommendation of the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham submitted to the Office of Administrative Law an emergency rulemaking to close the commercial rock crab fishery north of Pigeon Point, San Mateo County on Nov. 8, 2016. On Jan.1, 2017, new authority established in the Fish and Game Code, section 5523, allowed the Director to continue the closure. Updated recommendations received from OEHHA have resulted in the Director opening parts of the commercial rock crab fishery north of the closure boundary near Pigeon Point. The fishery was last modified in January 2018 when the fishery was opened between Bodega Bay and Salt Point, Sonoma County. State and federal laws prohibit the commercial distribution of seafood products that contain domoic acid levels above the federal action level of 30 parts per million in the viscera. The recreational fishery for rock crab remains open statewide with a warning from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to recreational anglers to avoid consuming the viscera of rock crab caught north of the Sonoma/Mendocino County line to the California/Oregon border.

Closure of the commercial rock crab fishery north of the Sonoma/Mendocino County line to the California/Oregon border shall remain in effect until the Director of OEHHA, in consultation with the Director of CDPH, determines that domoic acid levels no longer pose a significant risk to public health and recommends the fishery be opened. CDFW will continue to coordinate with and the fishing community, CDPH and OEHHA to test domoic acid levels in rock crab within the closure area of the coast. Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin that can accumulate in shellfish, other invertebrates and sometimes fish. It causes illness and sometimes death in a variety of birds and marine mammals that consume affected organisms. At low levels, domoic acid exposure can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness in humans. At higher levels, it can cause persistent short-term memory loss, seizures and can in some cases be fatal.

For more information:

Memo from Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (3/29/2018) www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Health-Advisories
www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab

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Media Contacts:
Christy Juhasz, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2887
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

20-Year Prison Sentence for Man Convicted of Attempting to Shoot a Wildlife Officer

A Humboldt County man who attempted to shoot a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CFDW) wildlife officer has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Shawn Eugene Hof, Jr., 25, was convicted in Humboldt County Superior Court of assault with a firearm upon a peace officer with an enhancement of personally using a firearm, being a felon in possession of a firearm, using threats and violence upon an executive officer, negligently discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle, and one misdemeanor violation of “spotlighting” (using artificial light to poach wildlife). On Jan. 16, Humboldt County Superior Court Judge John T. Feeney issued the 20-year sentence. By law, Hof must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence because of the serious nature of the offenses.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 21, 2016, a CDFW wildlife officer was patrolling in Carlotta, Humboldt County. The officer saw a pickup truck with two occupants using spotlights on Redwood House Road near Highway 36. The driver sped away when the officer attempted an enforcement stop. During the subsequent pursuit, Hof began shooting at the wildlife officer from the truck. The suspects crashed their vehicle into a tree and escaped into the woods. Hof was on the run for more than a year.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and Humboldt District Attorney’s Office led the initial investigation into the shooting incident and, working with the CDFW Law Enforcement Division, applied intensive pressure to locate and arrest Hof. A group of private donors, including the California Wildlife Officers Foundation, California Fish and Game Warden Supervisors and Managers Association, California Waterfowl Association, Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society of the United States, The Nature Conservancy, Sportfishing Alliance and others collaborated on a $20,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. Hof ultimately turned himself into police on Aug. 10, 2017.

“We are pleased with the sentence handed down by Judge Feeney,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “It took a dangerous felon out of the community making it safer for the citizens of Humboldt County. CDFW thanks our allied agency partners for their efforts since the moment the incident began and the coalition of donors who offered the reward money. We’re relieved the situation was resolved without injuries to our officers or the public.”

Hof’s accomplice, Thomas Wheeler, 19 of Fortuna was sentenced last month to a suspended sentence of eight years in state prison for the use of a firearm in aiding and abetting the assault on a peace officer, evading a peace officer with wanton and reckless disregard for person and property, two misdemeanor violations for allowing another person to shoot from a vehicle, and spotlighting.

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