riparian brush rabbit

Deadly Disease Detected in California Wild Rabbits for the First Time

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), in conjunction with the California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab, San Bernardino has diagnosed Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) in a black-tailed jackrabbit carcass submitted from private property near Palm Springs in early May. Samples submitted to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Plum Island, New York, confirmed the presence of the RHD virus type 2 (RHDV2) in California for the first time. This disease is highly contagious and often lethal to both wild and domestic rabbits. The carcass that was tested was one of about 10 dead jackrabbits observed on the Palm Springs property.

RHDV2 is not related to coronavirus; it is a calicivirus that does not affect humans or domestic animals other than rabbits. At this time, no other California rabbit populations are known to be infected, but the disease has spread quickly in other states, prompting CDFW biologists to prepare for more reports in the coming months. A “quick facts” reference guide can be found on CDFW’s website.

Since March 2020, RHDV2 has caused mortalities of both wild and domestic rabbits in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Texas and Mexico. Deaths of both wild rabbits and jackrabbits have occurred. Infected rabbits and jackrabbits may exhibit no symptoms leading up to their sudden death, or may suffer from fever, swelling, internal bleeding and liver necrosis. The range of susceptible species in North America is currently unknown, but all rabbit, jackrabbit, hare and pika species are likely susceptible.

CDFW Senior Wildlife Veterinarian Deana Clifford noted the introduction of RHDV2 to California could significantly impact wild rabbit populations, particularly those already at risk, such as the endangered riparian brush rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani riparius) and those with limited distribution in the state, such as the pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis).

“Unfortunately, we may also see impacts to species that depend on rabbits for food, as rabbits are a common prey species for many predators,” noted Dr. Clifford.

CDFW will carefully monitor the progression of RHDV2 in California, including investigating and testing rabbits found dead, monitoring populations of endangered rabbits and working with partners, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Public reports are an extremely helpful tool as wildlife veterinarians monitor the situation. CDFW is asking anyone who lives, works or recreates in wild rabbit habitat to report any sightings of sick or dead rabbits to CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory. To report sightings of sick or dead wild rabbits, hares or pikas contact the CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab at (916) 358-2790 or file an online mortality report through CDFW’s website.

Outdoor recreationists should take precaution when hiking, camping or backpacking and not handle or disturb carcasses to minimize the potential spread of RHDV2. Additionally, hunters should take precautions to prevent spreading the virus, such as wearing gloves when field dressing rabbits, washing hands and burying remains onsite so that scavengers cannot spread the virus. The virus is hardy and can remain viable on meat, fur, clothing and equipment for a very long time, making it easily transmissible to other areas.

In California, hunting season for brush rabbits and cottontails opens July 1 and runs through the last Sunday in January. The season is open statewide, except for a closed area in the Central Valley near the riparian brush rabbit range. Hunting season for jackrabbits is year-round and statewide.

A vaccine for RHDV2 is not currently available in the U.S., thus domestic rabbit owners should practice good biosecurity measures to protect their animals from this disease, such as washing hands before and after working with rabbits, not sharing equipment with other owners and keeping their rabbits isolated from wild or feral rabbits.

Domestic rabbit owners who have a sick rabbit should contact their veterinarian. If domestic rabbits are found dead, please contact the local CDFA Animal Health Branch or call (916) 900-5002.

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Media Contacts:
Dr. Deana Clifford, CDFW Wildlife Investigations Laboratory, (916) 358-2378
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

Riparian brush rabbit photo courtesy of Moose Peterson. All rights reserved.

Drawings Available for Nearly 100 Spring Wild Turkey Hunts on Public, Private Land

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is offering nearly 100 special hunts on both public and private land for the upcoming spring wild turkey season, which opens statewide March 28 and extends through May 3.

Young hunters have additional opportunities to bag a tom turkey. Junior hunting license holders 17 and younger can hunt March 21-22, the weekend before the general opener, and two weeks after the general season closes, May 4-17, using shotguns or any other legal method of take. CDFW is offering 27 special turkey hunts reserved just for junior hunting license holders.

California’s archery-only spring turkey season runs from May 4-17. CDFW is once again offering a drawing for seven, archery-only hunts throughout the general and archery seasons near Millerton Lake in Madera County.

CDFW’s SHARE Program, which provides public hunting access to private properties, is offering drawings for spring turkey hunts on two private ranches in Tulare County, the 722-acre River Ridge Ranch and the 975-acre Hart Ranch, including one hunt reserved for junior hunting license holders March 22 at the River Ridge Ranch.

With growing populations of wild turkeys in almost every part of the state, the spring turkey season has become one of the most anticipated events on the upland game bird hunting calendar.

Shooting hours for spring turkeys are from one half-hour before sunrise to 5 p.m. Both a hunting license and an upland game bird stamp validation are required to hunt wild turkeys, although an upland validation is not required of junior hunting license holders.

Hunters are limited to one bearded turkey per day with a season limit of three birds.

Nonlead shot is required when taking wildlife with a firearm anywhere in the state. These regulations apply to both public and private land, including all national forests, Bureau of Land Management and CDFW properties. For more information on hunting with nonlead ammunition, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/nonlead-ammunition.

Applications for CDFW’s special spring turkey hunting opportunities must be made through CDFW’s Automated License Data System (ALDS). Hunts are grouped into four separate drawings: Junior Hunts, General Opening Weekend Hunts, Archery-Only Hunts and Balance of Season Hunts. There is a $2.42 application fee and only one application per hunter is allowed for each drawing. Applications allow hunters to select their top three hunt choices in order of preference. Hunters may only be drawn once per application. The application deadline for these hunts is as follows:

  • Junior Hunts: Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020
  • Opening Weekend General Season Hunts: Saturday, March 7, 2020
  • Archery-Only Hunts: Sunday, March 8, 2020
  • Balance of the Season Hunts: Wednesday, March 11, 2020

To apply, visit CDFW’s online sales site, sign into your account, select the “Purchase Licenses” link and select “2019 – Hunting” from the menu on the left side of the page. The spring turkey hunt application items will be available under the “Drawings” section on the right side of the page. After submitting your application, checking out and completing payment, you will be able to download a receipt confirming your entries into the drawings.

For more details and descriptions of these hunts, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/turkey-hunts.

Hunters will also find the “SHARE Hunts Multi Choice Application” available in the same location online after signing into their accounts. The application fee for the Tulare County private ranch turkey hunts is $11.88 per hunt with all proceeds returned to participating landowners to pay for these hunts and additional opportunities.

For more details and descriptions of these SHARE hunts, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/share#51518483-general-hunts and select the links for the River Ridge Ranch and the Hart Ranch.

Media Contacts:
Matt Meshriy, CDFW Upland/Small Game Program, (916) 373-8816
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

painting of ruffed grouse

Indiana Artist Wins California Upland Game Bird Stamp Art Contest for Third Year in a Row

A painting of a ruffed grouse has been chosen by a panel of judges as the winning entry in the 2019-2020 California Upland Game Bird Stamp Art Contest. The painting was created by Jeffrey Klinefelter of Etna Green, Ind.

Sponsored by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the annual contest determined the official design for this year’s California Upland Game Bird Stamp. Klinefelter also captured the top spots in the 2018-19 and 2017-18 Upland Game Bird Stamp Art Contests, as well as the 2009-10 California Duck Stamp Contest.

Artists submitted an original depiction of ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus). These medium-bodied forest dwellers are the only member of the genus Bonasa, and have a range extending across North America. In California, they inhabit riparian and conifer forests in the northwestern portion of the state. Ruffed grouse have intricately barred or variegated plumage in shades of brown and gray, depending on environmental variables, with a conspicuous neck “ruff” and dark tail banding which they use to attract mates. Their most notable courtship ritual, however, is their “drum display” – a low-frequency booming sound created by beating their wings against their bodies.

Contest entries were judged recently by a panel of experts selected for their knowledge in the fields of ornithology, conservation, art and printing. Designs were judged on originality, artistic composition, anatomical accuracy, and suitability for reproduction as a stamp and print.

The judges praised the composition and fine detail of the painting, specifically noting the accuracy of the feathers. They cited the excellent coloration with “good barring on the belly and speckle on the back” that blends nicely with the autumnal aspen forest in the background. The panel also appreciated the in-flight depiction which allowed a full display of the grouse’s intricate plumage, something Klinefelter found challenging yet rewarding.

“Ruffed grouse are agile fliers and I thought painting them in flight would make a good picture,” he said. “The plumage blends well with the background – they have cryptic coloration.” He went on to say that while he has only seen ruffed grouse in captivity, he enjoyed imagining them in their native California habitat.

Broderick Crawford of Clayton, Ga., placed second. Mark Thone of Shakopee, Minn., placed third. Buck Spencer of Junction City, Ore. received honorable mention.

An upland game bird validation is required for hunting migratory and resident upland game birds in California. The validation replaces the stamp through CDFW’s Automated License Data System, but the stamp is still produced and available to hunters upon request. Monies generated from upland game bird validation sales are dedicated solely to upland game bird-related conservation projects, hunting opportunities, and outreach and education. CDFW annually sells about 170,000 upland game bird validations and distributes approximately 17,000 stamps.

Any individual who purchases an upland game bird validation may request their free collectable stamp by visiting wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/collector-stamps. An order form is also available on the website for collectors who do not purchase a hunting license or upland game bird validation, or for hunters who wish to purchase additional collectible stamps.

Media Contacts:
Matt Meshriy, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 322-6709

Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

beautiful pink sunrise over water and wetlands at Grizzly Island

CDFW Offers Junior Apprentice Waterfowl Hunt at Grizzly Island Wildlife Area in Solano County

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is offering a special junior apprentice duck hunt at Grizzly Island Wildlife Area (GIWA) on Saturday, Dec. 28.

“It’s a great opportunity for young hunters to get out in the field during their holiday break from school,” said CDFW Bay Delta Region Environmental Scientist Orlando Rocha.

On Dec. 28, junior apprentice participants and their adult chaperones can hunt spaced blinds in Pond 11, the Crescent Unit and the new Crescent Family Unit. Those locations will only be open to junior apprentice participants and their chaperones on that day. A total of 20 blinds will be available.

Blinds will be issued to junior apprentice hunters on a first-come, first-served basis on the day of the hunt. An adult chaperone (18 years of age or older) is required to accompany and supervise each junior apprentice hunter. The adult may hunt with the junior apprentice hunter and must possess the required 2019-20 California hunting license, the California Duck Validation, Federal Waterfowl stamp and the free HIP validation. Chaperones who wish to hunt must have a Type A One-Day Pass, Two-Day Pass or Season Pass, which must be purchased prior to arriving at the check station.

All available blinds can accommodate two persons; the junior apprentice hunter and his or her adult chaperone. Non-toxic ammunition is required when taking wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California.

West Family Unit

CDFW would also like to encourage use of the West Family Unit, which is a spaced blind unit open during the waterfowl season reserved exclusively for junior license holders. Hunt days are Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the open season. An adult chaperone is required. Five double blinds, including one mobility-impaired blind, are available. The unit is north of Benicia on Goodyear Road. From Highway 680 take the Marshview Road exit and turn right on Goodyear Road from the off-ramp and the well-marked hunt area will be on the left.

For more information call the GIWA main office at 707-425-3828. GIWA maps are available on CDFW’s website.

Media Contacts:
Orlando Rocha, CDFW Bay Delta Region, (707) 425-3828

Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

Pheasant, Wild Turkey, Second Dove Seasons Set to Open Nov. 9

The holidays begin early for many California hunters with the Saturday, Nov. 9 openers for pheasant, wild turkey and the second dove season.

Ring-necked Pheasant

The pheasant opener on the second Saturday of November remains a strong tradition for many families. The flush of a wild, cackling, rooster pheasant is one of nature’s most thrilling moments.

The good news is that some of the best pheasant habitat in California is found on state wildlife areas and federal wildlife refuges open to public hunting.

Several CDFW Type A wildlife areas are especially popular with wild pheasant hunters, including Upper Butte Basin, Yolo Bypass, Los Banos, North Grasslands, Grizzly Island and Gray Lodge. These areas are all open to pheasant hunting on their normal Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday waterfowl shoot days during the pheasant season.

In addition, all three units of the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area – Little Dry Creek, Howard Slough and Llano Seco – along with Gray Lodge Wildlife Area will be open to a special pheasant hunt the first Monday of the pheasant season – Veterans Day, Nov. 11 – to provide additional hunting opportunities.

Type A wildlife areas in the San Joaquin Valley – Los Banos, Mendota and North Grasslands – will be open for pheasant hunting only on waterfowl hunt days during the pheasant season.

Several federal wildlife refuges are also popular destinations for pheasant hunters, including the Sutter, Colusa, Delevan and Sacramento national wildlife refuges. These refuges are open to pheasant hunting on their normal Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday waterfowl hunt days during pheasant season. Additionally, Colusa, Delevan and Sacramento national wildlife refuges will be open to a special pheasant hunt in their spaced waterfowl blind and assigned pond areas the first Monday of pheasant season.

The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in Merced County will open a portion of its Freitas Unit to pheasant hunting on opening weekend only, Nov. 9 and 10. The spaced blind area within the Kesterson Unit will open for a special one-day wild pheasant hunt on Monday, Nov. 11. Pheasant hunting is permitted in the free roam area of the San Luis Unit on the regular Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday waterfowl shoot days during the duration of the wild pheasant season.

At the Kern National Wildlife Refuge, hunting is not permitted on Sundays. Pheasant hunting at this refuge is available on the free roam waterfowl hunt areas on Saturdays and Wednesdays beginning Nov. 9 and continuing through the duration of pheasant season.

The Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge and the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern California are home to some of the most robust wild pheasant populations in the state. They are open daily for pheasant hunting throughout the season.

The 2019 general pheasant season runs from Saturday, Nov. 9 through Sunday, Dec. 22. The daily bag limit is two males per day for the first two days of the season and three males per day thereafter. The possession limit is triple the daily bag limit. Shooting hours are from 8 a.m. to sunset.

Wild Turkey (Fall Season)

The chance to provide a wild turkey for Thanksgiving dinner is strong motivation for many fall turkey hunters. The fall season runs from Saturday, Nov. 9 through Sunday, Dec. 8, and – unlike in the spring season – both males and females may be taken. The daily bag limit is one turkey of either sex with a season and possession limit of two birds.

For the first time, fall turkey hunting will be available to the public at several northern California national wildlife refuges.

Turkey hunters have several new opportunities in 2019 as the Sutter, Sacramento, Delevan and Colusa national wildlife refuges will open to fall turkey hunting for the first time. Turkey hunting will be permitted in the waterfowl free roam and pheasant hunting areas only at the refuges during their normal Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday waterfowl shoot days during the turkey season.

Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

Second Dove Season

California’s second dove season runs from Saturday, Nov. 9 through Monday, Dec. 23. The second dove season offers cooler weather, fewer crowds and the chance for a mixed bag of species – quail and rabbit, for example – that often share the same habitat.

Limits remain the same as the early season: Mourning dove and white-winged dove have a daily bag limit of 15, up to 10 of which may be white-winged dove. The possession limit is triple the daily bag limit. There are no limits on spotted dove and ringed turtle dove. Hunting for Eurasian collared dove is legal year-round and there is no limit. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

In addition to public hunting opportunities available at state wildlife areas and federal wildlife refuges, CDFW offers special hunts at the Upland Game Wild Bird Hunts page and through the SHARE program, which provides public hunting access to private land or other landlocked properties. New hunters should visit CDFW’s Apprentice Hunts webpage for additional pheasant hunting opportunities.

Additional Requirements

Both a valid hunting license and upland game bird validation are needed to hunt pheasant, turkey and dove. An upland game bird validation is not required for junior license holders, but all hunters are required to have a Harvest Information Program (HIP) validation when hunting migratory game birds such as mourning dove and snipe. A wildlife area hunting pass is required for adults to hunt on a Type A state-operated wildlife area and national wildlife refuge. Please check with the individual property for specific details and regulations on each area.

Please note that nonlead shot is now required when taking any wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California. Hunters need to plan accordingly. For more information, please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition webpage.