Category Archives: wildlife protection

Survey Shows Severe Decline in Mount San Gorgonio Desert Bighorn Sheep Population

Aerial and ground surveys of Southern California’s Mount San Gorgonio desert bighorn sheep population conducted during early March have confirmed a severe decline in numbers. Biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and partner agencies counted 60 animals, approximately one-third the number counted in the last helicopter survey conducted in March 2016.

Watch video of biologists preparing for the survey at: https://youtu.be/ecdag5Y6d1g

This reduction appears to be consistent with an outbreak of respiratory disease that CDFW has been investigating since December.

“Die-offs of bighorn sheep of this type and magnitude that have occurred in the past have almost always been triggered by contact with domestic sheep or goats,” CDFW Wildlife Biologist Dr. Jeff Villepique said.

In December 2018, multiple reports of dead or dying bighorn sheep in Whitewater Canyon and the Mission Creek drainages were confirmed by biologists working for CDFW. Tissue samples from carcasses were sent to pathologists at the California Animal Health and Food Safety laboratories. The investigation is ongoing, with 21 bighorn carcasses identified thus far.

Administering medical treatment to sick bighorn is not feasible due to many factors, including the remote location, the difficulty of capturing animals and inability to capture and treat the entire herd.

Southern California is home to approximately 4,800 bighorn sheep in 64 herd units. To date, there have been no reports of sheep in nearby herds being affected by the disease.

CDFW is one of several entities involved in managing bighorn sheep in California, and participates in the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Wild Sheep Working Group. The Group has declared respiratory disease to be “the biggest impediment to restoring and sustaining bighorn sheep populations.”

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Media Contacts:
Dr. Jeff Villepique, CDFW Inland Deserts Region, (909) 584-9012
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

 

CDFW Now Accepting Fisheries Habitat Restoration Project Proposals

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting proposals for projects under its Fiscal Year 2019-20 Fisheries Habitat Restoration Proposal Solicitation Notice (PSN). The PSN and online grant application can be found online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/grants/frgp/solicitation.

Applications must be submitted online by Friday, April 16, 2019 at 3 p.m.

The PSN invites restoration projects that meet the funding requirements of the Fisheries Restoration Grant Program (focusing on recovery of state-listed salmon and steelhead along the coast and in the Central Valley) and the Forest Legacy Program (focusing on the restoration of watersheds affected by historic forest practices). Eligible applicants include public agencies, recognized tribes and qualified nonprofit organizations. Funded projects could include habitat restoration, water conservation, education, monitoring and restoration planning.

While the amount of available funding is not known at this time, in FY 2018-19 the program was able to provide more than $15 million in funding for eligible projects. Funding for FY 2019-20 grants is expected to be awarded to approved projects in early 2020.

CDFW will also hold a series of public workshops to assist applicants in understanding the requirements of the PSN. Applicants are encouraged to attend a workshop even if they have submitted proposals in the past. Workshops will be held in Fortuna, Sacramento, Petaluma, San Luis Obispo, Los Alamitos, Monterey and Camarillo on various dates in March. For details and meeting contact information, please see PSN Workshop Letter.

For information or questions about the PSN or application process, please contact Tim Chorey, CDFW Fisheries Restoration Grant Program Coordinator, at (916) 327-8842.

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Media Contacts:
Matt Wells, CDFW Watershed Restoration Grants Branch, (916) 445-1285
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

 

CDFW Approves Yolo Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has approved the Yolo Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan (HCP/NCCP). CDFW’s NCCP program takes a broad-based ecosystem approach to planning for the protection and perpetuation of biological diversity. It is the state-level complement to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s HCP program. The issuance of an NCCP permit ensures regional protection of plants, animals and their habitats, while allowing compatible and appropriate economic activity.

The Yolo HCP/NCCP is the 16th NCCP permit issued by CDFW since the original NCCP Act was created in 1991, and is the third NCCP approved in northern California. Altogether, the 16 permitted NCCPs will permanently conserve over one million acres in California. The Yolo HCP/NCCP alone will conserve more than 32,000 acres of habitat for 12 covered species, including Swainson’s hawk (state threatened), giant garter snake (state and federally threatened) and the tricolored blackbird (which the Fish and Game Commission recently voted to list as state threatened).

The Yolo HCP/NCCP is also the first NCCP to focus on conserving working landscapes (primarily agriculture) to meet species conservation needs. The approved HCP/NCCP will allow for streamlined species permitting at the local level by Yolo County, City of Davis, City of West Sacramento, City of Winters and City of Woodland for infrastructure and development activities that are consistent with the plan.

The final Yolo HCP/NCCP is posted online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/planning/nccp/plans/yolo.

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Media Contacts: 
Jennifer Nguyen, CDFW North Central Region, (916) 365-5570 
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988 

CDFW Now Accepting Proposals for California Winter Rice Habitat Incentive Program

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting proposals for the California Winter Rice Habitat Incentive Program. For Fiscal Year 2018-2019, up to $4.25 million will be available for the program.

In response to the recent decline of winter-flooded rice fields in the Central Valley and the ecological importance of this habitat base, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 2348 in September 2018. AB 2348 established the California Winter Rice Habitat Incentive Program (CWRHIP), which is designed to continue and further encourage the winter flooding of harvested rice fields in the Central Valley of California. Harvested rice fields that are flooded during the winter months currently provide 75 percent of the food needs of migratory dabbling ducks, and a significant portion of the food needs of migrating shorebirds using the Sacramento Valley.

CWRHIP provides economic incentives to landowners who agree to manage their properties in accordance with a management plan cooperatively developed by biologists from CDFW’s Comprehensive Wetland Habitat Program and participating landowners. Management plans require landowners to flood harvested rice fields for a minimum of 70 continuous days during the winter months (October-March). Properties that can maintain water during critical months (January through mid-March) are given additional points in the ranking process. The program pays landowners an annual incentive of $10 per acre for the winter flooding of harvested rice fields that were planted at least two of the last three years.

The deadline to apply for this program is Feb. 25, 2019 at 4 p.m. The program solicitation, application instructions and other information are available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/lands/cwhp/private-lands-programs.

Media Contacts:
Brian Olson, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3486
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

Conviction in Great White Shark Shooting

A San Jose man was recently convicted in Santa Cruz Superior Court for unlawfully killing a Great White Shark (also known as a White Shark) in Santa Cruz County last summer.

Vinh Pham, 41, was fined $5,000 and placed on conditional probation for two years. The court also ordered his firearm to be destroyed.

Wildlife officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) began their investigation on June 17, 2018, immediately after the nine-foot male White Shark washed up on Beer Can Beach in Aptos. A necropsy (animal autopsy) performed on the shark confirmed that it had been killed by multiple shots from a .22 caliber firearm. Soon after, CDFW received a tip on its CalTIP reporting line that a member of a commercial fishing boat crew may have been responsible for the shark’s death.

Officers investigated the tip that night and observed the vessel fishing after dark near where the shark was discovered. Two wildlife officers contacted the crew as the vessel returned to Santa Cruz Harbor early the next morning. A regular commercial fishing inspection uncovered multiple violations involving their catch for that day, including possession of undersize halibut, no landing receipts, failure to weigh their commercial catch and failure to turn in landing receipts. During this investigation, the officers located a fully loaded .22 caliber rifle concealed behind the seat of the truck the suspect was using to transport his commercial catch to markets. Officers seized the rifle as evidence, then submitted both the rifle and the .22 bullets extracted during the shark necropsy to the California Department of Justice crime lab to see if they matched.

As the investigation progressed, Pham confessed, claiming he shot the shark after seeing it swimming near the wings of his deployed fishing net. On Jan. 14, 2019, Pham pled to multiple charges including wanton waste of the White Shark, possessing a loaded rifle in his vehicle, possessing undersize halibut, failing to accurately weigh his catch, failing to complete landing receipts and failing to submit landing receipts.

CDFW thanks Assistant District Attorney Ed Browne of the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office for prosecuting the case.

If you witness a poaching or polluting incident or any fish and wildlife violation, or have information about such a violation, immediately dial the toll free CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Tips may also be submitted to CDFW using tip411, an internet-based tool that enables wildlife officers respond directly to the reporting party, initiating a two-way conversation. Tipsters may remain anonymous if they choose. Tips can be sent to CDFW by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

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Media Contacts:
Capt. Todd Tognazzini, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (805) 610-3916
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692