Blue-Colored Fat Linked to Rodenticide Exposure in Hunter-Harvested Wildlife

A flock of geese in the San Francisco Bay Area were likely exposed to an anticoagulant rodenticide, according to findings released in February from a postmortem examination by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Wildlife Health Lab (WHL). 

In Fall 2020, approximately ten Canada Geese shot by hunters in Contra Costa County were found to have blue-colored fat. The WHL conducted an examination on one of the carcasses and detected Diphacinone, an anticoagulant rodenticide, in the goose’s liver. 

“Rodenticide baits like diphacinone often contain a dye which identifies the bait as a poison. We suspect the blue-colored fat was caused by ingestion of a diphacinone bait containing blue dye,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Krysta Rogers, an avian disease specialist. 

Diphacinone is a first-generation anticoagulant rodenticide that typically requires multiple feedings to cause death. It is labeled for use for agriculture, landscape maintenance, and in and around homes and businesses. Canada geese often forage in flocks and readily feed on grasses, sedges and seeds including agricultural grains such as corn, alfalfa and oats. 

CDFW encourages hunters to report any unusual findings in harvested wildlife and not to consume any part of an animal with blue fat or other abnormality. Incidents may be reported to the CDFW’s Wildlife Health Lab at WILab@wildlife.ca.gov or (916) 358-2790. 

Pesticide applicators are urged to use care when using rodenticides so as not to expose wildlife. Prior to application, it is important to ensure non-target wildlife are not using the area where the pesticide is to be applied. 

For more information, please visit the rodenticides page on CDFW’s website. For questions about pesticide use and regulations, or to report misuse, please contact your County Agricultural Commissioner’s office. For Contra Costa County, please call (925) 608-6600.

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Media Contacts
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120
 

Gray Wolf in Fresno County

The GPS-collared gray wolf known as OR-93 continues to travel farther south in California than the collared wolves that have preceded him.

OR-93 has traversed a significant distance since the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced he was in Modoc County in early February. Over the past few weeks, he moved from Mono County, through parts of Tuolumne, Mariposa, Merced and Madera counties. The last collar reading showed the wolf in agricultural areas in central Fresno County.

OR-93 is a young male that dispersed from Oregon’s White River pack, southeast of Mt. Hood. He was fitted with a tracking collar by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs within the White River pack’s territory in June 2020. Like many young wolves, he subsequently left his pack in search of a new territory and/or a mate.

Gray wolves are listed as endangered pursuant to California’s Endangered Species Act (CESA). It is unlawful to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap or capture gray wolves. Anyone who believes they have seen a wolf in California can report it to CDFW at wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Mammals/Gray-Wolf/Sighting-Report.

Though gray wolves are generally much bigger than coyotes, they can sometimes be misidentified. We encourage the public to review this identification page that provides tips for differentiating between wolves, coyotes and dogs. OR-93 also has a purple collar around his neck which should make the animal more identifiable.

Gray wolf management in California is guided by CESA as well as CDFW’s Conservation Plan for Gray Wolves in California, finalized in 2016. More information is available on CDFW’s wolf webpage at: wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/mammals/gray-wolf.

Gray wolves pose very little safety risk to humans. CDFW is working to monitor and conserve California’s small wolf population and is collaborating with livestock producers and diverse stakeholders to minimize wolf-livestock conflicts.

CDFW will continue to monitor his whereabouts with the cooperation of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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

Photo courtesy of Austin Smith, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs

Aquarium Moss Balls Threaten to Spread Invasive Mussels

A zebra mussel on an aquarium moss ball. Photo courtesy of Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is asking retailers and consumers to help stop the spread of a dangerous invasive mussel that has been found in aquarium moss balls sold in California and nationwide.

CDFW was notified last week that zebra mussels, highly invasive freshwater mussels which are illegal to possess in California, were found on aquatic moss balls at a national pet supply retailer. Investigators traced the origin of the mussel-contaminated moss balls to a distributor in Southern California. CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division worked with the distributor to immediately cease outgoing shipments and prevent the receipt of additional importations. State and federal law enforcement agencies continue to investigate the potential supply chains associated with this product, and have since identified several additional suppliers to California and nationwide.

“If zebra mussels escape from aquaria and into the environment, they pose the risk of causing enormous environmental and economic impacts,” said Martha Volkoff, CDFW environmental program manager. “Once introduced to rivers, creeks, lakes and canals, mussels multiply quickly, encrust surfaces and disrupt ecosystems, water delivery systems and recreational opportunities. It is imperative that pet suppliers and aquarists take action to prevent these mussels that have entered the aquarium trade from reaching our waterways.”

California law prohibits possession, importation, shipment and release of zebra mussels in any waters within the state. Possession of zebra mussels in California, live or dead, and whether intentional or not, is a violation of California Fish and Game Code section 2301.

CDFW is calling upon pet supply retailers and home aquarium enthusiasts to prevent the spread of mussels from aquariums.

Retailers:

  • Immediately pull moss balls from your shelves and store in a secure location until they can be destroyed. Also inspect all other moist and aquatic plant products. All moss balls, and any other products found to be contaminated with mussels should be placed in a bag, frozen overnight and disposed of in the municipal trash.
  • Immediately inspect all fish tanks and filtration systems for mussels. If mussels are found, cease sale of all products from those tanks. Remove all mussels and live plants, place in a bag, freeze overnight and dispose of in the municipal trash. Clean and disinfect all aquaria, filters and decorations.

Consumers:

If you have added moss balls to your aquarium or fish bowl in the past year, assume that you may have introduced zebra mussels and take one of the following actions:

Alternative 1. If you observe mussels in your aquaria, per U.S. Fish and Wildlife recommendations, empty and disinfect the aquarium and all of its contents: fws.gov/fisheries/ANS/zebra-mussel-disposal.html. Even if you do not observe mussels consider decontaminating your tank and all of its contents. (Considering the significant investment many aquarists make in establishing and maintaining their aquaria, disinfecting and reestablishing a system per these recommendations may not be a realistic expectation. If so, please adhere to Alternative 2.)

Alternative 2. Quarantine and monitor your aquarium for at least six months. Complete instructions for quarantining your tank, and an observation log to assist you with monitoring your tank, are available on CDFW’s website: wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Invasives/Aquarium-Moss-Balls. The quarantine would end six months after no mussels are observed.

For additional information and guidance, please call CDFW’s Invasive Mussel Hotline at (866) 440-9530 or visit wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Invasives/Quagga-Mussels.

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Media Contact:
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120

Newest Warden Stamp Commemorates 150 Years of Wildlife Conservation and Management, Now Available for Purchase

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has released its 2021 Warden Stamp, a decal sticker that is an annual tradition for the department and collector’s item for many Californians.

The 2021 stamp commemorates the 150-year anniversary of both CDFW and the California Fish and Game Commission. The stamp features the sesquicentennial CDFW wildlife officer badge and silhouettes of California conifer trees along with the CDFW bear that has been used on badges and department logo shields for decades. The 2021 stamp can now be purchased at the CDFW website for just $5.

“After a year like 2020, we knew the 2021 stamp should celebrate the essential work our department and wildlife officers have been doing for 150 years,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “The purchase of this stamp will show continued support for CDFW’s efforts to manage and protect California’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources.”

The Warden Stamp Program was started in 2010 to address the need for better equipment and training for the state’s wildlife officers (formerly called wardens) and to provide funding for special law enforcement programs. Since 1871, wildlife officers have been dedicated to being CDFW’s “boots on the ground” when it comes to maintaining the balance of the state’s many plants and animal species. During the first several decades, they worked to keep species such as tule elk, sturgeon, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep from going extinct in California.

The first two full-time wardens in 1871 were appointed to patrol San Francisco Bay and the Lake Tahoe area. Patrolling on foot, horseback or sailboats (because the internal combustion engine was still decades away from being used), wardens patrolled with very little resources or support.

In 2021, there are now approximately 465 wildlife officers that protect California’s 159,000 square miles and 200 miles out to sea. Though their primary function is to enforce California’s Fish and Game Code, they may be called upon to enforce any of California’s laws. They also collect and report information on the conditions of fish and wildlife and their habitat for management decisions, and represent CDFW at local schools, meetings of hunting and fishing clubs, along with other community events. They also help promote and coordinate various hunter education programs.

Wildlife officers still patrol on foot and on horseback, but now also by plane, boats and in a variety of vehicles. Although their main objectives of protecting California’s plants and animals remains the same, threats to native species are always evolving. From the growing threat of wildfires, internet wildlife traffickers and learning to navigate through a global pandemic – CDFW wildlife officers remain committed to being the stewards of the Golden State’s natural resources. Please continue to support wildlife officers and their mission by purchasing the 2021 Warden Stamp.

To view an image of the 2021 Warden Stamp, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/warden-stamp.

To purchase the stamp, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/online-sales.

CDFW Approves Restoration Project for Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has certified the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a project to restore the largest coastal wetlands complex in Los Angeles County and increase public access to outdoor recreation and natural spaces in one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

The Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve (BWER) project will enhance and establish native coastal wetlands and upland habitat on 566 of the reserve’s 577 acres south of Marina del Rey and east of Playa del Rey. It will restore ecological function to currently degraded wetlands, preserving sensitive habitat for future generations and build climate resilience on a coast vulnerable to sea level rise.

The project also advances the Newsom Administration’s Executive Order of October 7, 2020, focused on harnessing California’s vast network of natural and working lands to fight climate change and protect biodiversity. See a summary of the approved project. A more detailed project description is found in the final EIR.

CDFW is advancing the most restorative alternative in the final EIR – with a significant commitment to phasing the restoration work. This alternative offers the most restoration, which is important because of the huge degradation at BWER from a history of human impacts. The most restorative alternative also provides more climate resiliency buffer, because without this restoration sea level rise will overcome the remaining portions of BWER that have functioning wetlands and flood local roads more frequently, more severely and much sooner.

CDFW, in partnership with the State Coastal Conservancy and The Bay Foundation, has spent years working with the public and envisioning a plan for the revitalization of BWER, which once encompassed an approximately 2,000-acre expanse of marshes, mud flats, salt pans and sand dunes that stretched from Playa del Rey to Venice and inland to the Baldwin Hills. Today, the reserve’s 577 acres are all that remains of the former wetlands. The state acquired the reserve in 2003 with the use of $149 million in Proposition 50 funds.

The ecosystem at BWER is considered one of the last remaining opportunities for major coastal habitat restoration in Los Angeles County. Ecological components of the project include enhancing and restoring 200 acres of coastal wetlands, relocating existing levees to reconnect Ballona Creek to its historic floodplain, improving tidal circulation into the reserve, and restoring estuarine aquatic and upland habitats.

In addition to combating climate change and protecting biodiversity, the project will help achieve equity and access to natural spaces for all Angelenos, consistent with another Newsom Administration priority. It is estimated that well over 90 percent of wetlands in the region have been lost to development and human alteration. Once restored, BWER will be one of the largest natural open spaces available to the public in the City of Los Angeles, second only to Griffith Park. The project will now proceed toward final design. CDFW will work with the Los Angeles County Flood Control District in securing a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and completing a federal environmental review document, a process expected to take approximately two and a half years. In addition, approvals from the Coastal Commission, Regional Water Quality Control Board and possibly other agencies are required, and the timing of those approvals depends on the permitting agency’s process. As CDFW continues through the next steps of these processes, CDFW’s vision for BWER will remain the same – a restored, healthy wetlands that provides greater sea level rise buffer and climate resiliency, with equity and access to natural open spaces for all Angelenos.

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