Elkhorn Slough

Celebrate California Biodiversity Day 2020 by Exploring Nature, In Person or Online

California is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, with more than 30,000 species of insects, 6,500 plants, 650 birds, 220 mammals, 100 reptiles, 75 amphibians, 70 freshwater fish and 100 species of marine fish and mammals. We celebrate the unique diversity of living things found in our state, and encourage actions to protect them, on California Biodiversity Day, held Sept. 7 of each year. In 2020, the celebration coincides with Labor Day.

Although physical distancing restrictions and other COVID-19 precaution have prevented California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) ecological reserves and wildlife areas from planning the “open house” style celebrations that were hosted last year, where large groups of people could gather, CDFW staff across the state have created a roster of ways – both virtual and outdoors – for Californians to explore and learn about the biodiversity found on state lands. A master list of California Biodiversity Day events can be found at https://resources.ca.gov/biodiversityday2020.

This year’s virtual events, self-guided tours and outdoor opportunities lend themselves to physical distancing. The events will be held over the course of a week, from September 5-13, 2020.

A sampling of California Biodiversity Day 2020 events, many of which feature the use of the free iNaturalist app, include the following:

  • Take one of the many self-guided tours available at CDFW properties throughout the state. Use the iNaturalist app to learn and document any plants, animals or other organisms you encounter while exploring CDFW ecological reserves and wildlife areas.
  • Challenge yourself with a self-guided bioblitz at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Contribute observations of organisms spotted while exploring the park between September 5 and 13.
  • Play along in the bioblitz competition between Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Support your favorite park in their quest to log the highest number of bioblitz participants.
  • Play California Biodiversity Bingo! Download the California Academy of Science’s bingo card and see if you can find enough common species in your backyard or neighborhood to make a bingo.
  • Challenge your family to with a bioblitz at the greater Mono Lake area, including Lee Vining Canyon and Lundy Canyon. Share what you see, from bird nests to scat samples!
  • Get ideas for kid-friendly activities on the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History’s website. Learn about ways to engage kids at home in exploring and learning about biodiversity.
  • Venture out on a virtual scavenger hunt at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. Walk along the Discovery Trail and try to find as many of the species on the list as you can!

Please visit the website for a full list of events and details.

All proposed in-person activities will take place outdoors and involve minimal contact between participants and any staff present, with a minimum physical distance of 6 feet from individuals from different households observed by all.

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Media Contacts:
Kim Tenggardjaja, CDFW Science Institute, (916) 704-3092
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

California Fish and Game Commission Meets Remotely

fish and game commission logoAt its August 19-20 meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from this week’s meeting.

The Commission began a rulemaking process to extend the sunset date on the current recreational red abalone closure.

The Commission voted unanimously to notify the public of its intent to amend recreational take of crab regulations to provide additional whale and turtle protections in the trap fishery.

The Commission began a rulemaking process to amend regulations to allow, for a period of three years, both the unlimited recreational take of purple urchins at Caspar Cove in Mendocino County, and the unlimited recreational take of red and purple urchins at Tanker Reef in Monterey County.

The Commission determined that listing Pacific leatherback sea turtle as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review of the species and the Commission will make a final decision at a future meeting. During the status review, the Pacific leatherback sea turtle is protected under CESA as a candidate species.

After presentations from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the petitioner, and comments from stakeholders and the public, the Commission continued to a future meeting the consideration and potential action on the petition to determine whether listing western Joshua tree under CESA may be warranted. While Commission members expressed support for moving forward with the listing process, the decision was continued to next month to allow time to develop options that could keep critical projects moving forward if the tree becomes a candidate species. Commissioner Russell Burns recused himself from this decision. The future meeting to consider whether listing is warranted will be announced through the Commission’s electronic mailing list.

As a reminder, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting budget gap in California, Commission meetings through June 2021 will be held via webinar and teleconference.

The full commission – President Eric Sklar, Vice President Samantha Murray and Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin, Russell Burns and Peter Silva – was present.

The agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at fgc.ca.gov. An archived audio file will be available in coming days. With the exception of the special meeting that will be scheduled in September (see western Joshua tree information above), the next meeting of the full Commission is scheduled for October 14-15, 2020.

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

Over 50,000 Illegal Cannabis Plants Eradicated in Lake County

Forty Environmental Violations Document Abuse of Local Watershed

outdoor cannabis cultivation with irrigation hoses

On Aug. 4, wildlife officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) with support from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, California Department of Food and Agriculture and other allied agencies, served a search warrant spanning two parcels in the Scotts Valley area of Lakeport in Lake County.

The warrant stemmed from an investigation involving environmental damage associated with illegal commercial cannabis cultivation. The operation involved personnel from six separate agencies. This effort could not have been accomplished without this successful collaboration.

A records check confirmed that neither of the parcels were licensed by the state for commercial cannabis cultivation.

“An illegal cannabis cultivation operation of this magnitude has severe impacts to California’s natural resources and the legal cannabis industry. Unpermitted cannabis grows will not be tolerated especially those presenting such a huge environmental and public safety threat,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division.

On site, officers and staff eradicated 51,799 illegal cannabis plants, confiscated seven firearms, seized over $27,000 in cash and documented approximately 40 Fish and Game Code crimes.

Violations included garbage piled up near various waterways, numerous unpermitted water diversions, illegal grading of the landscape resulting in sediment discharge and stockpiles of chemicals near waterways. One cultivation site was built over an existing stream resulting in a modified channel into a ditch with polluted water. Each violation alone can have a detrimental environmental impact but combined are degrading entire watersheds at the expense of California’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources and the habitats they depend upon for survival.

“CDFW is obligated, by statute, to protect California’s natural resources, which are held in trust by the state for use and enjoyment by the public,” said Jeremy Valverde, CDFW’s Cannabis Policy Director. “Large, illegal cultivation operations like these can create significant environmental impacts that can last years. We continue to encourage those wanting to cultivate commercially to become permitted and licensed.”

Twenty-six individuals were detained during the operation including two minors, a 16-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy, working at the site. Criminal charges will be filed with the Lake County District Attorney’s Office.

CDFW encourages the public to report illegal cannabis cultivation and environmental crimes such as water pollution, water diversions and poaching to the CalTIP hotline by calling (888) 334-2258 or texting information to “TIP411” (847411).

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Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891

crab in tidepool

CDFW Reminds Beach Visitors of Tidepool Collection Regulations

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has noted an increase in the number of visitors to our rocky seashore this summer, and reminds people they must know the rules governing harvest and should do what they can to protect these amazing places.

“Regulations that either prohibit or limit the collection of species like turban snails, hermit crabs and mussels are meant to protect our tidepools, which are full of fascinating life that’s important to the marine ecosystem,” said Dr. Craig Shuman, CDFW Marine Region Manager.

Individuals should not remove any animals from tidepools that they don’t plan on keeping and should also be aware that even walking over some sensitive areas can unintentionally harm tidepool plants and animals.

“It is important to watch where you walk, not only to avoid unintentionally harming the myriad of sea life that call California’s tidepools home, but to avoid an accidental fall,” Shuman said.

Tidepool animals have special regulations that limit the species and numbers that can be taken (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.05). Most species found in tidepools can only be collected by hand. The use of pry bars, knives or other devices to remove them from the rocks is not allowed. There are also regulations that cover fish found in tidepools, which can only be taken by hook and line or hand. No nets or other devices can be used. In addition, the California Department of Public Health’s annual mussel quarantine is in effect until at least Nov. 1, because eating mussels at this time of year may be hazardous to your health. Mussels can be collected for bait but may not be taken for human consumption during this period.

“People may not realize that anyone age 16 or older must have a valid sport fishing license to collect tidepool animals, and that there are limits to how many can be taken,” said Assistant Chief Mike Stefanak of the CDFW Marine Law Enforcement Division. “In Southern California, an Ocean Enhancement Validation is also required for tidepool collection.”

Most marine protected areas (MPAs) do not allow collection of tidepool animals. MPA maps and regulations are available on CDFW’s MPA web page, and on the mobile-friendly Ocean Sport Fishing interactive web map. Local authorities may also close off other areas to tidepool collecting.

Tidepooling and legal collecting can be a safe outdoor activity that maintains physical distancing from others as we work to minimize transmission of COVID-19. Those interested in participating must make sure to stay six feet from anyone not in their same household, wear a face mask, follow all fishing regulations, watch for incoming waves and where they step, and stay safe. Any wildlife crimes witnessed can be easily reported to CDFW’s “CalTIP” hotline, by calling 1-888-334-2258, or by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847-411 (tip411).

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Media Contacts:
John Ugoretz, CDFW Marine Region, (562) 338-3068

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

Two deer fawns

Disease Outbreak Strikes California Deer Herds

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has confirmed outbreaks of adenovirus hemorrhagic disease in deer in several northern California counties, and is asking California residents to help curb the spread by not feeding wild animals, and reporting potential cases to the department.

“Providing attractants for deer – food, salt licks or even water – is against the law for good reason,” said Dr. Brandon Munk, senior wildlife veterinarian with CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory. “Because these artificial attractants can congregate animals and promote the spread of disease, it’s particularly imperative to leave wildlife alone during an outbreak. There is no cure or vaccine for this disease, so our best management strategies right now are to track it carefully, and to take preventative measures to limit the spread.”

Beginning in May, CDFW began receiving increased reports of mortality in deer, both free-ranging and at fawn rehabilitation facilities. With the assistance of wildlife rehabilitation facilities and the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory, CDFW confirmed cervid adenovirus 1 (CdAdV-1) as the cause of hemorrhagic disease outbreaks in Napa, Santa Clara, Sonoma, Tehama and Yolo counties.

The disease is typically fatal to deer and can be spread by animals in close contact with each other. The virus is not known to affect people, pets or domestic livestock.

CdAdV-1 was the cause of a 1993-1994 outbreak of hemorrhagic disease in black tailed deer and mule deer that spanned at least 18 California counties. Since then, CdAdV-1 has been identified as the cause of sporadic, often widespread, outbreaks of hemorrhagic disease in California and other western states. Deer fawns are at greatest risk, with high rates of mortality following infection. Yearlings and adult deer are more resistant but mortalities in these age groups occur as well. Outbreaks can be widespread and have significant impact on affected deer populations.

Affected deer are often found dead without any obvious symptoms. They may be found near water. Sick animals may have excessive salivation (drooling or foaming at the mouth), diarrhea, regurgitation or seizures.

In addition to removing food and other attractants, Californians can help wildlife veterinarians track and study the disease by reporting sightings of sick or dead deer. Anyone who observes a deer exhibiting symptoms, or encountering a deer that has died from unknown causes, can submit the information to CDFW through the department’s online mortality reporting system.

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Media Contacts:
Dr. Brandon Munk, CDFW Wildlife Investigations Laboratory, (916) 261-2124

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714