Category Archives: Wildlife

CDFW and Partners Target Illegal Marijuana Grows in Hayfork

Coordinated Enforcement Focuses on Sensitive Watersheds

On June 25 and 26, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office served 15 warrants in the Hayfork area of Trinity County. Support for the mission was provided by U.S. Forest Service, National Guard, Trinity County Environmental Health and the State Water Resources Control Board.

The Duncan Creek and Barker Creek watersheds were specifically targeted due to the presence of critical habitat for winter run steelhead, foothill yellow-legged frogs, western pond turtles and other species. Each watershed had unauthorized water diversions which significantly impacted instream flow and the amount of available resources for these sensitive aquatic species.

A records check confirmed that none of the parcels were permitted by the county nor were they licensed by the state for commercial cannabis cultivation. In addition, none of the sites had taken the necessary steps to notify CDFW, which is a requirement in the licensing process.

“These missions were a highly coordinated effort between local, state and federal entities who worked tirelessly to protect California’s natural resources,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division.

The two-day operation yielded 12,548 black market marijuana plants, 801 pounds of processed marijuana, 15 firearms and $435,875 in U.S. currency.

Forty-four combined Fish and Game Code violations were documented among all grows, which included illegal water diversions, pesticide and petroleum products placed near streams, sediment discharge and garbage placed near waterways. Twenty-three suspects were detained during the operation.

“Trinity County is known for its outdoor activities and its beautiful environment, which should always be treated with respect and appreciation,” said Donna Daly, Trinity County District Attorney. “Those who blatantly damage our county’s natural resources should and will be held accountable.”

CDFW’s cannabis program consists of scientists and law enforcement officers and is a critical component of California’s transition into a regulated cannabis industry. Staff members work with cultivators to bring their facilities into compliance, provide assistance in remediating environmental violations, and facilitate enforcement actions with other local agencies to remove illegal grows. Learn more about CDFW’s role at www.wildlife.ca.gov/cannabis.

CDFW encourages the public to report environmental crimes such as water pollution, water diversions and poaching to the CalTIP hotline by calling (888) 334-2258 or by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

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

Deadly Bat Fungus Detected in California

The fungus that causes White-nose Syndrome (WNS), a deadly disease of bats, has been detected in low levels in California for the first time. Fungal DNA of Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) was detected in samples collected this spring from bats on private land in the Plumas County town of Chester. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have been preparing for possible detection of the fungus with partner organizations since 2009. While there is currently no indication the disease itself is affecting bat populations in California, the lab tests suggest Pd is here.

WNS awakens bats during hibernation, causing them to use energy reserves needed to survive winter, when insects they rely upon for food are not available. The fungus was first detected in New York in 2006 and spread incrementally. Bats that have contracted the disease have now been confirmed in 33 states and seven Canadian provinces. Including the recent California discovery, the fungus alone has now been detected in a total of five states.

WNS has killed millions of bats in the U.S., including more than 90 percent of the bats in some hibernation colonies. Since bats usually produce only one offspring per year, it could take decades for some populations to recover from a major die-off.

“WNS is considered one of the deadliest wildlife diseases, having killed over six million North American bats since it was discovered,” said CDFW Wildlife Veterinarian and Epidemiologist Dr. Deana Clifford. “WNS doesn’t affect human health or pets, but the ecological impacts of bat die-offs may indirectly impact agricultural systems through loss of the natural pesticide effect and nutrient cycling of bats.”

Until spring 2016, the westernmost occurrence of Pd was in eastern Nebraska. In March of that year WNS was confirmed in Washington State—1,300 miles west of the nearest known location of the fungus. How it got there is unknown; Pd spreads through physical contact with an infected bat or Pd in the environment. Because spores are persistent, people can also spread the fungus from infected areas to non-infected areas on their shoes, clothes or gear.

Surveillance for WNS has been supported by a national program administered by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin in collaboration with FWS, Northern Arizona University (NAU), and Bat Conservation International (BCI). CDFW has worked with the National Park Service Klamath Network (NPS KLMN) and others to collect swab samples from bats around California since 2016. The samples tested for the DNA signature of Pd were negative until 2018, when one sample from a little brown bat maternity colony in Chester suggested the fungus may be present at low levels. In 2019, the same site and another in Chester yielded three bats with similar low-level detections.

Dr. Alice Chung-MacCoubrey of the NPS KLMN, who led the surveillance work at Chester and several other northern California sites, said, “The detection of Pd at Chester, even at these low levels, is troubling. It has now been detected in two successive years at two different sites and with testing by both the NWHC lab and the NAU lab. In other parts of North America affected by WNS, low-level Pd detections preceded detection of the disease itself by one to four years.”

“Detection of Pd at the levels reported in Chester are possible thanks to advanced tools and surveillance networks in place today that we did not have in the years right after WNS was discovered,” said Jeremy Coleman, National White-nose Syndrome coordinator for the FWS, which leads the national response to the disease. “These very early indications that Pd is present allow for a more proactive response by local partners than what has been possible before. Just how long we’ll have before WNS emerges in California’s bats is a big unknown.”

CDFW leads the California WNS Steering Committee, a multi-agency scientific research group that has been monitoring WNS nationally since 2009. The Committee includes the FWS, NPS, U.S. Forest Service, USGS, BCI, California State Parks, U.S. Department of Defense and National Speleological Society (NSS). They developed a WNS response plan for California that outlines actions to be taken if the fungus or disease arrives in California.

“It is critically important for CDFW and our partners to follow up on these detections,” said CDFW Wildlife Ecologist Dr. Scott Osborn. “In the coming months and years, we will intensify surveillance for WNS, monitor impacts on bat populations, and assist with research on disease management. We hope disease treatment and prevention techniques currently in development will be available soon.”

Meanwhile, Osborn asks all Californians to be vigilant and cooperate with management actions that may be taken to slow the spread of WNS. People can assist with surveillance by reporting unusual behavior they see in bats. Sick or dying bats observed during winter in the colder regions of the state should be reported to CDFW at www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/laboratories/wildlife-investigations/monitoring/wns/report.

According to Osborn, caving organizations like the NSS have helped collect important information about California’s underground bat roosts. People who enter caves and mines should follow decontamination protocols at www.whitenosesyndrome.org/static-page/decontamination-information, and do not transfer clothing or gear between certain sites.

Details about WNS and Pd are at www.whitenosesyndrome.org.

For photos and B-roll video, visit the White-nose Syndrome National Response Team newsroom at www.whitenosesyndrome.org/static-page/news.

Information about bat conservation is available at www.batcon.org.

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Featured image (above): Hibernating, healthy little brown bat by Ann Froschauer/USFWS

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Media Contacts:
Scott Osborn, CDFW Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 324-3564
Catherine Hibbard, USFWS National WNS Response Team, (413) 531-4276
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Reservations Available for 2019 Bat Night Tours

The bats have returned! The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is welcoming back the largest colony of Mexican free-tailed bats in California. The bats return each summer to give birth to their young and soar over the floodplain in a nightly bug-eating bonanza.

The public is invited to experience this amazing event as thousands of bats emerge each evening to hunt for insects over the rice fields of the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, located just east of the city of Davis. Each year during bat “pupping” season, from June through September, the Yolo Basin Foundation offers “Bat Talk and Walk” tours. The tour begins with a 45-minute indoor presentation on bat natural history, after which attendees are shuttled to the outdoor viewing area to witness firsthand the spectacular aerial performance.

An estimated 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats migrate to the area every summer to give birth under the shelter of the Yolo Causeway. The bats roost in the cement expansion joints and stream into the sky at dusk to feed, flying as high as two miles into the air.

“The sheer volume of bats roosting is incredible – it is a pretty amazing sight to see them fly out in ribbons,” explains Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Manager Joe Hobbs. “This wildlife experience is a great family outing, since it’s in the evening when it’s not too hot and the Delta breeze is coming through. Bring a picnic dinner, and definitely bring insect repellent!”

The event lasts for about three hours. Advance reservations must be made online at http://yolobasin.org/battalkandwalks. Adult admission is $14 and children 15 and under are free. Private tours are also available upon request. Those unable to walk may view the bats by car.

Bat Talk and Walk Schedule, July-September 2019:

July
Wednesday, July 3 – 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 6 – 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 7 – 6:30 p.m.
Monday, July 8 – 6:30 p.m.
Monday, July 15 – 6:30 p.m.
Monday, July 22 – 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 27 – 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 30 – 6:30 p.m.

August
Sunday, Aug. 4 – 6:15 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 5 – 6:15 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 8 – 6:15 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 12 – 6:15 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 16 – 6:15 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 17 – 6:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 20 – 6 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 22 – 6 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 28 – 6 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 30 – 6 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 31 – 6 p.m.

September
Wednesday, Sept. 4 – 5:45 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 6 – 5:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 10 – 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 12 – 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 14 – 5:30 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 16 – 5:15 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 18 – 5:15 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 20 – 5:15 p.m.

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Media Contacts:
Joe Hobbs, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, (530) 757-2431
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

 

Nebraska Artist Wins 2019 California Duck Stamp Art Contest

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A painting of northern pintails by Frank Dolphens, Jr. of Omaha, Neb. has been chosen as the winner of the 2019 California Duck Stamp Art Contest. The image will be the official design for the 2019-2020 stamp.

The contest judges praised the anatomical accuracy of Dolphens’s painting, as well as the accuracy of the habitat. They complimented the excellent body shape and the contrast between the subjects and the background, which seems to make the pintails “pop” off the canvas. The judges also appreciated the three-bird composition and the fact that both sexes were represented.

“I have always admired the northern pintail,” said Dolphens. “I am inspired by their mysticism and their colors and was anxious to enter this year’s contest to portray these characteristics in the painting. I wanted to present the pintails in a grouping to show the strength of their colors in a background setting that enhanced their features.”

Artists from around the country submitted entries for the contest, sponsored by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). John Nelson Harris of Groveland, Fla., placed second, Jeffrey Klinefelter of Etna Green, Ind., placed third and Roberta Baer of Redding received honorable mention.

The top four paintings will be displayed at the Pacific Flyway Decoy Association’s 49th Annual Classic Wildlife Art Festival, which is scheduled July 20-21 in Sacramento.

Since 1971, the California Duck Stamp Program’s annual contest has attracted top wildlife artists from around the country. The contest is traditionally open to artists from all 50 states in order to ensure a wide pool of submissions. All proceeds generated from stamp sales go directly to waterfowl conservation projects throughout California.

In the past, hunters were required to purchase and affix the stamp to their hunting licenses. Today, hunters are no longer required to carry the stamps because California’s modern licensing system prints proof of additional fees paid directly onto the license. However, CDFW still produces the stamps, which can be requested on CDFW’s website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/collector-stamps.

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Media Contacts:
Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8907

Melanie Weaver, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3717

CDFW Completes 2019 Waterfowl Breeding Population Survey

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed its annual waterfowl breeding population survey. Mallards, gadwall and cinnamon teal comprised 85 percent of ducks observed. The survey results included the following:

  • Total breeding ducks in the survey area decreased 14 percent from 2018 and are 14 percent below the long-term average.
  • Mallards – which were the most abundant species of ducks surveyed – decreased 12 percent from 2018 and are 28 percent below the long-term average.
  • Gadwalls increased eight percent from 2018 and are 29 percent above long-term average.
  • Cinnamon teal decreased 36 percent from 2018 and are 17 percent above long-term average.

According to Dan Skalos, a CDFW waterfowl program biologist, the decline was disappointing, given near-normal precipitation levels over the past two years. “It would have been nice to see higher numbers in the survey, but there may be some increases still ahead,” Skalos said. “The abundant rainfall we saw in May likely led to a longer nesting season and should contribute to better production going forward.”

Skalos also noted that while local waterfowl production should be better than the past few years, the decrease in wildlife-friendly agriculture (e.g. wheat and other annual crops that provide important nesting cover) in the Central Valley will limit long-term improvement of populations.

CDFW biologists and warden pilots have conducted this annual survey using fixed-wing aircraft since 1948. The population estimates are for the surveyed areas only, which include the majority of the suitable duck nesting habitat in the state. Surveyed areas include wetland and agricultural areas in northeastern California, throughout the Central Valley, the Suisun Marsh and some coastal valleys.

The 2019 California Survey was flown April 22-26 in the Central Valley and May 7-9 in northeastern California. Some of the scheduled transects in the northeastern stratum were not flown due to high winds, but the survey was 100 percent complete in the Central Valley and 95 percent complete in the northeast, for a total survey effort of 99 percent.

The full Breeding Population Survey Report can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/birds/waterfowl.

The majority of California’s wintering duck population originates from breeding areas surveyed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Alaska and Canada. Those survey results should be available in early August. CDFW survey information, along with similar data from other Pacific Flyway states, is used by the USFWS and the Pacific Flyway Council when setting hunting regulations for the Pacific Flyway states, including California.

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Media Contacts:
Dan Skalos, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3763
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988