Category Archives: Wildlife

Earth Day Reminder: Everything We Do Affects Wildlife

Saturday, April 22 is Earth Day, a good time to remember what John Muir said so eloquently: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” That fact influences nearly everything the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does to manage and protect the state’s native plants, invertebrates, fish, wildlife and habitats.

Twenty million people in the U.S. participated in the first Earth Day in 1970, to increase public awareness of the damage humans were doing to the environment. People used the day to educate themselves and others about the relationship we have with the world’s natural resources. That year, California was one of the first states to enact statutes protecting rare and endangered animal species, and it remains a world leader in environmental protection. Now, Earth Day is celebrated every year by more than a billion people in 192 nations.

CDFW sees the effects of human behavior on wildlife and ecosystems every day. As the public steward for California’s wildlife and habitat, CDFW practices conservation and restoration statewide with considerable success. California tule elk (Cervus elaphus nannodes) provide a good example.

By 1870 very few individual tule elk were known to exist; they were closely related and on the verge of extinction. When the state Legislature banned elk hunting in 1873, it was unclear if any even remained. One pair was discovered by a local game warden near Buttonwillow, and nurtured to save the species. In 1977, seven elk were reintroduced to their former native habitat at Grizzly Island in Solano County. Since then, this herd has not only flourished, but provided seed stock for CDFW to establish new herds. Statewide, tule elk populations have expanded to 5,100 animals in 21 herds.

Two charismatic birds that were once endangered have recovered well enough to be de-listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act: the Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum) and California brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus). By 1969 both species’ breeding populations had plummeted, primarily because of organochlorine pesticides like DDT. The chemicals made the birds’ eggshells too thin and fragile to withstand the parents’ weight in the nest, so multiple generations were crushed during incubation. Recovery began when the state and federal governments and Canada banned the use of those pesticides. Reducing human disturbance of nesting and roosting sites aided the pelicans’ recovery, and a captive breeding program supported recovery of the falcon population. Along with landowners and other scientists, CDFW scientists’ research and monitoring provided the facts needed to list both species, make their recovery possible, and determine when it was time to de-list them. CDFW continues to work with many partners to monitor de-listed species to ensure their populations remain healthy.

The endangered Light-footed Ridgway’s Rail (Rallus longirostris levipes, formerly known as light-footed clapper rail) is slowly recovering, thanks to CDFW and other scientists and partners, and because of habitat acquisition by the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB), which purchased land for the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve. There, and in other coastal marshes of Southern California, these secretive birds are protected, and a captive breeding program is underway to supplement the wild population. A population decrease in 2008 is believed to have been weather-related, and could be a harbinger of what’s in store if climate change predictions come to pass. The consistent management and captive breeding program have brought the population back up to more than 600 pairs.

Eighty years ago people thought Southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) were extinct. A small colony was discovered at Big Sur in 1938 and given legal protection. The combined efforts of local, state and federal governments, nonprofit organizations and individuals have nurtured the population to around 3,000. That’s only a fraction of historic numbers, but a step in the right direction.

In 1994 CDFW’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response and UC Davis created the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) to rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife injured in oil spills. OWCN quickly became the world’s premier oiled wildlife rescue organization and pioneered research in the subject to develop the best achievable care using the best available technology. Since 1995, the OWCN has responded to more than 75 oil spills throughout California and has cared for nearly 8,000 oiled birds and mammals.

“Working in the oil spill response field for over 25 years, I have seen how our community quickly responds to a detrimental environmental incident,” CDFW Environmental Program Manager Randy Imai said. “So, I know we can all do this at a much smaller scale in our everyday lives. Every one of us can make a difference.”

The WCB supports projects that benefit wildlife with bond money approved by California voters for environment-related projects. In 2016 alone, the WCB allocated approximately $93 million to more than 100 projects. That money bought more than 8,000 acres of wildlife habitat, conservation easements on more than 33,000 acres of habitat, restoration and enhancement of more than 17,000 acres, public access rights, stream flow enhancement studies and infrastructure improvements, and it helped develop Natural Community Conservation Plans that protect multiple species.

You don’t have to be a scientist, wildlife officer or legislator to protect California’s wildlife and ecosystems. There are many things most anyone can do, including:

  • Pick up litter. Wildlife often mistake trash for food and die because of it, and wild birds can become entangled and die in abandoned fishing line.
  • Don’t use rat poison. Let rodents’ natural predators—coyotes, foxes, bobcats, raptors (owls, hawks) and snakes—control their population. See our Rodenticides webpage for details.
  • Replace your lawn with native plants to help conserve water and our native pollinators. Locally native plants can thrive in both dry and wet years.
  • Conserve water.  Conservation is the way of life in California. Use as little water as possible to prevent shortages and assure sufficient water for food crops and for ecosystem protection.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle. Most California cities and counties have recycling programs for both residents and businesses. Visit CalRecycle Earth Day.
  • Buy in bulk and use recyclable materials. Compost veggie scraps and yard clippings in gardens. Landfills destroy valuable wildlife habitat, so think about that each time you make a trip to your garbage containers. The cumulative impacts are enormous.
  • Use biodegradable soaps. They pollute less than other soaps.
  • Drive less. Plan your errands to reduce the number of car trips. Walk, bike, carpool or take public transit. Spare the Air! If you can, make your next car electric or hybrid to help slow climate change.
  • Never dump oil, chemicals, or any other waste into a storm drain or gutter.
  • Take children out for nature walks and teach them about the local plants and animals. They can’t be stewards of the future without understanding and caring for nature. We’re all in it together on this one planet Earth.
  • Volunteer at nature centers, ecological reserves, or for a government-led program like the Natural Resources Volunteer Program. Volunteer at schools or recreation centers, and create nature and ecology programs.
  • Go Birding! Share bird identification books and binoculars with others who may not have them. Visit California Audubon for information.
  • Keep dogs on a leash in wild places, even on beaches. Don’t let dogs flush birds! Birds need undisturbed time to nest successfully, to forage, and then to rest and preen and conserve energy.
  • Keep cats indoors. Cats kill millions of birds each year, not out of malice, but because they’re wired to kill and eat them. A clean litter box is not difficult to maintain. Just be sure to bag the waste in biodegradable material and dispose of it in your garbage can.
  • Go Solar! Utilities offer rebates, and if you can afford a solar energy system, you’ll help reduce the rate of climate change. If you can’t, let the sun warm your home through windows on sunny days.
  • Conserve electricity, use natural light as much as possible, and turn off all lights when not in use. It takes natural resources to create energy and wildlife habitat is compromised or destroyed in the process. Energy production pollutes the air and produces greenhouse gases, contributing to the climate change problem and respiratory ailments. Use thermal drapes and energy-efficient windows to keep your home warm or cool as needed, and dress for the temperature, so you use the heat or air conditioner less. Use a clothes line outdoors or hang clothes to dry indoors. You’ll save money as well as energy!

There are many entertaining and informative Earth Day events planned throughout California. Here’s a small sample:

Earth Day Festival at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, April 22, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3842 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach (92647). The free event will include educational activity booths and guided tours of the reserve. Exhibitors include CDFW, Bolsa Chica State Beach, Wetland and Wildlife Care Center, Native People of SoCal, Orange County Coastkeeper, Shipley Nature Center, Air Quality Management District, Wyland Foundation, Shed Your Skin, and co-host Amigos de Bolsa Chica. Enjoy the Windows to Our Wetlands bus, interactive booths, native plant stations, a craft booth, food for sale, and more. The event is handicap accessible, held in the north parking lot. For more information, call (714) 846-1114.

CDFW will be at the U.S. Forest Service’s Kern River Valley Bioregions Festival at Circle Park in Kernville April 22, to explain the Kern River Hatchery renovation project and the new Kern River Rainbow program with the Friends of the Kern River Hatchery. The CDFW Natural Resource Volunteer Program will provide a booth with information on volunteer opportunities.

CDFW will host booths at three Sacramento area events: the Roseville Celebrate the Earth Festival and Sacramento Zoo Earth Day on April 22, and the ECOS Sacramento Earth Day on April 23. Ask staff about California wildlife, Watchable Wildlife locations in the greater Sacramento area and Nimbus Fish Hatchery, which is open to visitors year-round. Enjoy a variety of hands-on activities, including the Salmon Survival Wheel, where players learn about the obstacles that salmon must overcome in order to spawn.

Volunteer Work Day at Friant Interactive Nature Site, April 21 and 22, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 17443 N. Friant Rd, Friant (93626). Spend a fun day outdoors, doing trail maintenance (pulling weeds, raking, pruning) in a lovely setting for outdoors education. For more information, please call (559) 696-8092.

Gray Lodge Clean-up and Field Day and Public Meeting, April 22, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3207 Rutherford Road, Gridley (95948). The event is in partnership with California Waterfowl Association (CWA), and will include habitat and maintenance projects, followed by a lunch sponsored by CWA. The day will be informative and will help improve the quality of wildlife habitat. At 1:30 p.m., CDFW will hold an annual public outreach meeting regarding the Gray Lodge and Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Areas at the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area’s main office building. For more information, please call (530) 846-7500 or email GLWLA@wildlife.ca.gov.

Los Banos Wildlife Area will have a hands-on activity booth at the Modesto Earth Day Festival in Graceda Park.

Many more events are listed at CalRecycle and EarthDay.org.

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Media Contact:
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Leave Young Wildlife Alone

With late spring and early summer being the peak time for California’s wildlife to bear their young, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is issuing a reminder to well-intentioned citizens: If you find a seemingly abandoned young wild animal, you should leave it alone.

Even though it may be hard to resist picking up a young wild animal that appears to be abandoned, intervention may cause more harm than good.  Young animals that are removed from their natural environment typically do not survive. Those that do may not develop wilderness survival skills, making them unsuitable for release back into their natural habitat.

“It is a common mistake to believe a young animal has been abandoned when it is found alone, even if the mother has not been observed in the area for a long period of time,” said Nicole Carion, CDFW’s statewide wildlife rehabilitation coordinator. “Chances are the mother is off seeking food, or she could be nearby, waiting for you to leave.”

Carion noted that this behavior is common across many species. For example, adult female deer often stash their fawns in tall grass or brush for many hours while they are out foraging for food. A female mountain lion may spend as much as 50 percent of her time away from her kittens.

If a young animal is in distress, or you are unsure, contact a wildlife rehabilitation facility and speak to personnel to determine the best course of action.  For an injured, orphaned or sick bear, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, wild pig or mountain lion, contact CDFW directly, as most wildlife rehabilitators are only allowed to possess small mammals and birds.  Although some wildlife rehabilitators are allowed to accept fawns, injured or sick adult deer should be reported directly to CDFW for public safety reasons.

Anyone who removes a young animal from the wild is required to notify CDFW or take the animal to a state and federally permitted wildlife rehabilitator within 48 hours. These animals may need specialized care and feeding that is best done by trained wildlife care specialists.

It is important to note that wild animals – even young ones – can cause serious injury with their sharp claws, hooves and teeth, especially when injured and scared. They may also carry ticks, fleas and lice, and can transmit diseases to humans, including rabies and tularemia.

To learn more about how to live and recreate responsibly where wildlife is near, please visit CDFW’s Keep Me Wild website at www.keepmewild.org.

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Media Contacts:
Nicole Carion, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (530) 357-3986
Lesa Johnston, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 322-8933

 

 

State Agencies Pilot Wildlife Crossing Mitigation Credit System

California’s state wildlife and transportation departments signed a credit agreement on an innovative pilot project to create advanced mitigation credits for wildlife highway crossings. The mitigation crediting system developed for the Laurel Curve Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Project on Highway 17 in Santa Cruz County can be used to transition into a statewide program being developed through the new Regional Conservation Investments Strategies Program.

Using the Laurel Curve project as a pilot, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) developed a model compensatory mitigation crediting system.

An agreement between CDFW and Caltrans creates credits that can be used to mitigate for impacts to wildlife movement for future transportation projects within a geographical area defined as the Service Area, and determines the price of each credit. Mitigation credits are calculated using a first-of-its-kind methodology which takes into account the length of highway to be improved in lane miles or the project footprint in acres and the total cost of the project. When appropriate, Caltrans may sell or transfer the credits within Caltrans or to other transportation agencies with projects in the Service Area, thereby freeing funds for additional infrastructure projects.

“Highway 17 bisects undeveloped, wildlife-rich land in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and for the safety of deer, mountain lion, and motorists, too, we need to connect this habitat with a safe corridor,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird.  “CDFW, Caltrans and the new transportation package have come together to solve this problem.”

Senate Bill 1, the transportation funding package, includes $30 million for advanced mitigation strategies for projects similar to the creative Highway 17 project.

“Not only will this improve wildlife habitat connectivity and highway safety, but will also allow us to expedite future transportation projects using the mitigation credits made available,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

CDFW and Caltrans worked closely with the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to formulate the credit agreement. Caltrans, CDFW, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, Pathways for Wildlife, the U.C. Santa Cruz Puma Study and the Santa Cruz County Transportation Commission all worked together to develop a solution for the wildlife crossing at Laurel Curve.

Caltrans has built similar wildlife crossings on highways 1, 68, 101, 152 and 280.

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Media Contacts:
Jennifer Garrison, CDFW Habitat Conservation Planning Branch, (916) 653-9779
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 651-7824
Jim Shivers, Caltrans, (805) 549-3237

CDFW Accepting Applications for Deer and Pig Hunting in Western Merced County

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting applications for a limited number of deer and pig hunt access permits on opening weekend, Aug. 12–13, 2017 in Zone A for the general season.

The locations for this hunt include Upper and Lower Cottonwood Creek and the San Luis Reservoir wildlife areas. Reservations are required for access to the wildlife areas and only 30 permits will be issued for each day. Interested hunters can apply online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/lands/places-to-visit/cottonwood-creek-wa or request an access permit application by calling the CDFW Los Banos office at (209) 826-0463 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Applications may be submitted via email to Sean.Allen@wildlife.ca.gov or mailed to CDFW’s Los Banos office at 18110 W. Henry Miller Avenue, Los Banos, CA 93635.

Only official applications will be accepted and must be received before 4:30 p.m. on July 5. Reservations will be selected by a computerized drawing at 11 a.m. on July 6. The drawing will be open to the public. Successful applicants will be notified by mail within five working days of the drawing.

Up to three persons may apply as one party by including all the required information on the 2017 Zone A application form. Junior license holders may also apply if accompanied by an adult hunter.

Applicants may apply for a one-day hunt on one area only. An individual’s name may appear in the drawing only once and additional or duplicate applications will be disqualified from the drawing.

Sean Allen, CDFW Los Banos Wildlife Area, (209) 826-0463
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

Be Rattlesnake Safe this Spring

With the coming of spring and warmer weather conditions, snakes of many species are through hunkering down, making human encounters with these elusive creatures more likely. Although most native snakes are harmless, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommends steering clear of the venomous rattlesnake  – and knowing what to do in the event of a strike.

Rattlesnakes are widespread in California and are found in a variety of habitat throughout the state from coastal to desert. They may also turn up around homes and yards in brushy areas and under wood piles. Generally not aggressive, rattlesnakes will likely retreat if given room or not deliberately provoked or threatened. Most bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally touched by someone walking or climbing.

On rare occasions, rattlesnake bites have caused severe injury – even death. However, the potential of encountering a rattlesnake should not deter anyone from venturing outdoors. The California Poison Control System notes that the chances of being bitten are small compared to the risk of other environmental injuries. Most bites occur between the months of April and October when snakes and humans are most active outdoors, but there are precautions that can and should be taken to lessen the chances of being bitten.

The dos and don’ts in snake country

Rattlesnakes are not confined to rural areas. They have been found in urban areas, on riverbanks and lakeside parks and at golf courses. The following safety precautions can be taken to reduce the likelihood of an encounter with a rattlesnake.

  • Be alert. Like all reptiles, rattlesnakes are sensitive to the ambient temperature and will adjust their behavior accordingly. After a cold or cool night, they will attempt to raise their body temperature by basking in the sun midmorning. To prevent overheating during hot days of spring and summer, they will become more active at dawn, dusk or night.
  • Wear sturdy boots and loose-fitting long pants. Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through brushy, wild areas. Startled rattlesnakes may not rattle before striking defensively.
  • Children should not wear flip-flops while playing outdoors in snake country.
  • When hiking, stick to well-used trails. Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.
  • Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see. Step ON logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood. Check out stumps or logs before sitting down, and shake out sleeping bags before use.
  • Never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers. Rattlesnakes can swim.
  • Be careful when stepping over doorsteps as well. Snakes like to crawl along the edge of buildings where they are protected on one side.
  • Never hike alone. Always have someone with you who can assist in an emergency.
  • Do not handle a freshly killed snake, as it can still inject venom.
  • Teach children early to respect snakes and to leave them alone.
  • Leash your dog when hiking in snake country. Dogs are at increased risk of being bitten due to holding their nose to the ground while investigating the outdoors. Speak to your veterinarian about canine rattlesnake vaccines and what to do if your pet is bitten.

Rattlesnakes belong to a unique group of venomous snakes known as pit vipers and the rattlesnake is the only pit viper found in California. The copperhead and water moccasin also belong to this group; however, they are most commonly found in the southern, southeastern and eastern part of the United States. The term “pit” refers to special heat sensors located midway between the snake’s eye and nostril. These special thermoreceptors detect differences in temperature which help the snake pinpoint prey while hunting. The term “viper” is short for Viperidae, the family in which scientists categorize the rattlesnake.  Pit vipers are venomous and rely on the use of venom to kill prey to eat. The rattlesnake’s prey of choice is chiefly rodents and other small mammals and this is an important factor in terms of keeping rodent populations in an ecosystem in check.

Keeping snakes out of the yard

The best protection against rattlesnakes in the yard is a “rattlesnake proof” fence. The fence should either be solid or with mesh no larger than one-quarter inch. It should be at least three feet high with the bottom buried a few inches in the ground. Slanting your snake fence outward about a 30-degree angle will help. Keep vegetation away from the fence and remove piles of boards or rocks around the home. Use caution when removing those piles – there may already be a snake there. Encourage and protect natural competitors like gopher snakes, king snakes and racers. King snakes actually kill and eat rattlesnakes.

What to do in the event of a snake bite:

Though uncommon, rattlesnake bites do occur, so have a plan in place for responding to any situation. Carry a cell phone, hike with a companion who can assist in an emergency and make sure that family or friends know where you are going and when you will be checking in. In the event of a bite:

  • Stay calm but act quickly.
  • Remove watches, rings, etc., which may constrict swelling.
  • Transport the victim to the nearest medical facility.
  • For more first aid information, please call the California Poison Control System at (800) 222.1222.

What you should NOT do after a rattlesnake bite:

  • DON’T apply a tourniquet.
  • DON’T pack the bite area in ice.
  • DON’T cut the wound with a knife or razor.
  • DON’T use your mouth to suck out the venom.
  • DON’T let the victim drink alcohol.

More information about rattlesnakes can be found at the following websites:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Habitat and Relationships: www.wildlife.ca.gov/Data/CWHR/Life-History-and-Range

UC Davis Integrative Pest Management: www.californiaherps.com/info/rattlesnakeinfo.html

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Media Contact:
Lesa Johnston, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 322-8933