Wildlife Harmed by Exposure to Anticoagulant Rodenticides

In late April, a dead owl was found on a nature preserve in San Luis Obispo County. CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Lab (WIL) performed the necropsy and found excessive bleeding on the owl’s leg and abdomen. With no associated wound or apparent trauma, additional toxicology testing was performed. Cause of death: fatal poisoning by anticoagulant rodenticides, chemical agents used for rodent control. For the WIL, it was the thirteenth raptor death by anticoagulant rodenticides since August 2019.

In a four-year study conducted by WIL biologists investigating the causes of mortality for hundreds of raptors – and 15 raptor species – across the state, more than 80 percent had been exposed to anticoagulant rodenticides. Roughly one-quarter of those raptor deaths were fatal poisonings directly attributed to anticoagulants.

In a two-year statewide study, the WIL found that 96 percent of necropsied mountain lions showed non-fatal exposure to anticoagulant rodenticides. Almost one-third of those lions had been exposed to at least four different types of anticoagulants.

Throughout California, chemical baits used to control rodents have injured and killed non-target wild animals and pets. Anticoagulant rodenticides work by preventing blood clotting in the animals that consume it resulting in fatal bleeding. Predatory and scavenging birds along with mammals like raccoons, bobcats, foxes, skunks and coyotes that have eaten rodents which have consumed the bait can also be fatally poisoned.

“It’s troubling seeing an otherwise healthy animal die from anticoagulant rodenticides. In many cases these deaths may be preventable.” said Krysta Rogers, an environmental scientist and the WIL’s lead avian mortality investigator.

In 2014, California restricted the use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides with several chemicals known to be harmful to wildlife, pets, children and the environment. Additionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has implemented a national ban on consumer use of rodenticide products that do not meet revised safety requirements. However, products containing second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides can still be used by licensed exterminators.

Despite the restrictions, the WIL says that wildlife is still being exposed to both first-generation and second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides. CDFW would like to remind the public of the measures that can be taken to help reduce anticoagulant rodenticide exposure in non-target wildlife.

The best way to protect wildlife is to use non-chemical means of rodent control. Habitat modification is an effective means of preventing rodents from inhabiting property. For example, many rodents like tall grass for cover. Mowing grass to no more than two inches makes it less appealing. Like most animals, rodents go where they feel safe and where food is available. The easiest way to discourage rodents from inhabiting property is to remove food sources and remove or modify anything that provides cover.

These simple actions can help:

  • Keep your home and yard neat and clean.
  • Keep tree branches and vegetation at least a foot away from home and roof.
  • Seal any holes on your home and roof where rodents can gain entry.
  • Be aware that pet food, chicken feed and bird feeders will attract rodents.
  • Remove objects and plants that rodents can hide under such as wood piles, debris, construction waste, dense vegetation and ground-covering vines like ivy.
  • Pick up fruit that has fallen from trees as soon as possible.
  • Secure your garbage in a tightly sealed can.
  • Seal water leaks and remove standing water that may attract unwelcome animals.

For more information, visit the rodenticides page on CDFW’s website.

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

Gray Lodge Auto Tour Loop to Close for Summer Repairs; New Fishing Pier to Be Built

Improvements are coming to the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area in Butte County.

Hosting some 80,000 visitors each year, Gray Lodge is one of the most heavily visited and used wildlife areas in the state, and construction work will restrict some public access over the next several months.

Work is scheduled to begin the week of June 15, 2020, on the auto tour loop on the west side of the wildlife area near Parking Lot 14. The auto tour loop and some nearby hiking trails will be closed during this construction period, which is expected to conclude around the first week in October, reopening in time for bird watching during peak fall and winter migrations.

Crews will regrade the steep slopes on the auto tour roadway to improve safety and add additional turnouts for wildlife viewing and passing. The pond bottoms along the auto tour loop will be reshaped to improve water movement and habitat management. The work is being funded through a $1.4 million grant from the state Wildlife Conservation Board.

Over this same period, crews will also construct a mobility impaired fishing pier on the pond adjacent to Parking Lot 14 thanks to another $310,000 Wildlife Conservation Board grant. The pier will provide fishing access to the public throughout the spring and summer months when the wildlife area is open to fishing. For questions or additional information, please contact Gray Lodge directly at (530) 846-7500.

CDFW reminds Californians to abide by all state and local health guidelines regarding non-essential travel and physical distancing.

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Media Contacts:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858

Dave VanBaren, CDFW North Central Region, (530) 846-7500

CDFW Photo: The view from the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area auto tour loop.

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

At its May 20, 2020 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $36.2 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 31 approved projects will benefit fish and wildlife — including some endangered species — while others will provide public access to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, landowners and the local community.

Funding for these projects comes from a combination of sources including the Habitat Conservation Fund and bond measures approved by voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources.

Funded projects include:

  • A $343,000 grant to The Nature Conservancy for a cooperative project with the National Park Service and the California Institute of Environmental Studies to restore approximately three acres of migratory bird breeding habitat on Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Port Hueneme in Ventura County.
  • A $635,000 grant to the Trust for Public Land for a cooperative project with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society to acquire approximately 22 acres of land for the protection of threatened and endangered species and riparian and floodplain habitat along the Santa Clara River and to provide the potential for wildlife-oriented, public-use opportunities near Acton in Los Angeles County.
  • A $1.3 million grant to Truckee Donner Land Trust to acquire in fee approximately 201 acres to preserve montane meadow, wildlife corridors and habitat linkages, and to provide wildlife-oriented, public-use opportunities near Truckee in Nevada County.
  • A $4.7 million grant to Tuolumne County for a cooperative project with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), CAL FIRE, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Forest Service to enhance forest health and reduce hazardous fuels through selective thinning and replanting activities on approximately 6,434 acres of mixed conifer forest in the Tuolumne River watershed located in Stanislaus National Forest 20 miles east of Sonora in Tuolumne County.
  • A $1.25 million grant to Port San Luis Obispo Harbor District for a cooperative project with California State Parks to rehabilitate a pier and boat landing at Avila Pier located approximately eight miles northwest of Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo County.
  • A $689,000 grant to Bolsa Chica Conservancy for a cooperative project with Signal Landmark, Pacific Life Foundation and CDFW to install new portable buildings for an interpretive center and construct educational features, an Americans with Disabilities Act accessible observation desk and restrooms in the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve approximately four miles northeast of Huntington Beach in Orange County.
  • A $10 million grant to Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority for a cooperative project with the Peninsula Open Space Trust and State Coastal Conservancy to acquire in fee approximately 235 acres of land to protect a critical linkage both for movement of wildlife and for species adaptation to climate change, and the protection of a natural floodplain located in Coyote Valley in Santa Clara County.
  • A $5 million grant to the Ventura County Watershed Protection District for a planning project that will complete final design plans for Matilija Dam removal and for three downstream levee construction/rehabilitation projects as essential components of the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project, a watershed-scale dam removal initiative and one of California’s largest dam removal efforts located five miles northwest of Ojai in Ventura County.

For more information about the WCB please visit wcb.ca.gov.

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Media Contacts:
John Donnelly, WCB, (916) 445-0137
Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 817-0434

riparian brush rabbit

Deadly Disease Detected in California Wild Rabbits for the First Time

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), in conjunction with the California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab, San Bernardino has diagnosed Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) in a black-tailed jackrabbit carcass submitted from private property near Palm Springs in early May. Samples submitted to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Plum Island, New York, confirmed the presence of the RHD virus type 2 (RHDV2) in California for the first time. This disease is highly contagious and often lethal to both wild and domestic rabbits. The carcass that was tested was one of about 10 dead jackrabbits observed on the Palm Springs property.

RHDV2 is not related to coronavirus; it is a calicivirus that does not affect humans or domestic animals other than rabbits. At this time, no other California rabbit populations are known to be infected, but the disease has spread quickly in other states, prompting CDFW biologists to prepare for more reports in the coming months. A “quick facts” reference guide can be found on CDFW’s website.

Since March 2020, RHDV2 has caused mortalities of both wild and domestic rabbits in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Texas and Mexico. Deaths of both wild rabbits and jackrabbits have occurred. Infected rabbits and jackrabbits may exhibit no symptoms leading up to their sudden death, or may suffer from fever, swelling, internal bleeding and liver necrosis. The range of susceptible species in North America is currently unknown, but all rabbit, jackrabbit, hare and pika species are likely susceptible.

CDFW Senior Wildlife Veterinarian Deana Clifford noted the introduction of RHDV2 to California could significantly impact wild rabbit populations, particularly those already at risk, such as the endangered riparian brush rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani riparius) and those with limited distribution in the state, such as the pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis).

“Unfortunately, we may also see impacts to species that depend on rabbits for food, as rabbits are a common prey species for many predators,” noted Dr. Clifford.

CDFW will carefully monitor the progression of RHDV2 in California, including investigating and testing rabbits found dead, monitoring populations of endangered rabbits and working with partners, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Public reports are an extremely helpful tool as wildlife veterinarians monitor the situation. CDFW is asking anyone who lives, works or recreates in wild rabbit habitat to report any sightings of sick or dead rabbits to CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory. To report sightings of sick or dead wild rabbits, hares or pikas contact the CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab at (916) 358-2790 or file an online mortality report through CDFW’s website.

Outdoor recreationists should take precaution when hiking, camping or backpacking and not handle or disturb carcasses to minimize the potential spread of RHDV2. Additionally, hunters should take precautions to prevent spreading the virus, such as wearing gloves when field dressing rabbits, washing hands and burying remains onsite so that scavengers cannot spread the virus. The virus is hardy and can remain viable on meat, fur, clothing and equipment for a very long time, making it easily transmissible to other areas.

In California, hunting season for brush rabbits and cottontails opens July 1 and runs through the last Sunday in January. The season is open statewide, except for a closed area in the Central Valley near the riparian brush rabbit range. Hunting season for jackrabbits is year-round and statewide.

A vaccine for RHDV2 is not currently available in the U.S., thus domestic rabbit owners should practice good biosecurity measures to protect their animals from this disease, such as washing hands before and after working with rabbits, not sharing equipment with other owners and keeping their rabbits isolated from wild or feral rabbits.

Domestic rabbit owners who have a sick rabbit should contact their veterinarian. If domestic rabbits are found dead, please contact the local CDFA Animal Health Branch or call (916) 900-5002.

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Media Contacts:
Dr. Deana Clifford, CDFW Wildlife Investigations Laboratory, (916) 358-2378
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

Riparian brush rabbit photo courtesy of Moose Peterson. All rights reserved.

California Fish and Game Commission Meets Remotely

On the second day of its April remote 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 today’s part of the meeting (see information from yesterday).

The Commission acknowledged robust public participation using remote technology.FGC Logo

“While we all are learning this remote world together, this meeting proved that government can continue with public input,” said Commission President Eric Sklar. “Governor Newsom recently said we expect a mid-May peak of COVID-19. I implore Californians to stay healthy and stay home to help save lives.”

The Commission approved the mammal hunting regulations and increased the number of elk tags in the northwest management unit. This increased hunting opportunity for the state’s hunting public, based on the best-available scientific data, is due to robust elk populations in this part of the state. The recovery of these elk is a great success story in California wildlife conservation.

The Commission approved the waterfowl daily and seasonal limits for ducks and geese for the 2020-21 hunting season. The northern pintail limit will remain at one pintail per day due to the current status of the population. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to improve the models to address the public’s concerns that pintail limits are too low.

The Commission adopted proposed regulations for public use on CDFW lands, including wildlife areas and ecological reserves. The regulations designate one new wildlife area and seven new ecological reserves, remove areas from the regulations where CDFW no longer has management authority, authorize site-specific public uses and make minor changes to clarify the regulations.

The Commission voted unanimously that listing of the Shasta snow-wreath may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review by CDFW.

The Commission voted unanimously that listing of an evolutionarily significant unit of mountain lions may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review by the CDFW.

Commission President Sklar, Commission Vice President Samantha Murray, and Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin, Russell Burns and Peter Silva participated in the call.

The full Commission agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at fgc.ca.gov. An archived audio file will be available in coming days. The next meeting of the full Commission is a teleconference scheduled for May 14, 2020.

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The California Fish and Game Commission was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.