Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

Snake, Rattle and Roll: Rattlesnake Season Is Here

Spring is here and with it brings warm weather and hot, dry conditions in many areas of California. Human encounters with snakes are more likely as these elusive animals become more active this time of year. Most native snakes are harmless. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommends avoiding the rattlesnake, a venomous species, and knowing what to do in the rare event of a bite.

Rattlesnakes may be found in diverse habitats, from coastal to desert, and are widespread in California. They can be attracted to areas around homes with heavy brush or vegetation, under wood piles where rodents may hide, as well as well-manicured landscapes to bask in the sun.

Rattlesnakes are not generally aggressive, unless provoked or threatened, and will likely retreat if given space.

“Snakes are often misunderstood. They provide significant ecosystem benefits, such as rodent control, and are an important part of California’s unique biodiversity,” said CDFW’s Conflict Programs Coordinator Vicky Monroe. “Snakes prefer to avoid people or pets and are not naturally aggressive. We encourage people to be rattlesnake safe, take time to learn about their local wildlife and take appropriate safety precautions when enjoying the outdoors.”

  • Most bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally brushed against by someone walking or climbing.
  • Most bites occur between the months of April and October when snakes and humans are most active outdoors.
  • On occasion, rattlesnake bites have caused severe injury – even death.

The California Poison Control System notes that the chances of being bitten are small compared to the risk of other environmental injuries. The potential of encountering a rattlesnake should not deter anyone from venturing outdoors.

CDFW provides tips on its website to “Be Rattlesnake Safe,” how to safely coexist with native snakes and what to do (or not do) in the event of a snake bite.

Other resources can be found on the California Herps Living with Rattlesnakes web page.

In 2019, CDFW confirmed the state’s first case of Snake Fungal Disease (SFD), a newly emerging disease in snakes. SFD can cause significant mortalities in species of conservation concern. There is no evidence that SFD is transmittable from snakes to humans. You may assist CDFW’s efforts by reporting sightings of snakes with skin sores or unusual behavior. Do not attempt to touch or handle.

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Media Contacts:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858
Vicky Monroe, CDFW Statewide Conflicts Program Coordinator, (916) 856-8335

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

Nature Is Calling All California Families: CDFW Announces Nature Bowl 2021

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is inviting families across the state to participate in the fun and educational Nature Bowl 2021: Family Challenge Edition.

Nature Bowl has been an exciting science event for teams of third- through sixth-grade students for more than 35 years. Students usually compete in person at natural resource sites throughout CDFW’s North Central Region.

Last year saw the event cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, Nature Bowl has been reformatted for the times as a nature challenge to all California families with school-age students.

Just like the spring before us, it’s time for rejuvenation, time to emerge from winter hibernation, time to get outside and give your family a healthy dose of nature.

Your challenge is to work together as a family to compete in five nature-themed activities – and possibly win cool nature-related prizes.

Activity Challenges:

  • Nature Relay: Take a scavenger hunt safari to see the natural world nearby.*
  • Nature Investigations: Discover native plants, animals in your backyard or neighborhood.
  • Bell Ringers: Invent a fast-paced family game using Nature Bowl 2021 vocabulary.
  • Team Problem Solving: Decipher the events in 12 nature photographs.*
  • Enviromercials: Create a 60-second ad on a current nature topic specific to California.

The Nature Bowl Family Challenge is open from March 15 through May 14, 2021. Contact Genelle Treaster at CDFW’s North Central Region to register and receive your electronic entry package with details, worksheets and resources.

State Wildlife Agencies to Hold Workshops on Coyotes in Urban Areas

Due to an increase in the number of reported conflicts between humans and coyotes in California, a series of online-based workshops are planned to help local communities and residents understand the reasons for that increase and how to reduce future conflicts. The first workshop offered by the California Fish and Game Commission and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is scheduled for March 26, 2021. Dates of additional workshops will be provided later. People interested in participating in this conversation about coyotes in the urban environment can visit the Commission website to learn how to join the workshop.

“The Commission and CDFW have heard and understand public concerns about increasing human interactions with coyotes in our cities and towns,” said Commissioner Eric Sklar, chair of the commission’s Wildlife Resources Committee. “Living with wildlife brings challenges, and the workshops are an opportunity to both share and learn more about how we collectively address that reality.”

The principal reasons wildlife, including coyotes, ventures into populated areas is to search for food, water or shelter. Human-coyote interactions are on the rise for many reasons, including increased urbanization, increased abundance of food and water sources, and access to attractants such as pet food, human food, pets and small livestock. Increased interactions can lead to human-coyote bites, pet loss (depredation) and disease transmission concerns. Adaptive, integrated strategies exist to mitigate conflicts and address concerns.

“One of the great things about the State of California is the abundance of open area, natural habitat and diverse wildlife,” said CDFW Deputy Director of Wildlife and Fisheries Stafford Lehr. “But with the rise of human interactions with wildlife, in particular urban coyotes, it is important that the Commission and CDFW work together to improve awareness and safety.”

CDFW and the Commission expect these workshops will provide an inclusive virtual platform for meaningful discussion on human-coyote conflicts and integrated coyote management planning. The first workshop is focused on the science and research related to coyotes in the urban environment as well as the current laws, regulations and jurisdictional roles that create a foundation for communities to reduce human-coyote interactions.

WHAT: Coyotes in the Urban Environment Workshop Series

WHEN: March 26, 2021 (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) – Workshop 1 (Science & Research; Laws & Regulations)

WHERE: Participants will join via Zoom and are asked to register in advance and take an online survey. Visit the Commission website or CDFW Facebook page for invite information.

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Media Contacts:
Tim Daly, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958
Melissa Miller-Henson, CFGC, (916) 208-4447