No Interfering with Cubs and Yearlings: Keep Tahoe Bears Wild!

Photo of sow with cubs of the year courtesy of David Braun, USDA Forest Service, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

LAKE TAHOE, Calif./Nev. – The spring season is well underway in the Tahoe Basin and with warmer weather and fewer Covid-19 restrictions many campgrounds are opening, and visitor numbers are increasing. With this activity comes more human food, more garbage, and more people sharing space with bears. 

This is also a time when some mother bears (sows) have very small-cubs of the year with them. These cubs were born in January or February and will likely be following mom and learning how to forage and be a wild bear for the next year to year and a half. Other sows have yearlings with them that were born in winter dens last year and are about to be cut loose by mom so she can search for a mate for the summer breeding cycle. These yearlings are well equipped to make it on their own, and their size will vary.

Cubs of the year are dependent on their mothers and will hopefully be taught how to forage on natural vegetation, including grass, berries, grubs, and other wild bear foods. The sows may be protective of the cubs and people need to give them space. Never get in between a sow and her cubs. If you see a cub of the year alone, or up a tree for safety, the sow may not want to leave the area so back away and give them room to reunite.

This time of year, wildlife agencies receive many calls from people concerned that they have found an orphaned cub when they are actually seeing a yearling that is safely on its own. A good rule of thumb in knowing the difference is to look at the size of the bear. If the bear is the size of a cat (around 10-15 pounds), that is a new cub of the year. Chances are the cub’s mom is somewhere nearby or may have put the cub up a tree while she goes to forage. Keep an eye on the cub and if you do not see mom after a couple of hours, please call the appropriate state wildlife agency below so they can send a wildlife expert out to assess the situation.

On occasion, there are known situations where a cub has truly been orphaned, which could result from a vehicle strike, or other cause of death of the sow. The proper state authorities, California Department of Wildlife (CDFW) or the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), should be called to evaluate the situation and safely transport the cub for evaluation and rehabilitation. Picking up a cub too soon or while mom is just around the corner can do a lot more harm than good. If the bear is the size of a medium-sized dog (45+ pounds) then it is a yearling, and it is perfectly normal for it to be on its own. If you’re not sure, don’t hesitate to call your wildlife experts at CDFW, California State Parks or NDOW to ask.

Don’t teach these young bears to be comfortable around people! If they have gotten too close, make noise and try to scare them away so they don’t feel comfortable and want to stay. While it’s fun to see bears and even take pictures and videos, you’re telling the bear that it’s alright to be close to you. Bears are smart and acquire learned behaviors based on their experiences. If they have a negative, scary encounter with a human, chances are they will try to avoid them in the future. Allowing bears to become comfortable around people can lead to unwanted activity including breaking into cars and houses or approaching people who are eating outdoors. It is illegal to feed bears both directly and indirectly by allowing them access to garbage or food.

Memorial Day is this weekend and visitors will steadily increase throughout the busy summer season. Be vigilant with food and trash storage whether at home, the beach, campgrounds, picnic areas or trailheads. Enjoy wildlife from a distance, and don’t attempt to handle young bears. With your help we can keep Tahoe bears wild!

To report human-bear conflicts: In California, contact the CDFW at 916-358-2917, or report online using the Wildlife Incident Reporting (WIR) system at apps.wildlife.ca.gov/wir. Non-emergency wildlife interactions in California State Parks can be reported to public dispatch at 916-358-1300. In Nevada, contact NDOW at 775-688-BEAR (2327). For general questions, contact agency Public Information Officers: Peter Tira, CDFW; Ashley Sanchez, NDOW; or Lisa Herron, USDA Forest Service. If the issue is an immediate threat, call the local sheriff’s department or 911.

For more information on peacefully coexisting with bears, visit TahoeBears.org. TahoeBears.org is made possible through funding from NDOW.

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This collaborative agency effort includes California State Parks, CDFW, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, Nevada State Parks, NDOW, Placer County Sheriff’s Office, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU).

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

Boaters Can Help Fight Spread of Invasive Mussels Over Memorial Day Weekend

Boating appears to be surging in popularity in California, and nationwide. California agencies combatting the spread of invasive quagga and zebra mussels ask new and seasoned boaters to remain cautious over the three-day Memorial Day weekend to prevent the spread of quagga and zebra mussels by cleaning, draining and drying their watercraft after each outing.

Quagga and zebra mussels are invasive freshwater mussels native to Europe and Asia. They multiply quickly, encrust watercraft and infrastructure, alter water quality and the aquatic food web, and ultimately impact native and sport fish communities. These mussels spread from one waterbody to another by attaching to watercraft, equipment and nearly anything that has been in an infested waterbody.

Invisible to the naked eye, microscopic juveniles are spread from infested waterbodies by water that is entrapped in boat engines, ballasts, bilges, live-wells and buckets. Quagga mussels have infested 34 waters in Southern California and zebra mussels have infested two waters in San Benito County, 13 of which are boatable by the public.

To prevent the spread of these mussels and other aquatic invasive species, people launching vessels at any waterbody are subject to watercraft inspections and should clean, drain and dry their motorized and non-motorized boats, including personal watercraft, and any equipment that contacts the water before and after use.

“The California Department of Food and Agriculture operates Border Protection Stations that inspect trailered watercraft entering the state” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Invasive Species Program Manager Martha Volkoff. “These inspections are an integral part of preventing further introductions of mussels and are also a window into changes in boating trends. In the past two years we have seen a nearly 20 percent increase in watercraft passing through Border Protection Stations between January and May since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Because of the additional boats, we have seen more mussel-fouled boat interceptions, but more concerning, we have also seen a significant increase in the proportion of mussel-fouled boats. We attribute this to many new boaters, who aren’t aware of the mussel issue and how to prevent their spread. Memorial Day is a great opportunity to spread the word to these boaters about the simple actions they should take.”

CDFW advises boaters to take the following steps before leaving a waterbody to prevent spreading invasive mussels, improve the efficiency of your inspection experience next time you launch, and safeguard California waterways:

  • CLEAN — inspect exposed surfaces and remove all plants and organisms,
  • DRAIN — all water, including water contained in lower outboard units, live-wells and bait buckets, and
  • DRY — allow the watercraft to thoroughly dry between launches. Watercraft should be kept dry for at least five days in warm weather and up to 30 days in cool weather.

CDFW has developed a brief video demonstrating the ease of implementing the clean, drain and dry prevention method as well as a list of Watercraft inspection Programs statewide.  In addition, California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) has a detailed guide to cleaning vessels of invasive mussels and other information available on their web page.

Travelers are also advised to be prepared for inspections at California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Border Protection Stations. Over the past decade more than 1.5 million watercraft entering California have been inspected at the Border Protection Stations. Inspections, which can also be conducted by CDFW and California State Parks, include a check of boats and personal watercraft, as well as trailers and all onboard items. Contaminated vessels and equipment are subject to decontamination, rejection, quarantine or impoundment.

Quagga and zebra mussels can attach to and damage virtually any submerged surface. They can:

  • Ruin a boat engine by blocking the cooling system and causing it to overheat
  • Jam a boat’s steering equipment, putting occupants and others at risk
  • Require frequent scraping and repainting of boat hulls
  • Colonize all underwater substrates such as boat ramps, docks, lines and other underwater surfaces, causing them to require constant cleaning
  • Impose large expenses to owners

A multi-agency effort that includes CDFW, DBW, CDFA and the Department of Water Resources has been leading an outreach campaign to alert the public to the quagga and zebra mussel threats.  CDFW’s invasive species e-mail, invasives@wildlife.ca.gov, is available for those seeking information on quagga or zebra mussels.

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Media Contacts:
California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways, newsroom@parks.ca.gov
Ryan Endean, California Department of Water Resources, (916) 798-1701
Tim Daly California Department of Fish and Wildlife, (916)  201-2958
Steve Lyle, California Department of Food and Agriculture, (916) 654-0462

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 hunting permits for opening weekend of the A Zone general season, Aug. 14-15, 2021. This is not a special hunt, but rather a drawing to control the number of hunters on popular public land during opening weekend. 

Locations for this hunt include Upper and Lower Cottonwood Creek and the San Luis Reservoir wildlife areas. Reservations are required to access the wildlife areas during opening weekend and only 30 permits will be issued for each day, Saturday, Aug. 14 and Sunday, Aug. 15. 

Hunters can download the application online at wildlife.ca.gov/lands/places-to-visit/cottonwood-creek-wa. Hunters can also request an access permit application by calling CDFW’s Los Banos office at (209) 826-0463 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Applications may be submitted via email to ryan.jones@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 p.m. on July 6. Reservations will be selected by a computerized drawing at 11 a.m. on July 7. The drawing will be open to the public. Successful applicants will be notified by mail within five working days of the drawing. Results will not be given over the phone. 

Up to three people may apply for the hunt as one party by including all required information on the Zone A application form. Junior license holders who are 12 years of age or older 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. 

All hunters are required to use non-lead ammunition when hunting with a firearm anywhere in California. 

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Media Contacts
Ryan Jones, CDFW Los Banos Wildlife Area, (209) 826-0463
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120 

State Wildlife Agencies to Hold Second Workshop 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 helping local communities and residents understand the reasons for that increase and how to reduce future conflicts.

The second workshop offered by the California Fish and Game Commission and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is scheduled for May 28, 2021. The focus will be on effective educational campaigns and coyote management plans. 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.

“We had an impressive group of participants at the first workshop, with lots of good information shared and with great questions and engaging dialogue,” said Commissioner Eric Sklar, chair of the commission’s Wildlife Resources Committee. “I look forward to the next workshop where we will learn more about education campaigns and coyote management plans that will help us collectively address increasing human interactions with coyotes in our urban environments.”

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, availability 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.

“As native terrestrial predators, coyotes are an integral and valuable part of California’s natural wildlife and ecosystem,” said CDFW Wildlife Branch Chief Scott Gardner. “To ensure effective conflict mitigation, safe co-existence and long-term predator conservation, the best available science and all available management tools should be considered. CDFW supports local communities in taking an adaptive approach to develop integrated coyote management plans and outreach strategies. A diverse set of tools is vital to address, reduce and manage conflict.”

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 was 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; the first workshop video is available here.

WHAT: Coyotes in the Urban Environment Workshop Series

WHEN: May 28, 2021 (9 a.m. to 12 p.m.) – Workshop 2 (Education Campaigns and Management Plans)

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

Media Contacts:

Tim Daly, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

At its May 20, 2021 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $23.5 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 35 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 $1.5 million grant to Save the Redwoods for a cooperative project with the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the National Park Service to enhance forest health and reduce hazardous fuels through selective thinning on 1,000 acres of mixed conifer forest and four miles of road removal in Redwood National and State Parks in Del Norte and Humboldt counties.
  • A $950,000 grant to the Trust for Public Land for a cooperative project with the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to acquire a conservation easement over approximately 2,476 acres of land for the protection of significant wet meadow and montane riparian habitat and fish and wildlife resources near the town of Westwood in Lassen County.
  • A $1.58 million grant to California Waterfowl Association for a cooperative project with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to restore 680 acres of wetland habitat and 169 acres of upland nesting habitat within the CDFW Grizzly Island Wildlife Area in Solano County.
  • A $748,000 grant to San Mateo Resource Conservation District for a cooperative project with the City and County of San Francisco, California State Coastal Conservancy and Natural Resource Conservation Service to remediate a dam and fish ladder that block the passage of coho salmon and steelhead trout to 4.5 miles of upstream habitat on Mindego Creek, 21 miles southeast of the city of Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County.
  • A $2.56 million grant to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority to acquire approximately 320 acres of land for the protection of oak woodlands, chaparral, coastal sage scrub, cactus scrub and grasslands that support numerous wildlife species including least Bell’s vireo, southwest willow flycatcher, yellow warbler, coastal cactus wren and other sensitive species located near Chino Hills in San Bernardino County.
  • A $925,111 grant to the University of California, Santa Barbara to upgrade the wastewater treatment system and install two new prefabricated shipping container homes and associated utilities at the Santa Cruz Island Reserve on Santa Cruz Island in Santa Barbara County.
  • A $1.42 million grant to Rivers and Lands Conservancy (RLC) and the acceptance of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition grant, and the approval to subgrant these federal funds to RLC to acquire approximately 98 acres of land for the protection of habitat for the coastal California gnatcatcher, cactus wren, intermediate Mariposa lily, Coulter’s matilija poppy and other federally listed species as well as other sensitive species located in the community of Silverado in Orange County.

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

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Media Contacts:
John Donnelly, Wildlife Conservation Board, (916) 445-0137
Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8907

Mountain Meadows. Photo by Markley Bavinger, provided by The Trust for Public Land.