DFG Biologists Return Rehabbed Bear Cub to Lassen National Forest

Marc Kenyon, DFG Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3515
Kirsten Macintyre, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8988

An orphaned black bear cub was safely returned to its remote northern California forest home this week after five months at a Lake Tahoe wildlife care facility. Once near death, the male yearling cub has been deemed by experts to be fully rehabilitated, healthy and very likely able to survive on its own.

The cub was emaciated and weak when it was first spotted by a logger working in the Lassen National Forest (Tehama County) last September. Evidence at the scene indicated that the tiny bear’s mother had died before it learned to forage for food on its own. It was also suffering from severe hair loss, which would have made it unlikely to survive the approaching winter.

A warden from the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) was able to easily capture the cub with a trap. When it arrived at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, a licensed rehab center, the tiny bear weighed only 18 lbs. — far less than the usual weight of about 30 lbs. for a cub that age. With the assistance of charitable donations, staff at the nonprofit center treated the animal for ringworm and nursed it back to health over a five-month period.

This week, DFG biologists picked up the cub – which now weighs a hearty 90 lbs. – and transported it from Tahoe back to the Lassen National Forest. With the assistance of the U.S. Forest Service, the cub was tranquilized and transported deep into the woods, where it was tucked into a pre-dug bear den in a carefully selected, secluded spot in the heart of bear territory. The entrance to the den was covered and camouflaged, and the hope is that the young bear will return to his natural state of hibernation, emerging later this spring to build a new life in the same forest where he was born.

In 2010, five black bear cubs in similar condition were found in different locations and placed by DFG into care facilities for safety, temporary care and rehabilitation. Four of the cubs, all from northern California, were cared for at the Tahoe facility and returned to the wild over the last few weeks. The fifth cub, from Southern California, was transported to a care facility in Arizona.

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According to Marc Kenyon, DFG’s Bear Program Coordinator, five cubs is the average number rehabilitated in licensed care facilities every year. They are typically found in the summer and fall, and are returned to the wild in the late winter, toward the end of the hibernation period.

In order to qualify for rehabilitation, a found cub must be clearly be both orphaned and in distress, as well as younger than a year old and unaccustomed to humans. Licensed rehabilitators are specially trained to assess the animal’s health and chances for survival, and to provide the cub with what it needs to survive — without taming it.

“We want to help these bears survive and return to the population, but in doing so, we must be sure that they don’t get used to being around people,” Kenyon said. “Once bears are no longer wary of people, they become ‘nuisance bears’ that are no longer wild.”

Throughout California, the black bear population has steadily been increasing over the past 25 years, and is now conservatively estimated to be around 40,000 statewide.Though black bears are not an endangered, threatened or protected species, the continued success of the population depends on the survival of tiny cubs such as this one.

Kenyon said that DFG’s goal in approving the careful rehabilitation and relocation of young bears is twofold. “We want to keep wild species wild, and to keep common species common,” he said. “You can’t do one without the other.”

DFG to Host Public Meeting on California Salmon Stocks and Fisheries

Media Contacts:
James Phillips, Marine Biologist, (707) 576-2375
Harry Morse, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8962

The public is invited to testify at an upcoming public meeting about California salmon populations and the 2011 ocean and river salmon fisheries. The 2011 Salmon Information Meeting, sponsored by the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), will be held March 1 from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency Building located at 404 Aviation Boulevard in Santa Rosa.

The rebound of Sacramento River fall Chinook salmon in 2010 has sparked intense public interest in the possibility of less restrictive salmon seasons this year. Preliminary data indicates approximately 125,300 adult fall Chinook and 27,500 jacks returned to the Sacramento River Basin. In 2009, the returns of adult Sacramento River fall Chinook salmon were an all time low of approximately 39,500 and all salmon seasons were closed. Limited fishing seasons were held in 2010.

Salmon biologists and managers will provide the latest information on California salmon escapement in 2010 and the outlook for ocean and river Chinook fisheries in the coming 2011 season, including the possibility of an April 2 opener for sport fisheries south of  Horse Mountain. They will discuss data that shows, for the first time since 2003, that Sacramento and Klamath rivers fall Chinook salmon stocks both exceeded their minimum spawner goals of 122,000 and 35,000 adults, respectively. In 2010, more than 37,200 Klamath River fall Chinook adults returned to spawn in natural areas.

A California salmon management panel will hear public comment and testimony. The panel is comprised of individuals directly involved in the upcoming Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meetings in March and April. The panel includes members of the PFMC, Salmon Technical Team and Salmon Advisory Subgroup.

The input from this meeting will help California representatives negotiate a broad range of season alternatives at the PFMC meeting March 5-10 in Vancouver, Wash. Salmon fishing seasons are developed through a collaborative regulatory process involving the Fish and Game Commission, the PFMC and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

More information on west coast salmon returns and ocean fisheries can be found online in the PFMC’s “Review of the 2010 Ocean Salmon Fisheries” at www.pcouncil.org/salmon/stock-assessment-and-fishery-evaluation-safe-documents/review-of-2010-ocean-salmon-fisheries/.

The March 1 meeting marks the beginning of a two month long management process used to establish ocean and river salmon seasons. A list of additional meetings to be held throughout the season setting process can be found on DFG’s website at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/oceansalmon.asp

DFG Returns Yearling Bears to the Wild

Media Contacts:
Marc Kenyon, DFG Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3515
Dana Michaels, Office of Communications, (916) 322-2420

sedated bear cub in trailer
Sedated bear cub before release. DFG photo by Dana Michaels.

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has successfully returned two California black bear yearlings to the remote wilderness near Truckee. Both female cubs were orphaned last summer.

One cub was illegally dumped last June on the front porch of Ann Bryant, executive director of the BEAR League. Weighing only 12 pounds, the cub was emaciated and starving. The other cub was reported by a citizen who kept seeing it alone and bawling, near Markleeville last August. A DFG investigation determined that the bear was an orphan. “It weighed about 30 pounds and was unusually lethargic for a cub,” said Cristen Langner, DFG’s bear biologist in the Tahoe Basin.

Both cubs were taken to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care (LTWC) – a wildlife rehabilitation facility licensed by DFG. While at LTWC, they were fed and housed in a way that prevented them from becoming habituated to humans, so they could be returned to the wild when they were old enough to care for themselves.

DFG Wildlife Rehabilitation Coordinator Nicole Carion oversaw the cubs’ care and arranged for their release in suitable habitat, away from human activity. DFG staff Ryan Carrothers, Shelly Blair, Marc Kenyon, Sarah Deaton, Cristen Langner and David Casady transported the sedated bears, then placed them in a manmade den at a wild and secluded location nestled in the Sierra Nevadas. The operation concluded as planned with the cooperation of University of California at Berkeley and Sagehen Creek Field Station staff. When released, the two yearlings weighed approximately 70 and 85 pounds.

Marc Kenyon, DFG statewide bear program coordinator, points out that people should never assume a young animal in the wild has been abandoned by its mother. In many cases, human interference with wildlife will result in abandonment by their species, and sometimes their inevitable captivity or death. “In the vast majority of circumstances, cubs or other wildlife that appear to be abandoned are simply being cared for by their mother from afar. She’s usually off obtaining the nutrition required to rear her offspring. But in the rare circumstance when something unfortunate happens, DFG has the ability and expertise to ensure appropriate care for the young until they can be safely released into the wild, such as these cubs. I fully expect them to become wild bears when they wake up in their new home this spring.”

DFG recommends that people leave wildlife alone, including removing attractants from their properties. If this is not an option, contact DFG. For more information, please see www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/. Continue reading DFG Returns Yearling Bears to the Wild

DFG Looks Back on Notable Accomplishments of 2010

Warden Patrick Foy (916) 651-2084

Kyle Orr, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8958

From nuisance black bears and increasing salmon numbers to automated license sales and poaching arrests, 2010 was a busy year for the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG). A popular new reality show airing on the National Geographic Channel, “Wild Justice,” is capturing some of the department’s doings, but far more happens behind the scenes.

“DFG’s most valuable resource has always been our dedicated employees,” said DFG Director John McCamman. “In 2010, we proved once again what can be achieved when a group of intelligent, committed people work together to accomplish our mission of managing the state’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.”

Following are some of the highlights of DFG’s year:

  1. Successful Redesign of California’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). In 2010, the Fish and Game Commission approved the third of five MPA redesign plans covering existing MPAs along California’s 1,100 miles of coastline. The new MPAs, which were mapped out with the involvement of local residents in each region, are now in effect along the central coast and north central coast, and will go into effect this year in the south coast. Efforts will continue in 2011 with the expected approval of a plan for the north coast and the start of the planning process for MPAs in the San Francisco Bay.
  2. An Increasing Focus on Renewable Energy. Since 2008, California state agencies have been striving to reduce California’s carbon footprint by increasing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), primarily through the development of wind and solar energy sources. In 2010, DFG worked with federal, state and local agencies to help process permits for nine RPS solar thermal projects in Kern, Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties. When completed, these projects will add a total of 4,142 megawatts of renewable energy capacity to the state’s portfolio.
  3. Acres of Land Conserved. Approximately 2,900 acres of wildlife habitat were conserved by DFG in 2010 through lands acquired in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Board. These habitats included interior wetlands, coastal sage scrub, riparian habitats and acres acquired specifically to benefit threatened and endangered species.
  4. Debut of the Automated License Data System (ALDS). In the fall, DFG launched a real-time automated system for purchasing hunting and fishing licenses. Especially developed for DFG, the ALDS is now in place at DFG license sales agents throughout the state. Unlike the old paper-based system, ALDS provides customers with immediate access to DFG’s license inventory, eliminating the need to visit a DFG office or wait for high-demand products to be issued via mail. To learn more about ALDS, please see www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing.
  5. Continuing Efforts to Stop Poaching. Highlights included:
    • Sturgeon: In February, wardens arrested two alleged sturgeon poachers, Nikolay Krasnodemskiy, 38, of North Highlands, and Petr Dyachishin, 50, of Citrus Heights, after observing them for a two-week period and witnessing them catch at least 14 sturgeon for resale. A search warrant served at the Dyachishin residence revealed a bucket containing 25 pounds of sturgeon eggs and all the material needed to process the eggs into caviar for sale on the black market.
    • Lobsters: In Orange County, an increase in the number of cases involving black market lobsters had wardens working undercover to investigate illegal sales operations. Though it is legal to fish for lobsters, there is a bag limit and a minimum size. Poachers are typically in possession of huge overlimits and undersized lobsters.
    • Abalone: Though both patrol and prosecution efforts have increased in recent years, abalone poaching has remained a serious problem because the fines for this crime are often far less than the potential profit. In 2010, the passage of AB 708 (Huffman) increased the penalties associated with repeat poaching offenses, thus providing a tool to help prosecutors reverse the growing trend.
  6. Dangerous Pursuits. Thanks in part to the success of “Wild Justice,” the public is becoming more aware that game wardens’ jobs are every bit as dangerous as that of any other cop. “Pursuits are some of the most dangerous types of encounters for any law enforcement agency,” said Nancy Foley, Chief of DFG’s Law Enforcement Division. “It is even more dangerous when the subjects are known to be armed or are fleeing off the paved road on quads or four-wheel drive vehicles.” California game wardens are trained to use whatever resources are necessary to investigate complex wildlife crimes, arrest suspects and ultimately protect the resources that belong to all Californians. For example, in June, wardens identified a suspected member of an international drug trafficking organization who was cultivating marijuana in Tehama County and was suspected of several poaching, pollution and habitat destruction violations. When contacted at the cultivation site, the suspect fled on foot. Warden Brian Boyd released his warden K-9 partner, Phebe, who apprehended the suspect with a bite to the lower leg. In another case in July, an Alameda County warden was checking for fishing activity in an East Bay Regional Park when he heard shots fired. The suspects fled on foot, with the warden and backup officers in pursuit. The chase ended when one suspect accidentally shot himself in the leg with his own pistol.
  7. Addition of New Wardens in the Field. DFG’s enforcement ranks increased in August when 38 wardens graduated from the 2010 academy. The new wardens have been stationed in each of the seven DFG regions in the state.
  8. Black Bears. California’s wild lands are home to more than 40,000 black bears, some of whom stirred up trouble in California’s premier tourist destinations in 2010. Last year, DFG staff logged more than 5,200 hours handling black bear nuisance issues in the Lake Tahoe region alone. DFG staff worked hard to build partnerships with local communities and neighboring states to cooperatively respond to such situations, and to better educate the public about how to appropriately live and recreate in black bear territory. To learn more, please visit the Keep Me Wild website at www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild.
  9. SHARE Program Links Hunters with Landowners. Outdoor recreationists now have a new venue to access some of California’s private lands through the newly established Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Program. Legislation passed in 2010 granted DFG the authority to compensate landowners for allowing public access to their property for diversified recreational use. Within the past year, the DFG has established waterfowl, elk and wild pig hunting opportunities on select private lands, resulting in numerous hunters enjoying quality time afield. An Encouraging Salmon Forecast. The resurgence of the Sacramento River fall-run Chinook salmon is positive news for recreational and commercial salmon anglers. Initial hatchery and in-river counts confirm a substantial increase in the number of returning adult salmon in the fall and winter of 2010. Following two years of record low returns and closed salmon seasons, this was excellent news and provides for the potential for the reintroduction of recreational and commercial seasons. Adaptive planting strategies, regulation reviews and dedicated work by hatcheries to produce 20 million young salmon annually are keys to the DFG’s efforts to restore salmon populations.

“As we close the books on 2010, it is important to strive even harder to build on the accomplishments we have had,” said McCamman. “We’ve set the bar high this year and look forward to a challenging yet prosperous 2011.”

Deadline Approaching for Late Season Aleutian Goose Hunts

Public Contact:
Victoria Barr, DFG Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-4034

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

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is offering north coast Aleutian goose hunts in Humboldt and Del Norte counties in February and March. These hunts are organized by the Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Program, in partnership with the California Waterfowl Association (CWA).

“This time of year tens of thousands of Aleutian geese start staging on the north coast for their migration back to their breeding grounds,” explained Victoria Barr, SHARE Program Coordinator. “During staging, geese primarily use agriculture pastures to gain energy for their long migration. These hunts will discourage the use of private land by geese, and will benefit farmers as well as create hunter opportunities.”

A total of 1,720 acres on five properties will be available to hunters on designated days in late February and early March. Applications must be received by Feb. 10, 2011.  More information and applications are available on CWA’s website at www.signup4.net/public/ap.aspx?EID=20102171E&OID=147, or by calling Barr at (916) 445-4034.

The SHARE Program is a voluntary landowner incentive program. Participating landowners receive liability protection and may receive compensation for providing public access to or through their land for wildlife-dependent recreational activities. The goal of the SHARE Program is to provide hunting, fishing and other recreational access on private lands in California.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife News