Tag Archives: California Department of Fish and Wildlife

CDFW Biologists on High Alert for Signs of White-Nose Syndrome in Bats

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is monitoring developments following the recent detection of white-nose syndrome (WNS) in a bat in Washington state. The disease has been responsible for killing millions of America’s bats, and CDFW scientists are enlisting the public to help prevent its spread.

Part of CDFW’s effort to educate the public is the launch of a new WNS webpage (www.wildlife.ca.gov/wns). News of the first WNS case in Washington State, announced in March, prompted CDFW to make this information available as quickly as possible, since many species of bats in California could be affected if the disease spreads south.

Senior Environmental Scientist Scott Osborn is CDFW’s Statewide Coordinator for Small Mammal Conservation. “White-nose syndrome has killed more than six million bats in the eastern U.S. and Canada, in some cases wiping out entire colonies of hibernating bats,” he said. “It had spread gradually over ten years from New York into northeastern states and Canada, south to Mississippi and Arkansas, and as far west as Nebraska and Minnesota.”

Osborn said we don’t know yet how the disease moved more than 1,300 miles to Washington. It may have spread undetected by bat-to-bat contact across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. But it is also possible that the fungus was inadvertently carried by a person whose clothing or gear was contaminated, perhaps while exploring caves in eastern states.

The fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans grows on and in the skin of bats during winter hibernation, in some cases giving them a white, fuzzy appearance on the muzzle, wings and ears. The fungus invades deep skin tissues and causes extensive damage. Affected bats awaken more often than normal during hibernation, causing them to burn up fat reserves needed to sustain them through winter, which leads to starvation and death. Wing damage may also cause problems with physiological processes such as blood circulation and the bat’s ability to regulate its body temperature. Impairment of any of these processes may also lead to death.

“Bats provide tremendous pest control services, eating as much as their own body weight in insects every night,” Osborn said. “The national value of pest control by bats has been conservatively estimated at more than $3 billion per year. No doubt California agriculture benefits greatly from healthy bat populations. Some bat species pollinate plants such as agaves and large cacti. And all bats are important to the ecosystems in which they occur and play a large role in controlling insect populations and converting insects into fertilizer used by plants. Of the 25 bat species in California, two are known to have been killed in other states by WNS and another 12 are likely to be at risk due to their similarity to affected species.”

CDFW asks that the public take several simple precautions to help avoid the potential spread of WNS:

  • Please report any bats you see showing signs consistent with WNS, or if you see bats flying outside during very cold or freezing temperatures. Please refer to the online reporting form for information if you have found a sick or dead bat with signs indicating possible infection with WNS.
  • Avoid entering caves, mines or other areas used by bats, unless absolutely necessary, to avoid disturbing bats and potentially spreading the disease to unaffected areas.
  • If you must enter a cave, mine or bat roost, decontaminate all equipment and clothing immediately after visiting. Do not allow dogs or other pets in caves, as they may act as carriers of the fungus to new sites.
  • Do not handle live bats; they can carry rabies.

For more information on bats and White Nose Syndrome, please see wildlife.ca.gov/WNS, www.whitenosesyndrome.org or Bat Conservation International‘s website.

Signs of WNS include:

  • White or gray powdery fungus seen around the muzzle, ears, wings, limbs or tail of bats;
  • Unusual winter behavior, such as bats on the ground (either inside or outside a hibernation roost), roosting near the entrance to or increased bat activity outside a hibernation roost, or premature return to a summer roost during freezing weather;
  • Thin body condition or dehydrated appearance (wrinkled and flaky appearance of furless areas);
  • Moderate to severe wing damage, including membrane thinning, depigmentation, stickiness, holes, tears or flaky appearance on bats found outside of a hibernation roost or at a summer roost;
  • Bats exhibiting yellow-orange fluorescence on hairless skin under long-wave UV light; and
  • Excessive or unexplained mortality or population decline at a winter hibernation roost.

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Media Contacts:
Scott Osborn, Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 324-3564
Deana Clifford, Wildlife Investigations Lab, (916) 358-2378
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Map-based Sport Fishing Regulations Offers Ease of Use for Anglers

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has launched a beta release of an online location-based Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations tool to help anglers identify those regulations that relate to the area they plan to fish. The new tool provides an easy way for anglers to find the sections of the regulations that are relevant to them.

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The new fishing regulations tool can be found at https://map.dfg.ca.gov/sportfishingregs/. It is designed to work on a smart phone, tablet or desktop computer.

When accessed from a smart phone or a tablet with GPS, the map-based tool will automatically present the angler with the sport fishing regulations that apply to their current location based on the GPS in the device. When accessed from a tablet without GPS or from a desktop computer, the user can click anywhere on the map to discover the regulations for that area.

The new tool includes the Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, found on our Regulations webpage at www.wildlife.ca.gov/regulations.

The regulations are also now available in the existing Fishing Guide, available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/guide.

“This is a big step forward in making the complex fishing regulations more accessible to the angling community,” said CDFW Acting Fisheries Branch Chief Roger Bloom. “As we continue to simplify our fishing regulations, they will be kept up-to-date within this new tool.”

This is a beta release that CDFW staff will be actively working to improve. CDFW welcomes comments or suggestions for improvement. Please send feedback to fishingguide@wildlife.ca.gov.

Media Contacts:
Roger Bloom, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 445-3777
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

Recreational Pacific Halibut Fishery Opens May 1

California’s recreational Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) fishery season will open May 1. This year the fishery will be held to a federally established quota of 29,640 pounds. The open season dates will be May 1-15, June 1-15, July 1-15, Aug. 1-15 and Sept. 1-Oct. 31, or until the quota is reached, whichever is earlier. The open and closed periods are intended to spread fishing opportunities from spring through fall. Anglers are limited to one rod and two hooks while fishing for Pacific halibut.

Again this year, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) field staff will be stationed at public launch ramps and charter boat landings to monitor catches of Pacific halibut along with other marine sportfish. CDFW will examine observed catch information and compare it with expected catch rates. As the season progresses, CDFW will confer with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and International Pacific Halibut Commission on expected quota attainment. If the cumulative catch is expected to reach or exceed the quota prior to Oct. 31, NMFS will close the fishery.

The 2016 quota is an increase of 4,420 pounds over the 2015 quota.

The public can follow the progress of catch through the season by viewing the Pacific halibut thermometer on the CDFW Pacific halibut website, which will be updated weekly with the latest catch projection information.

Anglers in northern California are also advised to check the open season dates for ocean salmon when planning fishing activity in the Eureka, Trinidad and Crescent City port areas. Due to the low forecasted ocean abundance of Klamath River Fall Chinook, periodic recreational salmon closures have been implemented in these areas for 2016.  During May, June and July, anglers will have the opportunity to target either Pacific halibut or ocean salmon, but not both species concurrently.

Pacific halibut are more common off the northern California coast and should not be confused with California halibut (Paralichthys californicus). Before engaging in any fishing activity for Pacific halibut, please check one of the following resources for the most up-to-date regulations:

  • National Marine Fisheries Service Halibut Hotline, (800) 662-9825
  • CDFW Recreational Groundfish Regulations Hotline, (831) 649-2801
  • CDFW Pacific halibut website

 

Media Contacts:
Caroline McKnight, CDFW Marine Region, (831) 649-7192
Carrie Wilson, CDFW Communications, (831) 649-7191

Sacramento River Closure to Go Into Effect April 1

A temporary emergency regulation closing all fishing within 5.5 miles of spawning habitat on the Upper Sacramento River begins on April 1, 2016 and will remain in effect through July 31, 2016. Enhanced protective measures are also proposed in the ocean sport and commercial salmon fisheries regulations for the 2016 season.

The temporary emergency regulation closes all fishing on the 5.5 mile stretch of the Sacramento River from the Highway 44 Bridge where it crosses the Sacramento River upstream to Keswick Dam. The area is currently closed to salmon fishing but was open to trout fishing. The temporary closure will protect critical spawning habitat and eliminate any incidental stress or hooking mortality of winter-run Chinook salmon by anglers.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) scientists believe the additional protection provided in the emergency river closure and potential ocean fishing restrictions will help avoid a third year of substantial winter-run Chinook salmon loss.

Historically, winter-run Chinook spawned in the upper reaches of Sacramento River tributaries, including the McCloud, Pit, and Little Sacramento rivers. Shasta and Keswick dams now block access to the historic spawning areas. Winter-run Chinook, however, were able to take advantage of cool summer water releases downstream of Keswick Dam. In the 1940s and 1950s, the population recovered, but beginning in 1970, the population experienced a dramatic decline, to a low of approximately 200 spawners by the early 1990s. The run was classified as endangered under the state Endangered Species Act in 1989, and as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1994.

The Fish and Game Commission adopted CDFW’s proposal for the 2016 temporary closure at its regularly scheduled February meeting.

Media Contact:
Jason Roberts, CDFW Northern Region, (530) 225-2131
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

There’s a Place for Wildlife on Your Tax Return

The deadline to file income tax returns is approaching. If you’re still working on yours, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds you that you can help save endangered plants and animals on your state return. Near the end of form 540, look for the section called Voluntary Contributions. There, you can donate any dollar amount to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 or the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program on line 403.

The Southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and “fully protected” by the State of California. It is illegal to harass, pursue, hunt, catch, capture or kill, or attempt any of those actions on such listed species.

Donations to the California Sea Otter Fund are split between CDFW and the State Coastal Conservancy. CDFW’s half supports scientific research on the causes of mortality in sea otters, including a large analysis of 15 years of sea otter mortality data with critical support from the California Sea Otter Fund. CDFW scientists and their partners have also initiated a multi-agency outreach program called “Sea Otter Savvy” to educate coastal boaters, kayakers and the public about the impact of repeated human disturbance on sea otter health and survival. More information can be found at www.facebook.com/seaottersavvy.

The annual sea otter survey conducted in 2015 indicated that the population in California may be slowly increasing, to just over 3,000 animals. That is a small fraction of their historic numbers and this population is still vulnerable to oil spills, environmental pollution, predation by white sharks and other threats. You can help spread the word by liking and sharing the Sea Otter Fund Facebook page.

Since 1983, California taxpayers have voluntarily supported the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program by donating more than $21 million. That money has provided critical support for many state-listed species, including Butte County meadowfoam (Limnanthes floccose ssp. californica), Pacific fisher (Pekania pennanti), Shoshone pupfish (Cyprinodon nevadensis Shoshone), Scripps’s murrelet (Synthliboramphus scrippsi), Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae), and many-flowered navarretia (Navarretia leucocephala ssp. plieantha).

“From Death Valley National Park to North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, many parts of California are exploding with amazing wildflower displays right now, but California’s native plants don’t usually get as much attention as animals,” said Jeb Bjerke, an environmental scientist with CDFW’s Native Plant Program. “Although many people think of California’s endangered species as animals, there are about twice as many listed plants. In addition, more than 1,000 plant species in California are rare but not listed. Our botanical diversity is astounding, and we are trying to protect that heritage from extinction.”

Voluntary contributions also help CDFW acquire federal matching funds, increasing the positive actions that can be done for rare, threatened and endangered species and the ecosystems that support them. Support from California taxpayers has enabled wildlife biologists to achieve important recovery milestones to conserve vulnerable species. Past contributors can take credit for helping the Peregrine falcon and California brown pelican enough to be removed from endangered species lists.

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please let him or her know you want to donate to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program on line 403 or the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410. If you use Turbo Tax, when you’re near the end of your tax return it should ask if you want to make a voluntary contribution to a special fund. Click “Yes” and go to lines 403 and 410.

What you donate this year is tax deductible on next year’s return. More information on both the California Sea Otter Fund and the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation tax donation program is available on our Tax Donation webpage.

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Media Contacts:
Laird Henkel, Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726
Jeb Bjerke, Habitat Conservation Planning Branch (plants), (916) 651-6594
Esther Burkett, Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420