Tag Archives: California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Caltrans and Fish and Wildlife Urge Motorists to Be Alert During Watch Out for Wildlife Week

Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) remind motorists to remain alert for wildlife on roadways during Watch Out for Wildlife Week, which runs September 18-24.

“We urge motorists to remain alert and be cautious when traveling through wildlife areas, so our roadways will remain as safe as possible,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “Drivers can really make a difference in avoiding wildlife collisions, simply by being aware while driving and watching for wildlife crossing signs.”

According to Defenders of Wildlife, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting native species and their natural communities, there are 725,000 to 1.5 million wildlife-vehicle collisions in the U.S. every year, resulting in more than 200 human fatalities. In California, between eight and 10 drivers and as many as 20,000 deer die in wildlife-vehicle collisions each year.

“Between now and December, deer and other wildlife are highly susceptible to vehicle collisions,” said Marc Kenyon, CDFW’s Human-Wildlife Conflict Program Manager. “Deer will soon start their annual migrations to winter range, bucks will be preoccupied competing for mates, and bears will be searching for food in preparation for hibernation. Such natural behaviors can lead these animals into the way of unsuspecting drivers. Drivers can prevent collisions with animals by being careful and paying attention.”

The Watch Out for Wildlife campaign is supported by Caltrans, CDFW, Defenders of Wildlife and the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis.

Wildlife experts from these organizations offer the following tips for motorists:

  • Be especially alert when driving in areas frequented by wildlife, and reduce your speed so you can react safely.
  • Pay particular attention when driving during the morning and evening, as wildlife are most active during these times.
  • If you see an animal cross the road, know that another may be following.
  • Don’t litter. The odors may entice animals to venture near roadways.
Seen in the side mirror of a vehicle, a doe crosses the road.
Dave Feliz photo

Here are a few examples of what Caltrans, CDFW and their partners are doing to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, improve awareness of key issues, and improve ecological sustainability:

Highway 246, Santa Barbara County

Six new highway undercrossings have been designed for California tiger salamanders and small animals to pass safely between breeding ponds and upland habitat on the opposite sides of Highway 246 between Buellton and Lompoc. This species is protected under both state and federal Endangered Species Acts. In addition to the design and implementation of these six undercrossings, Caltrans has proposed a five-year monitoring study to assess the undercrossings’ effects on California tiger salamanders and other animals crossing the highway. The project is expected to be completed in April 2017.

Highway 89, Sierra County

On a stretch of Highway 89 between Truckee and Sierraville, a recently-completed $2.08 million project consists of two new 12-foot by 10-foot wildlife undercrossings, providing a safe path for animals to cross under the roadway. The project also includes four escape ramps and over 14,000 linear feet of deer fencing on both sides of the highway to help prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Highway 76, San Diego County

Two new wildlife projects, which are part of the $208 million State Route 76 (SR-76 Corridor Project) East Segment and Interchange construction project between Interstate 15 and Interstate 5, will include six wildlife crossings and escape ramps. Wildlife escape ramps allow animals to jump out of the fenced-in highway, if needed. Post-project monitoring will be conducted after completion to monitor their use and influence decision-making for future projects. The project is expected to be completed in late 2017. Five other new wildlife crossings and directional fencing were installed as part of the SR-76 Melrose to Mission Highway Improvement Project in 2012, also part of the SR-76 Corridor Project.

 

Media Contacts:
Dana Michaels, CDFG Communications, (916) 322-2420
Tamie McGowen, Caltrans Public Affairs, (916) 657-5060

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

California agencies combatting the spread of invasive quagga and zebra mussels remind boaters to remain cautious over Memorial Day weekend.

Quagga and zebra mussels are invasive freshwater mussels native to Eurasia. 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 body of water to another by attaching to watercraft, equipment and nearly anything that has been in an infested waterbody.

Microscopic juveniles, invisible to the naked eye, are spread from infested waterbodies in water entrapped in boat engines, bilges, live-wells and buckets. Quagga mussels have infested 29 reservoirs in Southern California and zebra mussels have infested San Justo Reservoir in San Benito County.

To prevent the spread of these mussels and other aquatic invasive species, people launching vessels at any body of water are subject to watercraft inspections and are strongly encouraged to clean, drain and dry their motorized and non-motorized boats, including personal watercraft, and any equipment that comes into contact with the water before and after recreating.

“Recreational water users play a crucial role in preventing new mussel infestations,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Their awareness, diligence and good stewardship helps to maintain both the ecological and recreational values of our waters.”

To ensure watercraft are clean, drained and dry, many local agencies conduct boat inspections. The CDFW website provides a list of these inspection programs (www.wildlife.ca.gov/mussels), along with additional information about the invasive mussels and what people can do to help prevent their spread in California. Prior to traveling, boaters should contact destination waterbodies directly to check for restrictions and requirements.

Take the following steps both before traveling to and before leaving a waterbody to prevent spreading invasive mussels, improve your inspection experience 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, which can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaeAIPLoK-k. In addition, a detailed guide to cleaning vessels of invasive mussels is available on the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) at http://dbw.parks.ca.gov/PDF/CleanGreen/Boating-QuaggaGuide.pdf.

Travelers are also advised to be prepared for inspections at California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Border Protection Stations. Over the past nine years, more than one 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 California Department of Water Resources has been leading an outreach campaign to alert the public to the quagga and zebra mussel threats. A toll-free hotline, 1 (866) 440-9530, is available for those seeking information on quagga or zebra mussels.

Media Contacts:
Dennis Weber, California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways, (916) 651-8724
Dana Michaels, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, (916) 322-2420
Doug Carlson, California Department of Water Resources, (916) 653-5114
Steve Lyle, California Department of Food and Agriculture, (916) 654-0462

Recreational Dungeness crab Fishery Now Open Statewide, Commercial to Follow in Seven Days

The last remaining stretch of coast is open to the recreational fishery today and will open to the commercial fishery on May 26, after a seven day notice period. Today the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) were notified by the director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), after consultation with the director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), that it recommends lifting the last remaining closure of the Dungeness crab fishery (between a line extending due west from 40° 46.15′ N latitude, the west end of the north jetty at the entrance of Humboldt Bay and north to the southern boundary line at 41° 17.6’ N latitude of the Reading Rock State Marine Conservation Area near Redwood Creek). Now the entire California coast is open to the recreational fishery.

The commercial fishery in this same closure will open accordingly seven days from today at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, May 26 with a presoak period on Monday, May 23 at 8:01 a.m.

With the last remaining portion of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery opening next week, CDFW reminds commercial and recreational fishing fleets of the Best Practices Guide available to download that provides tips for reducing incidences of whale entanglements with crab trap gear. All anglers are strongly encouraged to download the guide and observe best practices. This guide was produced by the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group and was a collaborative effort between commercial crabbers, state and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations.

CDFW also reminds crabbers of the recent FAQ in order to conduct an orderly fishery. This FAQ covers topics about transiting through the current closure area to land crab and the recommended procedures for crab catch on board during the pre-soak period for those not bound by the fair start provision. Since the commercial fishery opened in Fishing Districts 6 and 7 on May 12, those bound by the Fair Start Provision will not be able to set gear and begin fishing in both districts, including the newly opened closure area described above, until the 30 day waiting period ends on Saturday June 11, 2016.

Due to the late start of the season there are also concerns over the take of soft-shelled crab. The commercial fleet should avoid taking crab that are not marketable and abide by Fish and Game Code Section 7704 that makes it unlawful to cause or permit waste of a fished resource. CDFW encourages all crabbers, buyers and processors to closely coordinate to minimize the chance of wasting any crab and violating Fish and Game Code Section 7704.

The delayed opening of the Dungeness crab fishery may concentrate effort at a time that could increase conflict with other active fisheries, for instance the salmon fishery. CDFW advises that all work together and adjust their fishing practices to avoid or minimize these conflicts.

Given the increasing reports of soft shelled crab and the unique circumstances this year that have led to unprecedented levels of fishing effort this late in the season, CDFW has concluded that it will not extend the season pursuant to Fish and Game Code Section 8277. The recreational Dungeness crab season in Del Norte, Humboldt and Mendocino counties will close July 30. The recreational Dungeness crab season will close June 30 in counties south of Mendocino County. The commercial fishery will close in Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 on July 15. All other areas of the state will close to commercial Dungeness crab fishing on June 30.

Areas open to crab fishing include:

  • Recreational Dungeness crab fishery open statewide from California/Oregon border to the California/Mexico border.
  • On May 26, 2016 Commercial Dungeness crab fishery open statewide from California/Oregon border to the California/Mexico border (which includes all previously opened areas).
  • Commercial fishery currently open along mainland coast south of 40° 46.15’ N lat., at the Humboldt Bay entrance, Humboldt County to the California/Mexico border and north of 41° 17.6’ N lat. at the southern boundary of the Reading Rock SMCA (near Redwood Creek), Humboldt County to the California/Oregon border.
  • Commercial and recreational rock crab fisheries are open along the mainland coast south of 36° 58.72′ N Lat. at Sand Hill Bluff, Santa Cruz County (approximately 9 miles north of Santa Cruz Harbor Entrance)
  • Commercial and recreational rock crab fisheries are open in state waters of the Channel Islands except for an exclusion area between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands (see coordinates below)

Areas closed to rock crab fishing include:

  • Commercial and recreational rock crab fisheries are closed north of 36° 58.72′ N lat. and in state waters between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands within an exclusion area bounded by straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed:

(1) 34° 7.75’ N lat. 120° 0.00’ W long.;

(2) 34° 7.75’ N lat. 119° 50.00’ W long.;

(3) 33° 53.00’ N lat. 119° 50.00’ W long.;

(4) 33° 53.00’ N lat. 120° 0.00’ W long.; and

(5) 34° 7.75’ N lat. 120° 0.00’ W long.

CDFW will continue to closely coordinate with CDPH, OEHHA and fisheries representatives to extensively monitor domoic acid levels in rock crabs to determine when the fishery can safely be opened throughout the state.

OEHHA Memo

Media Contact:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

CDFW Rescue Efforts Save Listed Salmon, Steelhead and Sturgeon

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) biologists have rescued hundreds of fish — including dozens of endangered and threatened salmon, steelhead and sturgeon — that were stranded in Sacramento Valley bypasses after recent heavy rains.

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The fish — including endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, threatened Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, threatened Central Valley steelhead and a threatened green sturgeon – were trapped in Fremont and Tisdale Weirs, flood control structures off the Sacramento River, when flood waters receded after mid-March rainstorms.

Rescue efforts began in late March, concluding in mid-April. Seventeen CDFW staff participated in the rescue efforts at the weirs, using beach seines, a sturgeon hoop net, dip nets and crowder racks to capture fish trapped within each weir apron.

The bulk of the rescued fish were salmon, with biologists capturing and tagging 41 adults and 160 juveniles. Based on length-at-date, the young salmon are believed to be a mixture of spring-run and fall-run fish. Staff also rescued one oversized adult green sturgeon, a massive female white sturgeon and hundreds of other fish, including Sacramento sucker, Sacramento pikeminnow, Sacramento splittail, striped bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill and redear sunfish. All of the fish were moved back to the Sacramento River and released.

DNA tests are currently underway on a sampling of the fish rescued. Results will verify biologists’ field assessments that the adult salmon include winter-run and spring-run Chinook.

“We know these areas are prime stranding sites, so we keep them on our radar each year,” said Colin Purdy, CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist. “Rescuing state and federally listed species is a priority — particularly the adult fish, because they contribute to future generations. But all of the fish we pull out of the weir are transported back to the river for release.”

Biologists also used special tracking equipment in an effort to document the behavior and survival of the rescued fish. The green sturgeon, an adult male stranded in the Fremont Weir apron, was tagged with a surgically implanted acoustic tag on March 29 before being released into the Sacramento River. It was subsequently tracked on real-time acoustic receivers heading upstream toward its likely spawning grounds near Red Bluff.  The white sturgeon, a post-spawn female, was rescued from the Tisdale Weir on March 31. It was also given an acoustic tag and was subsequently tracked heading downstream.

Four adult Chinook salmon rescued on April 8 have since been detected moving upstream by real-time acoustic receivers.

All juvenile steelhead rescued were implanted with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags. Staff from the Pacific States Marine Fisheries oversaw their care and release as part of CDFW’s Central Valley Steelhead Monitoring Program.

CDFW has a team of scientists who monitor locations along the Sacramento River where fish tend to enter the Yolo and Sutter bypasses during high flows and become stranded once flows subside. Initial surveys of the fish stranded in water behind Fremont Weir documented four sturgeon. Only two of these were recovered during rescue efforts. CDFW is seeking information regarding possible illegal harvest or take of these two oversized sturgeon.

If you have information about this or any other fish and wildlife violation, please dial the toll-free CalTIP number, 1 888 334-CALTIP (888 334-2258), 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to CDFW by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

Media Contacts:
Colin Purdy, CDFW North Central Region, (916) 358-2943
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

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