Tag Archives: California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Emergency Crab Closure Recommended, Commission to Meet Thursday

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a health advisory warning individuals to avoid eating rock and Dungeness crab due to the detection of high levels of domoic acid. The advisory was followed by a recommendation from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) to the California Fish and Game Commission and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to delay the start of the Dungeness crab season and close the rock crab fishery. These actions would apply to each fishery from the Oregon border to the southern Santa Barbara County line.

The OEHHA recommendation has prompted an emergency meeting of the Commission, which will take place at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 5 (agenda and meeting information). At that time, the Commission will consider voting to delay the opening of the recreational Dungeness crab fishery. The recreational Dungeness crab season is currently scheduled to start Saturday, Nov. 7.

Also based on the recommendation from OEHHA, CDFW will act on its authority to delay the start of the commercial Dungeness crab season. The commercial Dungeness crab season is currently scheduled to start Sunday, Nov. 15 in most of the state.

Similar action will be considered by the Commission and CDFW to close the recreational and commercial rock crab fisheries in the affected area. Both recreational and commercial rock crab seasons are open all year.

“These are incredibly important fisheries to our coastal economies and fresh crab is highly anticipated and widely enjoyed this time of year. Of course, delaying or closing the season is disappointing,” said CDFW Marine Regional Manager Craig Shuman. “But public health and safety is our top priority.”

CDFW, along with the OEHHA and CDPH, has been actively testing crabs since early September. OEHHA announced today that consumption of Dungeness and rock crabs is likely to pose a significant human health risk as a result of high levels of domoic acid. CDFW will continue to coordinate with OEHHA and CDPH to test domoic acid levels in crab along the coast to determine when the fisheries can safely be opened.

Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin that can accumulate in shellfish, other invertebrates and sometimes fish. It causes illness and sometimes death in a variety of birds and marine mammals that consume affected organisms. At low levels, domoic acid exposure can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness in humans. At higher levels, it can cause persistent short-term memory loss, seizures and can in some cases be fatal.

Domoic acid is produced from some species of the marine diatom Pseudo-nitzschia. Currently, a massive toxic bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia has developed, significantly impacting marine life along California’s coast. State scientists have been testing crab from eight fishing ports from Morro Bay to Crescent City, and have determined that the neurotoxin has spread throughout the fishery grounds.

Algal blooms are common, but this one is particularly large and persistent. Warmer ocean water temperatures associated with the El Niño event California is experiencing is likely a major contributing factor to the size and persistence of this bloom.

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

Wildlife Conservation Board Director Honored for His Work

John Donnelly, executive director of the California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB), recently received the Rangeland Conservation Impact Award from the California Rangeland Trust. The WCB authorizes and allocates voter-approved funds for the purchase of land and waters suitable for recreation purposes and the preservation, protection and restoration of wildlife habitat.

“The California Rangeland Trust is proud to honor John Donnelly with our first Rangeland Conservation Impact Award,” said California Rangeland Trust CEO Nita Vail. “John works diligently on behalf of the state to successfully protect our rangeland, air and water quality, wildlife habitat and local food supplies through his leadership at the Wildlife Conservation Board.”

The Rangeland Conservation Impact Award is a new honor presented by the California Rangeland Trust, a nonprofit organization working to protect and enhance the environmental and economic benefits working landscapes provide. The award is given to conservation professionals that exemplify true dedication to advancing rangeland conservation and preserving the viability of California’s ranching industry and Western legacy, while protecting the valuable habitat and ecosystems provided by working ranches.

“Rangelands play a significant role in providing plants and animals refuge from urban development. Their importance in the mosaic of lands in California cannot be over stated,” Donnelly said. “It is an honor to receive this award from the California Rangeland Trust.”

Donnelly started work at the WCB in 1996 as a land agent. In 2003, he was promoted to assistant executive director and then became executive director in 2006. While at the WCB, he has overseen 530 projects that protect more than 466,000 acres of conservation easement and fee title lands, statewide, and restored and/or enhanced more than 92,000 acres of wildlife habitat.

Having grown up in Sierra Valley, which is predominantly a ranching and farming area, Donnelly worked on ranches before he began his wildlife career. He studied and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at California State University, Sacramento, then worked for the California Department of Fish and Game (now Wildlife) from 1988 to 1996.

John Donnelly was honored Sept. 26 at “A Western Affair,” the California Rangeland Trust’s annual family event in Woodside.

green and gray, grassy rangeland and tree-covered foothills
California rangeland in Sierra County. WCB photo

Media Contacts:
John Donnelly, Wildlife Conservation Board, (916) 445-0137
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Public Comment Sought for Review of Newly Protected Tarplant

The Livermore tarplant (Deinandra bacigalupii), known to exist only at a few locations in Alameda County, has been designated a candidate species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) requests comments from the public for its review of the status of the Livermore tarplant.

Livermore tarplant is in the sunflower family and it has yellow flower heads that bloom in summer and early fall. Livermore tarplant also has sticky glands that give plants a strong odor. Only four populations of Livermore tarplant are known to exist, all in the eastern portion of Livermore Valley within the city of Livermore and unincorporated Alameda County. Livermore tarplant is found in alkaline meadows where salts form whitish or grayish crusts on the soil and few plants can grow.

The California Fish and Game Commission received a petition to list Livermore tarplant under CESA in August 2014. At a publicly noticed meeting on April 9, 2015 the commission considered the petition, a petition evaluation report prepared by CDFW and comments received by the public. The commission concluded the petition provided sufficient scientific information to indicate listing Livermore tarplant under CESA may be warranted, and therefore designated Livermore tarplant as a candidate species for listing. The petition to list Livermore tarplant and CDFW’s petition evaluation report can be found on the commission website at www.fgc.ca.gov/regulations/2014/index.aspx#lt.

CDFW is in the process of preparing a review of Livermore tarplant’s status as required by CESA. The review must be based upon the best scientific information available to CDFW, and must include a recommendation to the commission on whether or not listing Livermore tarplant is warranted. As such, CDFW invites anyone interested to submit data and comments during preparation of the status review to nativeplants@wildlife.ca.gov no later than December 31, 2015. After CDFW completes the status review, it will be posted on CDFW’s website for at least 30 days and sent to the commission.

The commission will decide whether or not to list Livermore tarplant as a threatened or endangered species at a public meeting after public comments are received.

The provisions of CESA apply to Livermore tarplant while it is a candidate species. CESA prohibits the import, export, take, possession, purchase or sale of listed and candidate species except in limited circumstances, such as through a permit issued by CDFW under the authority of the Fish and Game Code. CDFW may issue permits that allow the incidental take of listed and candidate species if the take is minimized and fully mitigated and the activity will not jeopardize the continued existence of the species. Information on CESA permitting for plants is available on the CDFW website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Plants/Permits.

Media Contacts:
Jeb Bjerke, CDFW Native Plant Program, (916) 651-6594
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Feather River Hatchery Fish Ladder to Open Sept. 14

The fish ladder at Feather River Hatchery in Oroville will open Monday, Sept. 14, signaling the start of the spawning season on the Feather River. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hatchery workers will open the gates in the ladder about 8 a.m. and will take more than 3 million spring-run eggs and 12 million fall-run eggs over the next two months in order to produce Chinook salmon for release next spring.

Visitors can observe the salmon through the viewing windows and from the observation deck located at the base of the fish barrier dam. At the main side of the hatchery, visitors can observe CDFW technicians performing the spawning process. Thousands of school children tour the Feather River Hatchery each year. For more information about spawning schedules and educational opportunities at the Feather River Hatchery, please call (530) 538-2222.  For information about hatchery tours, please call (530) 534-2306.

There are eight state-run salmon and steelhead hatcheries, all of which will participate in the salmon spawning effort. Those hatcheries, along with federally run hatcheries, will be responsible for the release of 40 million juvenile salmon into California waters. These massive spawning efforts were put in place over the last 50 years to offset fish losses caused by dams that block salmon from historic spawning habitat.

Once the young salmon reach 2 to 4 inches in length, 100 percent of the spring-run stock and 25 percent of the fall-run stock will be adipose fin clipped and implanted with coded wire tags prior to release. CDFW biologists use the information from the tags to chart the survival, catch and return rates of the fish.

For more information about California’s fish hatcheries, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/hatcheries.

Media Contacts:
Penny Crawshaw, Feather River Hatchery, (530) 538-2222
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958

Free Fishing Day is Saturday, Sept. 5

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites all Californians to celebrate the end of summer by going fishing. Sept. 5 is the second of two Free Fishing Days in 2015, when people can try their hand at fishing without having to buy a sport fishing license. Free Fishing Days are also a great opportunity for licensed anglers to introduce non-angling friends and children to fishing and the outdoors.

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All fishing regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures remain in effect. Every angler must have an appropriate report card if they are fishing for abalone, steelhead or sturgeon anywhere in the state, or salmon in the Smith and Klamath-Trinity river systems.

CDFW offers two Free Fishing Days each year – usually around the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekend – when it’s legal to fish without a sport fishing license. This year, the Free Fishing Days were set for the Saturdays near Independence Day and Labor Day (this year, July 4 and Sept. 5).

Free Fishing Days provide a low-cost way to give fishing a try. Some CDFW regions offer Fishing in the City, a program where children can learn to fish in major metropolitan areas. Fishing in the City and Free Fishing Day clinics are designed to educate novice anglers about fishing ethics, fish habits, effective methods for catching fish and fishing tackle. Anglers can even learn how to clean and prepare fish for eating.

Anglers should check the rules and regulations for the waters they plan to fish because wildlife officers will be on duty to enforce them. For more information on Free Fishing Days, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing/free-fishing-days.

Media Contacts:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944
Kyle Murphy, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 323-5556

Elkhorn Slough OtterCam Goes High Definition

The Elkhorn Slough OtterCam has been upgraded from standard to high-definition, and there is now a second HD video camera focused on sea otters, thanks to the generous support of the Acacia Foundation and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Now anyone can watch California’s adorable sea otters in HD by going to www.elkhornslough.org/ottercam.

Located in areas of the Elkhorn Slough Reserve’s salt marshes where sea otters often congregate, the two new cameras offer great image clarity and fine detail for viewing this iconic Monterey Bay marine mammal and a teeming cast of other Elkhorn Slough wildlife. Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve is managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

The Elkhorn Slough OtterCam HD video streams will be featured as part of the PBS/BBC Big Blue Live television and online event, Aug. 31 through Sept. 2 (at www.pbs.org/big-blue-live/live-cams/elkhorn-slough-otter-cam). Anchored from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the three-day, live televised event will highlight the amazing marine life that converges off California’s central coast. The Big Blue Live website links to live cameras, including the Elkhorn Slough OtterCam.

Elkhorn Slough is home to the largest concentration of endangered southern sea otters (enhydra lutris nereis) on the California coast, and the first webcam dedicated to streaming live video of wild southern sea otters in their natural habitat. The Elkhorn Slough OtterCam has been streaming live video online from the tidal salt marshes of the Elkhorn Slough Reserve since 2012. The upgrade to high-definition enhances the OtterCam for both researchers and visitors.

For almost two years, researchers have used the Elkhorn Slough OtterCam to observe sea otter behavior such as foraging, grooming and raising pups. Stationed on the edge of the slough, the camera looks across pickleweed marsh and tidal channels of the slough. These channels are frequented largely by female otters and appear to be used as a nursery, as sea otters with pups are regularly seen in the meandering channels. During the past three years, the camera has provided video and still photographs documenting the growth of otter pups, interactions with harbor seals and other wildlife, and the movement of otters throughout the slough.

“The OtterCam has opened a unique window on the lives of sea otters. There are times we are seeing 25 or more otters in the protected channels of the slough’s marsh,” Elkhorn Slough Foundation (ESF) Executive Director Mark Silberstein said. “This suggests there may be more otters residing in the slough than previously thought. We’ve witnessed some unique behaviors, such as hauling out of the water, resting and grooming in the pickleweed marshes.”

Research is underway to better understand how sea otters are using the estuary, with the hope of helping southern sea otters recover in other parts of their historic range. In turn, recent evidence suggests that sea otters may yield important ecological benefits to the estuaries they inhabit. A study published by reserve researcher Brent Hughes in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that sea otters enhance the health of subtidal seagrass beds, as they do in kelp forests.

“We are pleased to present these remarkable images from the Elkhorn Slough Reserve, and shine a light on sea otter use of the estuary,” Reserve Manager Dave Feliz said. “The behavior of these animals in a salt marsh is little understood, yet the story is unfolding before the eyes of the world on ElkhornSlough.org. CDFW is happy to be a part of this new chapter in sea otter life history.”

Elkhorn Slough, in the central Monterey Bay area, encompasses a wide variety of habitats – oak woodlands, maritime chaparral, coastal prairie and the largest tract of tidal salt marsh in California south of San Francisco Bay – that support an incredible abundance and diversity of life. Elkhorn Slough hosts 550 species of marine invertebrates and 100 species of fish, as well as resident sea lions, harbor seals and the highest concentration of southern sea otters on the West Coast. On the Pacific flyway, Elkhorn Slough bird numbers can soar during migration seasons, nearly doubling the resident bird counts. The slough is designated a Globally Important Bird area, with more than 340 species identified in and around the slough.

ESF is a community-supported non-profit land trust whose mission is to conserve and restore the Elkhorn Slough and its watershed. ESF protects 4,000 acres of rare habitat including oak woodlands, maritime chaparral and wetlands. Since 1982, ESF has been the non-profit partner of the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (ESNERR).

ESNERR is managed by CDFW with administrative assistance from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ESNERR is one of 28 reserves established nationwide to support long-term research, water-quality monitoring, environmental education and coastal stewardship.

For information about ESF and ESNERR, and to support the conservation of Elkhorn Slough, please visit ElkhornSlough.org and CDFW Elkhorn Slough.


Media Contacts:
Dave Feliz, CDFW Elkhorn Slough Reserve, (831) 728-2822
Scott Nichols, Elkhorn Slough Foundation, (831) 728-5939
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

CDFW Seeks Information Related to Flat-tailed Horned Lizard

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking information relevant to a proposal to list the flat-tailed horned lizard as an endangered species.

The flat-tailed horned lizard (Phrynosoma mcallii) inhabits desert habitats in southeastern California, the extreme southwestern portion of Arizona and the adjacent portions of northeastern Baja California Norte and northwestern Sonora, Mexico. This species has the smallest range of any horned lizard in the United States. Approximately one-quarter of the flat-tailed horned lizard’s range is in California, where it is confined to lower elevations throughout much of the Salton Trough, sections of eastern San Diego County, central Riverside County and western and south-central Imperial County.

In June 2014, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) submitted a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) to formally list the flat-tailed horned lizard as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. The listing petition described a variety of threats to the survival of flat-tailed horned lizards in California. These include direct and indirect impacts associated with agricultural, urban and renewable energy development, on- and off-road vehicles, habitat fragmentation, barriers to movement, military training and border activities, nonnative plants and climate change. CDFW recommended and the Commission voted to advance the species to candidacy on February 12, 2015. The Commission published findings of this decision on February 24, 2015, triggering a 12-month period during which CDFW will conduct a status review to inform the Commission’s decision on whether to list the species.

As part of the status review process, CDFW is soliciting information from the public regarding the species’ ecology, genetics, life history, distribution, abundance, habitat, the degree and immediacy of threats to reproduction or survival, adequacy of existing management and recommendations for management of the species. Comments, data and other information can be submitted in writing to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Nongame Wildlife Program
Attn: Laura Patterson
1812 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95811

Comments may also be submitted by email to wildlifemgt@wildlife.ca.gov. If submitting comments by email, please include “flat-tailed horned lizard” in the subject heading.

All comments received by September 14, 2015 will be evaluated prior to submission of the CDFW report to the Commission. Receipt of the report will be placed on the agenda for the next available meeting of the Commission after delivery and the report will be made available to the public at that time. Following the receipt of the CDFW report, the Commission will allow a 30-day public comment period prior to taking any action on CDFW’s recommendation.

CBD’s listing petition and CDFW’s petition evaluation for the flat-tailed horned lizard are available at fgc.ca.gov/regulations/2014/index.aspx#fthl.

Media Contacts:
Laura Patterson, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 341-6981
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

CDFW to Hold Public Meeting on Merced River Closure

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold a public meeting on Monday, Aug. 17 to inform the public about the proposed emergency closure of the Merced River to fishing.

The meeting will be held from 7-9 p.m. in the theater at El Capitan High School, 100 West Farmland Ave., Merced (95348).

Last year the California Fish and Game Commission adopted a proposal to implement early restrictions on angling in the Merced River, closing the river from Aug. 29 to Dec. 31, 2014. Earlier this year, the Commission granted CDFW authority to close fisheries when certain criteria are met, such as low water levels and high water temperatures.

This proposed early closure affects only the Merced River from Crocker-Huffman Dam downstream to the Snelling Road Bridge, a distance of approximately 5.5 miles. Angling in the river below Snelling Road bridge is subject to normal fishing regulations and closures..

The lower Merced River is typically only closed to angling from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31. The purpose of the annual closure is to increase survival of juvenile and adult wild rainbow trout and steelhead by reducing fish mortality associated with hook-and-line fishing.

The move to close the river ahead of schedule is intended to protect drought-stressed waters and their salmonid populations during the fall spawning.

The river will re-open to anglers on Jan. 1, 2016.

Media Contacts:
Dean Marston, CDFW Central Region, (559) 243-4005, ext. 122
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958

Knoxville Wildlife Area Reopened

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced today that Knoxville Wildlife Area will reopen for public use Sunday, Aug. 9 at 5:00 a.m. Because of successful efforts by fire personnel from multiple agencies on the Rocky Fire, CDFW considers conditions to be safe for public access. The public is reminded that campfires are not allowed on the wildlife area at any time.

Because of the Rocky Fire in neighboring Lake County, Knoxville Wildlife Area was closed to all public use on Aug. 3. The general deer season opener began today, and Knoxville is a popular hunting area.

The public can monitor the status of the Rocky Fire at www.fire.ca.gov/general/firemaps.php.

Media Contacts:
Conrad Jones, Knoxville Wildlife Area, (707) 944-5544
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

Another Turkey Vulture Poisoned by Euthanasia Drug

Rehabilitated Raptor Will Return to the Wild

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently confirmed another turkey vulture was poisoned by the euthanasia drug pentobarbital. It was found near Inverness, in Marin County, and taken to the wildlife hospital operated by the nonprofit WildCare in San Rafael.

The massive bird with a six-foot wingspan has since recovered and will be released on Tuesday, August 11 at 2 p.m. Reporters wishing to cover the vulture’s return to the wild should call (415) 806-8637 on Tuesday for directions to the release location.

In 2014, CDFW confirmed pentobarbital exposure in six turkey vultures in San Rafael. The source of the exposure remains unknown. Those birds were also taken to WildCare, a CDFW-approved wildlife rehabilitator.

Wildlife officials are concerned the recent admission of another pentobarbital-poisoned vulture to WildCare indicates that more animals are at risk. Anyone with information about possible sources of pentobarbital-contaminated animals should contact CDFW at (916) 358-2954.

Pentobarbital is a drug used by veterinarians to euthanize companion animals, livestock and horses. If animals are euthanized with pentobarbital and the remains are not properly disposed of, scavenging wildlife – such as turkey vultures and eagles – can be poisoned. Veterinarians and animal owners are responsible for disposing of animal remains properly by legal methods such as cremation or deep burial.

Turkey vultures are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and California Fish and Game Code. Improperly disposed-of euthanized remains are a danger to all scavenging wildlife.

CDFW asks members of the veterinary and livestock communities to share this information with colleagues, to prevent additional poisoning. WildCare also asks the public to pay attention to grounded turkey vultures and other raptors and scavengers.

Pentobarbital-poisoned birds appear to be dead. They have no reflex response and breathing can barely be detected. The birds appear intact, without wounds or obvious trauma. Anyone finding a comatose vulture should call WildCare’s 24-hour Hotline at (415) 456-SAVE (7283) immediately.

Read more about one pentobarbital-poisoned turkey vulture patient and the astonishing medical intervention required to save its life at www.wildcarebayarea.org/vulture.

Media Contacts:
Alison Hermance, WildCare, (415) 453-1000, ext. 24, alisonhermance@wildcarebayarea.org
Stella McMillin, CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab, (916) 358-2954
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420