Tag Archives: conservation

Sportsmen’s Dollars Support Research on Desert Bighorn Sheep

Thanks to California’s big game hunters, wildlife biologists studying Desert Bighorn Sheep will have new technology and tools to help them study deadly diseases that affect these icons of the desert.

In 2013, Desert Bighorn sheep populations in the Mojave Desert near Old Dad Peak suffered a die-off. In an effort to learn more about the spread of disease and survival, scientists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Mojave National Preserve and Oregon State University launched an ongoing joint study of adult sheep. They have captured and radio-collared about 150 adults to date, but important data about lamb mortality is still missing.

Now, in the third year of the study, a grant will enable researchers to collect the data that will unlock the mystery. Beginning this winter, scientists will capture and radio collar bighorn ewes. As they are captured, ultrasounds will be conducted, and ewes that are found to be pregnant will be implanted with special vaginal implant transmitters, the purchase of which will be funded by the $190,000 grant. When the lamb is subsequently born, the transmitter will be pushed out and send an alert signal. Project researchers can then go to the birth site and put a miniature radio transmitter on the lamb.

If the lamb subsequently dies, a mortality signal will be transmitted and the body will be recovered by researchers quickly enough to pinpoint the cause of death. This real-time information gathering technique will hopefully provide answers to the mystery behind unexplained bighorn mortality — why the 2013 disease outbreak was so widespread, what factors contributed to the spread of the disease and what management efforts can be instituted to help prevent future outbreaks.

Spearheaded by the nonprofit California Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation and Oregon State University, the study will greatly benefit from the addition of the new technology, made possible by the purchase of big game tags by California hunters.  It is one of many project funded by the Big Game Grants Program, which allots about $800,000 each year to support studies such as this one.

Joint projects are particularly critical to fund, because they help target wildlife management issues which are often beyond the normal scope of CDFW manpower, expertise or financing.

“Funds in the Big Game Grants Program support a wide range of wildlife studies and projects,” said Craig Stowers, CDFW Big Game Program Manager. “We have a responsibility to see that the funding generated by hunters goes toward preserving wildlife populations. This sheep study is a great example of how hunters play a role in solving complicated and challenging research needs.”

This new phase of study is hoped to produce critical information unavailable until now.

“The desert environment is harsh and expansive. Until now, it’s been almost impossible to find and collect dead lambs in a timely manner, which is necessary in order to determine the cause of mortality,” said Daniella Dekelaita, a doctoral student and researcher at Oregon State University. “We know there have been significant lamb losses in some herds and this will give us accurate and timely information on what was the cause.”


Media Contacts:
Regina Abella, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3728

Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

CDFW to Hold Public Outreach Meeting for Northern California Wildlife Areas

elkGriz81609 232The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold a public outreach meeting regarding Yolo, Grizzly Island and Napa-Sonoma wildlife areas. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 23 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area’s conference room located at 45211 County Road 32B, Davis, California.

CDFW will take public comments and recommendations and provide updates on habitat conditions, availability of water for wetlands and possible impacts to hunter access on public lands.

These wildlife areas are located in CDFW’s Bay Delta Region, which includes 12 counties in Northern California and is one of seven CDFW regions in the state.

CDFW annually provides an opportunity for licensed hunters to comment and make recommendations on public hunting programs, including anticipated habitat conditions in the hunting areas on wildlife areas through public meetings and other outreach.

Media Contacts:

Larry Wyckoff, Grizzly Island Wildlife Area, (707) 944-5542

Jeff Stoddard, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, (530) 757-2431

Steve Gonzalez, CDFW Communications, (916) 327-9948

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

CDFW Awards $31.4 Million to Fund Ecosystem and Watershed Restoration Projects

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced the selection of 24 projects that will receive funding from its Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Proposition 1) Restoration Grant Programs

The grants, which total $31.4 million, are CDFW’s first distribution of funds through these programs. They include approximately $24.6 million awarded through the Watershed Restoration Grant Program to projects of statewide importance outside of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta; and approximately $6.8 million awarded through the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program for projects that benefit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta specifically.

In response to this first solicitation, announced last August, CDFW received 190 proposals requesting a total of $218 million in funding. All proposals underwent an initial administrative review, and those that passed were evaluated through a technical review process that included reviews by CDFW scientists, as well as experts from other agencies and academia.

The 24 approved projects will further the objectives of the California Water Action Plan, including establishing more reliable water supplies, restoring important species and habitat, and creating a more resilient and sustainably managed water resources system (e.g., water supply, water quality, flood protection and habitat) that can better withstand inevitable and unforeseen pressures in the coming decades.

“These projects achieve the spirit and intent of Proposition 1 to protect and restore important ecosystems around the state,” CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said. “Investing in these projects is exciting. These projects prove we can conserve California’s natural resources, while also contributing to other critical statewide needs, such as enhancing water supply reliability.”

Californians overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1 in November 2014. CDFW received its first appropriation of funds for allocation July 2015. In a little over one year from voter approval, and just more than six months from legislative appropriations, CDFW is awarding these first grants with Proposition 1 funds.

Projects approved for funding through the Watershed Restoration Grant Program include:

  • Reclamation District 2035/Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency Joint Intake and Fish Screen ($8,128,621 to Reclamation District 2035);
  • South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project Phase 2: Ravenswood and Mt. View Ponds ($5,000,000 to California State Coastal Conservancy);
  • San Joaquin River – Invasive Species Management and Job Creation Project ($1,497,843 to River Partners);
  • San Joaquin River – Native Habitat Restoration and Species Enhancement at Dos Rios Ranch ($798,978 to River Partners);
  • North Campus Open Space Coastal Wetland Restoration Project ($997,095 to Regents of University California, Santa Barbara);
  • San Francisco Estuary Invasive Spartina Removal and Tidal Marsh Restoration Project ($3,000,000 to California State Coastal Conservancy);
  • Tuolumne River Bobcat Flat Salmonid Habitat Restoration-Duck Slough Side Channel Restoration for Off-Channel Rearing Habitat ($453,618 to Tuolumne River Conservancy);
  • Native Trout Preservation in the Santa Ana Watershed in Southern California ($44,093 to Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District);
  • Restoring Fish Migration Connectivity to the Salt River Coastal Watershed ($1,995,438 to Humboldt County Resource Conservation District);
  • Grasslands Floodplain Restoration Project ($576,351 to American Rivers);
  • Perazzo Meadows Restoration ($607,889 to Truckee River Watershed Council);
  • San Gabriel Watershed Restoration Program ($65,000 to Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District);
  • Sequoia National Forest Prioritized Meadows Restoration Project ($486,173 to Trout Unlimited); and
  • Lower Putah Creek Watershed Restoration ($990,312 to Solano County Water Agency).

Projects approved for funding through the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program include:

  • Reconstructing juvenile salmon growth, condition and Delta habitat use in the 2014-15 drought and beyond ($800,484 to Regents of the University of California, Davis, Center for Watershed Sciences);
  • Drought-related high water temperature impacts survival of California salmonids through disease, increasing predation risk ($625,740 to Regents of the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine);
  • Hydrodynamic influences on the food webs of restoring tidal wetlands ($867,235 to Regents of the University of California, Davis, Center for Watershed Sciences);
  • Rush Ranch Lower Spring Branch Creek and Suisun Hill Hollow Tidal Connections Project ($839,449 to Solano Land Trust);
  • Mechanisms underlying the flow relationship of longfin smelt: I. Movement and feeding ($1,263,991 to San Francisco State University);
  • The Effect of Drought on Delta Smelt Vital Rates ($678,275 to Regents of the University of California, Davis, Office of Research, Sponsored Programs);
  • Yolo Bypass Westside Tributaries Flow Monitoring Project ($331,148 to Yolo County);
  • Problems and Promise of Restoring Tidal Marsh to Benefit Native Fishes in the North Delta during Drought and Flood ($969,238 to Regents of the University of California, Davis, Center for Watershed Sciences);
  • Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Habitat and Drainage Improvement Project Permitting ($145,944 to Ducks Unlimited); and
  • Knightsen Wetland Restoration and Flood Protection Project ($240,000 to East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy).

More information about CDFW’s Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/grants. Funding for these projects comes from the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act 2014 (Proposition 1) bond funds, a portion of which are allocated annually through the California State Budget Act. More information about Proposition 1 can be found here.

Responsible Angling Practices Help Conserve Sturgeon Populations

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is asking anglers to use caution and extra vigilance to help conserve California’s white sturgeon and green sturgeon populations, both of which are being impacted by the drought. Sturgeon are caught by anglers year-round in a popular sport fishery centered in the San Francisco Estuary, but anglers — especially those fishing in the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers — need to be aware of special regulations in place to protect and grow the populations.

man on boat deck writes data about a white sturgeon laying in front of him
Fisheries Biologist Mike Harris keeps careful records while conducting the annual CDFW sturgeon survey

White sturgeon is a substantial management concern and green sturgeon is a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. Green sturgeon may not be fished for, removed from the water if caught, or kept. White sturgeon may only be kept if between 40 and 60 inches and caught by anglers in possession of Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards (including single-use tags) while using single barbless hooks in areas that are not closed.

Strict fishing regulations are designed primarily to conserve older white sturgeon and ensure that all sturgeon survive catch-and-release. The effectiveness of catch-and-release depends in large part on angler technique. CDFW encourages anglers to use high-strength fishing line to reduce duration of the fight and in-water techniques for measuring the size of white sturgeon. Anglers should leave oversize white sturgeon in the water at all times and know how to quickly identify green sturgeon.

In 2014, California anglers reported keeping 2,286 white sturgeon while releasing 4,565 white sturgeon (most were undersized) and 183 green sturgeon. Other data on the white sturgeon fishery and population is available at www.dfg.ca.gov/delta/data/sturgeon/bibliography.asp.

A flyer on identifying green sturgeon can be found at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentId=105326.

The complete fishing regulations are available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/regulations.


Media Contacts:
Marty Gingras, CDFW Bay Delta Region, (209) 234-3486
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988