Wildlife Officers Protect Pismo Clams from Poachers

  • Wildlife officers with seized undersize clams
  • Seized undersize clams in back of wildlife officer's pickup truck
  • Undersize clams with gauge

Since the beginning of the year, CDFW wildlife officers have seized more than 12,000 undersized Pismo clams and issued 116 citations to suspected poachers in San Luis Obispo County for unlawfully harvesting Pismo clams. In Santa Cruz County, wildlife officers have issued 60 citations and seized more than 5,000 undersized Pismo clams. Many of the citations involved extreme overlimits and about 90 percent of issued citations were for harvesting clams without a fishing license. When possible, wildlife officers will attempt to document where the undersized clams were taken and return those clams to the wild.

In past decades, Pismo clams were an important recreational sport fishery in California. A steep decline in the statewide Pismo clam population resulted in a dramatically reduced fishery and minimal recreational harvest. Pismo clams may still be harvested in California, in compliance with season, bag limits and size restrictions.

Despite a significant resurgence in the Pismo clam population in much of its historic habitat, most Pismo clams are still too small to legally harvest. Pismo clams are slow-growing animals and the majority are still in the growth stage. Marine biologists expect it will be at least another five to 10 years before any legal-size clams are present on most beaches.

“The central coast is seeing a resurgence of Pismo clam populations and our wildlife officers will continue to protect them from poachers,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “The vast majority of these clams are still undersized, and we need to give them an opportunity to become a robust recreational fishery for the future.”

Recreational clam harvesters with a valid fishing license may take the maximum bag limit of 10 Pismo clams per day, as long as they meet the minimum size of 5 inches north of the San Luis Obispo/Monterey county line and 4.5 inches south of the county line. Sub-legal sized clams must be immediately reburied. In Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, the season for Pismo clams starts Sept. 1 and ends April 30. In all other counties, the season is open year-round. The current regulations are in place to allow for limited recreational take but prevent a depletion of the Pismo clam resource.

If a member of the public witnesses a poaching, wildlife trafficking or pollution incident, or has information about such a violation, immediately dial the toll free CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to CDFW using tip411. 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).

Tips can also be reported through the free CalTIP smartphone app, which operates similarly to tip411 by creating an anonymous two-way conversation with wildlife officers. The CalTIP app can be downloaded via the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

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California Fish and Game Commission Holds June Meeting Remotely

At its June remote meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from this week’s meeting.

The Commission acknowledged the sesquicentennial of the beginnings of the Commission and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Staff had long been preparing celebratory activities throughout the year, but due to the global pandemic, those events were canceled. A video was shared at the Commission to honor the past 150 years of protecting and conserving fish and wildlife in the state.

After conversations with the petitioner and other stakeholders, the Commission continued to its August meeting the consideration and potential action on the petition to determine whether listing western Joshua tree under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) may be warranted.

The Commission and CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division David Bess announced Adam Kook as 2019 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year. Kook is a Deputy District Attorney in Fresno County District Attorney’s Office.

The Commission voted unanimously to notify the public of its intent to amend inland sport fishing regulations. The simplification of statewide inland fishing comes after immense effort by CDFW Fisheries Branch to clarify overlapping and often confusing regulations.

The Commission adopted commercial Pacific herring eggs on kelp regulations to implement the Pacific Herring Fishery Management Plan.

The Commission received CDFW’s evaluation of the petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network to list the Pacific leatherback sea turtle as endangered pursuant to CESA. The Commission will consider the petition, CDFW’s evaluation and public input at its August meeting to determine if it will accept the petition for consideration.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting budget gap in California, the Commission agreed that the remainder of this year’s meetings will be held via webinar and teleconference.

Commission President Eric Sklar, Commission Vice President Samantha Murray and Commissioner Peter Silva participated in the meeting. Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Russell Burns were absent.

The full Commission agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at fgc.ca.gov. An archived audio file will be available in coming days. The next meeting of the full Commission is scheduled for Aug. 19-20, 2020.

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The California Fish and Game Commission was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.

CDFW Pollution Patrols Result in Arrests, Cleanup of Dry Creek Dump Site

A two-year effort by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to monitor a popular northern California “dumping ground” for hazardous materials has been very successful, resulting in 34 citations, multiple towed vehicles and three felony arrests over the last 24 months.

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Since early 2018, CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division has received many complaints regarding illegal dumping of petroleum products, garbage and various hazardous materials in and around Dry Creek near the border of Placer and Sacramento counties. This remote area, which is home to many fish and wildlife species, was regularly being used as a trash dumping site for everything from broken household appliances to hazardous waste and stolen cars.

“We set up a surveillance patrol one night, simply hiding nearby and waiting to see if someone would come by and dump their waste,” said lead investigator Warden Ryan Hanson of CDFW’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response. “At first we weren’t sure if the effort would pay off … but it paid off immediately.”

After their initial success, Warden Hanson and fellow wildlife officers set up 19 more pollution patrols in the area. It quickly became clear that the location was a hotspot for illegal activity, and officers rarely had a dull night.

Not all of the law enforcement actions taken were pollution related. During one of the patrols, wildlife officers observed a vehicle stop briefly right in the middle of the road before driving off.  When the vehicle left, Warden Hanson drove to the spot expecting to find some type of garbage strewn about. What he found was worse. Two dogs had been ejected from the vehicle and abandoned. Muzzles and leashes were still attached to both dogs, which would have prevented them from eating had they not been found by the officers. Warden Hanson stayed with the dogs while Warden Perry Schultz  sped after and detained the suspect. With the help of Placer County animal control officers and staff from the Loomis Basin Veterinary Clinic, the dogs received veterinary care right away. While one did not survive due to its extremely poor condition, the other responded to veterinary treatment and recovered over the following months, eventually being adopted into a loving home. The individual who dumped the dogs pled to a felony charge of cruelty to animals. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, a 120-day suspended jail sentence and 40 hours of community service. He must also pay $4,000 restitution and has been given a 10-year ban on owning any dogs or pets.

Other notable cases include three separate instances of negligent discharge of a firearm, where officers witnessed suspects shooting from their vehicles in the direction of surrounding residences. In all three instances, officers stopped the suspects and took them into custody after confiscating the weapon. A total of four firearms were involved – all of which were either stolen or illegally possessed.

Yet another case involved a fire that was started near the illegal dump site. Wildlife officers had to deploy fire extinguishers and summon help from the fire department to keep the flames from approaching a residence nearby.

Throughout the duration of this effort, wildlife officers watched illegal activity unfolding right in front of them. In the dead of night, they watched individuals dispose of used motor oil and other petroleum products, paint, paint thinner and other hazardous materials, as well as tires, mattresses, construction materials and other waste. Much of the dumping occurred in Dry Creek or ditches that emptied into Dry Creek. In each case the violators were contacted, told to remove the trash they had dumped and issued citations with a written promise to appear in court for the offense.

“It’s never ok to use public property as your personal landfill,” said Warden Hanson. “It was gratifying to catch these individuals in the act, to stop them and send a message that this behavior is criminal and extremely damaging to the environment. It will not be tolerated.”

CDFW thanks the Sacramento and Placer County District Attorney’s Offices for their effort to prosecute these cases.

More information about how to properly dispose of hazardous waste in Placer County or Sacramento County can be found online.

CDFW encourages the public to report environmental crimes such as water pollution and poaching to the CalTIP hotline by calling (888) 334-2258 or by texting information to “TIP411 (847411).”

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Media Contacts:
Warden Ryan Hanson, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (805) 440-2593
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 508-7095

Convicted Poacher Fined $17,500 For Unlawful Take of Deer Over Bait

A Granite Bay man has been convicted of poaching a trophy class deer with the use of bait, and will pay an enhanced penalty. A tenacious investigation by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and prosecution by the El Dorado County District Attorney’s office made the conviction possible.

Wildlife officers conducting surveillance over the course of the 2018 deer hunting season observed archery hunter Myron Barry Woltering, 66, repeatedly adding food to a bait pile on a property he owns in Pilot Hill, El Dorado County. Woltering was unlawfully using alfalfa, corn, other grains and salt licks for the purpose of attracting deer. Using a combination of surveillance, a review of mandatory hunting report records and search warrants served at Woltering’s home, business and the property where the baiting took place, wildlife officers were able to prove that Woltering had poached a very large trophy class 6×4 buck over the bait.

On Feb. 21, 2020, Woltering pled no contest in El Dorado Superior Court to one misdemeanor count of taking deer over bait. Because the buck was of “trophy” size, the penalties for the crime were enhanced. Woltering will serve three years’ probation, during which time he will be prohibited from hunting. He stipulated to the forfeiture of all seized items and paid a fine of $17,500.

The Pope and Young Club, one of North America’s leading bowhunting and wildlife conservation organizations, defines “fair chase” as the ethical, sportsmanlike and lawful pursuit of free-ranging wild game animals in a manner which does not give the hunter an improper or unfair advantage over the animal.

“California hunters have long considered baiting for deer a violation of fair chase principles,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “The Legislature and Fish and Game Commission enacted laws and regulations to prohibit the act, then took it a step further to enhance the penalties associated with conviction of baiting trophy class deer.

“As more and more would-be poachers see poaching convictions with these enhanced penalties, we hope they will be deterred from poaching the largest deer out of these local herds,” Bess continued.

If you witness a poaching or polluting incident or any violation of fish and wildlife laws, or if you have information about such a violation, please call the toll free CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Other reporting options include texting or using the CalTIP app. Please visit CDFW’s CalTIP web page for details.

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Media Contacts:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 508-7095

Vintage fish planting truck at Long Beach Fred Hall Show

CDFW to Sell Licenses and Warden Stamps, Meet with Public at Long Beach Fred Hall Show

Long Beach-area residents can purchase their 2020 fishing and hunting licenses, validations and report cards directly from California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) staff at the 74th annual Long Beach Fred Hall Show scheduled March 4-8 at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center.

CDFW leaders will participate in a discussion panel followed by a question and answer session. Participants will include Marine Region Manager Dr. Craig Shuman, Assistant Chief of the Marine Enforcement District Mike Stefanak and Inland Desert Region Fisheries Supervisor Russell Black, who will provide an overview of current natural resource and conservation topics and take questions from the public on a variety of issues. The panel discussion is scheduled Friday, March 6, at 3 p.m. in the Mammoth Lakes Seminar Theater. Wayne Kotow, Executive Director for the Coastal Conservation Association of California, will be the moderator.

In addition to the licensing and informational booth where attendees can speak directly to CDFW biologists, wildlife officers and licensing staff, attendees can also learn about a career in CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division by speaking with a wildlife officer at the law enforcement trailer. The trailer features fish and wildlife mounts and a free laser-shot activity. The 2020 Warden Stamp will also be available for purchase. Stamp sales help fund CDFW’s K-9 program and support purchases of enforcement equipment.

Staff from CDFW’s hatchery program will be available as well to talk about fish-rearing and stocking procedures, and a restored 1925 Dodge hatchery truck will be on display along with a modern fish-transporting truck. CDFW’s Fishing in the City program will be on hand to teach kids proper casting and fishing techniques, and kids can use these new skills to catch a fish at the free youth fishing pond stocked with rainbow trout provided by CDFW.

The show will be open from 1 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4, Thursday, March 5 and Friday, March 6. On Saturday, March 7, the show runs from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and on Sunday, March 8, the show is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Admission to the Long Beach Fred Hall Show is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors 62 and older, and $15 for military with ID (available only at the ticket window). Children 15 and under enter for free with a paid adult.

CDFW will also have staff at two other sport shows scheduled in March — the Central Valley Sportsmen’s Boat & RV Show March 13-15 at the Kern County Fairgrounds in Bakersfield, and the Del Mar Fred Hall Show March 26-29 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds (San Diego County).

For more information, please visit www.fredhall.com.

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Media Contact:
Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8907