Gray Lodge Auto Tour Loop to Close for Summer Repairs; New Fishing Pier to Be Built

Improvements are coming to the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area in Butte County.

Hosting some 80,000 visitors each year, Gray Lodge is one of the most heavily visited and used wildlife areas in the state, and construction work will restrict some public access over the next several months.

Work is scheduled to begin the week of June 15, 2020, on the auto tour loop on the west side of the wildlife area near Parking Lot 14. The auto tour loop and some nearby hiking trails will be closed during this construction period, which is expected to conclude around the first week in October, reopening in time for bird watching during peak fall and winter migrations.

Crews will regrade the steep slopes on the auto tour roadway to improve safety and add additional turnouts for wildlife viewing and passing. The pond bottoms along the auto tour loop will be reshaped to improve water movement and habitat management. The work is being funded through a $1.4 million grant from the state Wildlife Conservation Board.

Over this same period, crews will also construct a mobility impaired fishing pier on the pond adjacent to Parking Lot 14 thanks to another $310,000 Wildlife Conservation Board grant. The pier will provide fishing access to the public throughout the spring and summer months when the wildlife area is open to fishing. For questions or additional information, please contact Gray Lodge directly at (530) 846-7500.

CDFW reminds Californians to abide by all state and local health guidelines regarding non-essential travel and physical distancing.

###

Media Contacts:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858

Dave VanBaren, CDFW North Central Region, (530) 846-7500

CDFW Photo: The view from the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area auto tour loop.

Keep Tahoe Bears Wild!

Agencies Remind Public to Practice Social Distancing and Proper Food, Garbage Storage

Lake Tahoe, Calif./Nev. – Spring is in full swing in the Tahoe Basin and Tahoe black bears are searching for food. Intentional or unintentional feeding of bears results in unwanted bear behaviors, increased human-bear conflicts, and public safety issues as well as fines and possible jail time for violators. Each year, local law enforcement and state wildlife officers respond to hundreds of calls in which bears may pose a public safety threat or are damaging property. In some cases, the bear must be euthanized. This year, agencies and local communities in the Tahoe Basin are unsure how the current situation surrounding COVID-19 and shelter in place orders may impact human-bear conflicts.

“Due to the current COVID-19 crisis, the Tahoe Basin is experiencing some unprecedented changes,” said Dan Shaw, Senior Environmental Scientist with California State Parks. “Our visitation is down and campgrounds have yet to open. Will the reduction of human food and garbage result in bears spending more time foraging in the wild or will we see increased bear activity in neighborhoods and developed areas? As natural resource managers, we are eager to track wildlife response to these changing conditions. One thing we know for sure is that humans and bears stand to benefit if we collectively reduce the availability of our food and waste for wildlife.”

The Tahoe Basin, located high in the Sierra Nevada, is a spectacular place to live and attracts millions of outdoor recreationists each year. This is also prime black bear habitat and the onset of warm weather encourages bears to leave their winter dens in search of food. As more people live in and frequent bear country, an abundance of human-related, unnatural food sources become available to bears. Bears are attracted to anything scented or edible and improperly stored food and garbage are temptations few bears can resist.

Once bears gain access to human food or garbage, they will continue to seek it out. They become less cautious of people and may display unusually bold behavior when trying to get to human or pet food. Bears that have become indifferent or habituated to the presence of people may cause property damage and threaten public safety. Residents and visitors can help keep our bears wild and reduce potential conflicts between bears and humans by acting responsibly in bear country and properly storing food and garbage in bear resistant containers.

When living in or visiting bear country, become part of the solution and help Keep Tahoe Bears Wild by following the precautions below!

Due to the uncertainty of COVID-19 recreation impacts, it will be more important than ever for residents and visitors to safely dispose of garbage and take all necessary steps to keep food away from bears. This responsibility must be shared by all of us. Bears are especially active in the spring and we need to remain vigilant about locking garbage, removing bird feeders, gleaning fruit off trees or picking up any that has fallen, storing pet food in secure locations and putting up electric fences around chicken coops and beehives.

At National Forest campgrounds in the basin, visitors are required to store food in bear-resistant containers (storage lockers/bear boxes), dispose of garbage in dumpsters and close and lock these containers or risk fines, jail time, or both.

Both California and Nevada law prohibits the feeding of any big game mammal. Proper food storage is also required by law in California State Parks. Food, beverages, scented items or ice chests left unattended may be confiscated and a citation may be issued. Visitors that violate these rules may be evicted from the park. All counties in Nevada that border Lake Tahoe have ordinances in place that prohibit residents and visitors from allowing wildlife access to garbage. Citations and fines can be issued for code violations.

The following are tips for safe-guarding homes, long-term rentals, vacation home rentals or timeshares (if permitted by the property owner):

  • Never feed wildlife. This encourages unnatural and harmful foraging behavior.
  • Store all garbage in and properly close bear-resistant garbage containers, preferably bear boxes. Inquire with local refuse companies about new bear box incentives and payment programs. Visit www.southtahoerefuse.com and/or www.ndow.org/Nevada_Wildlife/Bear_Logic/ for more information.
  • Never leave groceries, animal feed, or anything scented in vehicles. Bears can open vehicle doors and they may cause damage trying to gain entrance if there are scented items inside.
  • Keep barbecue grills clean and stored in a garage or shed when not in use.
  • Keep doors and windows closed and locked when the home is unoccupied.
  • Vegetable gardens, compost piles, orchards and chickens may attract bears. Use electric fences to keep bears out where allowed. Refrain from hanging bird feeders.
  • If neighborhoods experience bear activity, consider using electric doormats and/or electric fencing on windows and/or doors where allowed. Electrified windows and doors should have signs posted for safety and to alert the public and emergency personnel. Contact local vendors and installers for appropriate products and instructions and/or visit www.ndow.org/Nevada_Wildlife/Bear_Logic/ for more information.
  • If a bear enters your home when you are present, keep out of its way and do not block its escape route.

Tips for safe-guarding campsites against bear encounters:

  • Never feed wildlife.
  • Always store food (including pet food), drinks, toiletries, coolers, cleaned grills, cleaned dishes, cleaning products, and all other scented items in the bear-resistant containers (storage lockers/bear boxes) provided at campsites. New bear resistant coolers that come equipped with padlock devices should always be locked to meet bear resistant requirements.
  • Clean the barbecue grill after each use and store properly.
  • Always place garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters in campgrounds or in bear-resistant containers at campsites (storage lockers/bear boxes), and close and lock after each use.
  • Never leave food or scented items unattended in campsites, tents, or vehicles. Bears can open vehicle doors and they may cause damage trying to gain entrance if there are scented items inside.
  • Never leave garbage at campsites.

Tips for hikers and backpackers:

  • Hike in groups and keep an eye on small children.
  • Keep dogs on leash. Off-leash dogs can provoke bears to respond defensively.
  • Watch for signs of bears, such as bear scat along trails or claw marks on trees. Stay alert. Make noise while on trails so that bears know you are there and can avoid you.
  • Never approach bears or cubs. Always, keep a safe social distance and never get between a sow and her cubs.
  • Store food in bear-resistant food storage canisters while recreating in the backcountry.

To report human-bear conflicts in California, contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Northern California dispatch at 916-445-0380. Non-emergency wildlife interactions in California State Parks can be reported to their public dispatch at (916) 358-1300. Wildlife incidents in California may also be reported online using the CDFW Wildlife Incident Reporting (WIR) system at apps.wildlife.ca.gov/wir. To report human-bear conflicts in Nevada, contact Nevada Department of Wildlife at 775-688-BEAR (2327). If the issue is an immediate threat, call the local sheriff’s department or 911.

For more information about peacefully coexisting with bears, visit TahoeBears.org to learn everything about living, visiting and playing responsibly in bear country. By working together, we can help Keep Tahoe Bears Wild! TahoeBears.org is made possible through funding from California State Parks.

This collaborative agency effort includes California State Parks, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Placer County Sheriff’s Office, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, Nevada State Parks, Nevada Department of Wildlife, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

Photo: A trio of bears search for a meal at Taylor Creek in 2019. Photo by Troy Wright, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office (retired).

Initiative Aims to Speed Coho Salmon Recovery in California Coastal Watersheds from Santa Cruz to Mendocino Counties

Coho salmon are getting a boost from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) strategic plan to prioritize salmon restoration and habitat improvement projects in coastal watersheds from Santa Cruz to Mendocino counties. In most of these watersheds, coho salmon are in severe decline or locally extinct due to human alterations to land and water resources.

The Priority Action Coho Team (PACT) is designed to focus much needed restoration to help maintain, stabilize and increase localized coho salmon populations. The approach of the PACT initiative is to identify and implement specific short-term actions, drawing from existing state and federal coho salmon recovery plans, to bring immediate benefits.

“PACT employs six strategies emphasizing planning actions and collaboration to accelerate coho salmon recovery from Santa Cruz to Mendocino counties,” said Kevin Shaffer, CDFW Branch Chief. “We look forward to working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) and our many partners on collaborating to recover this amazing fish.”

Watersheds where PACT restoration projects are being implemented include Scott Creek in Santa Cruz County and the Russian River in Sonoma County, where a range of projects to restore and improve stream and estuarine habitat have been carried out. These initiatives include recovery actions such as stream habitat restoration, water conservation, captive rearing and fish rescue, together with improvements to permitting, regulatory and enforcement processes.

PACT was developed jointly by CDFW and NOAA Fisheries, and is part of several initiatives to accelerate the implementation of ecological restoration and stewardship projects in California. Complimentary efforts include the Cutting the Green Tape initiative recently launched by the California Natural Resources Agency, other state agencies and the North Coast Salmon Project.

More information about the PACT process, as well as the link to the report, can be found on the CDFW website.

###

Media Contacts:
Stephen Swales, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 376-1746
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

Drawings Available for Nearly 100 Spring Wild Turkey Hunts on Public, Private Land

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is offering nearly 100 special hunts on both public and private land for the upcoming spring wild turkey season, which opens statewide March 28 and extends through May 3.

Young hunters have additional opportunities to bag a tom turkey. Junior hunting license holders 17 and younger can hunt March 21-22, the weekend before the general opener, and two weeks after the general season closes, May 4-17, using shotguns or any other legal method of take. CDFW is offering 27 special turkey hunts reserved just for junior hunting license holders.

California’s archery-only spring turkey season runs from May 4-17. CDFW is once again offering a drawing for seven, archery-only hunts throughout the general and archery seasons near Millerton Lake in Madera County.

CDFW’s SHARE Program, which provides public hunting access to private properties, is offering drawings for spring turkey hunts on two private ranches in Tulare County, the 722-acre River Ridge Ranch and the 975-acre Hart Ranch, including one hunt reserved for junior hunting license holders March 22 at the River Ridge Ranch.

With growing populations of wild turkeys in almost every part of the state, the spring turkey season has become one of the most anticipated events on the upland game bird hunting calendar.

Shooting hours for spring turkeys are from one half-hour before sunrise to 5 p.m. Both a hunting license and an upland game bird stamp validation are required to hunt wild turkeys, although an upland validation is not required of junior hunting license holders.

Hunters are limited to one bearded turkey per day with a season limit of three birds.

Nonlead shot is required when taking wildlife with a firearm anywhere in the state. These regulations apply to both public and private land, including all national forests, Bureau of Land Management and CDFW properties. For more information on hunting with nonlead ammunition, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/nonlead-ammunition.

Applications for CDFW’s special spring turkey hunting opportunities must be made through CDFW’s Automated License Data System (ALDS). Hunts are grouped into four separate drawings: Junior Hunts, General Opening Weekend Hunts, Archery-Only Hunts and Balance of Season Hunts. There is a $2.42 application fee and only one application per hunter is allowed for each drawing. Applications allow hunters to select their top three hunt choices in order of preference. Hunters may only be drawn once per application. The application deadline for these hunts is as follows:

  • Junior Hunts: Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020
  • Opening Weekend General Season Hunts: Saturday, March 7, 2020
  • Archery-Only Hunts: Sunday, March 8, 2020
  • Balance of the Season Hunts: Wednesday, March 11, 2020

To apply, visit CDFW’s online sales site, sign into your account, select the “Purchase Licenses” link and select “2019 – Hunting” from the menu on the left side of the page. The spring turkey hunt application items will be available under the “Drawings” section on the right side of the page. After submitting your application, checking out and completing payment, you will be able to download a receipt confirming your entries into the drawings.

For more details and descriptions of these hunts, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/turkey-hunts.

Hunters will also find the “SHARE Hunts Multi Choice Application” available in the same location online after signing into their accounts. The application fee for the Tulare County private ranch turkey hunts is $11.88 per hunt with all proceeds returned to participating landowners to pay for these hunts and additional opportunities.

For more details and descriptions of these SHARE hunts, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/share#51518483-general-hunts and select the links for the River Ridge Ranch and the Hart Ranch.

Media Contacts:
Matt Meshriy, CDFW Upland/Small Game Program, (916) 373-8816
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

No-Fee Public Hunting Opportunities Abound During Youth Waterfowl Weekend

Many of California’s most popular and productive public waterfowl hunting areas will reopen the Feb. 8-9 weekend to welcome hunters 17 and younger during the Youth Waterfowl Hunt Days – a special, post-season waterfowl hunt reserved just for kids.

“We encourage folks to come out even if they don’t have a reservation or are not able to get into our lottery the night before the hunt,” said Sean Allen, area manager for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Los Banos Wildlife Area in Merced County. “We always have plenty of room in all these public areas up and down the Grasslands. All the national wildlife refuges and all the state areas here in the Grasslands will be open.”

The Los Banos Wildlife Area, in partnership with CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division, will host a youth waterfowl festival Saturday, Feb. 8 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for all the hunters, their families and mentors who turn out, offering food, prizes, waterfowl education and a bird cleaning station, among other activities.

There is no fee to hunt at any Type A wildlife area during the Youth Waterfowl Hunt Days as hunters 17 and younger are exempt from the Type A wildlife area passes required of adult hunters during the regular season. Accompanying adults are likewise exempt from any fees and passes.

Even the Sacramento Valley’s high-demand public waterfowl hunting destinations rarely fill to capacity during the youth waterfowl weekend, offering a high-quality hunting experience without the wait, crowds and competition typical during the regular season. Unlike prior years, the Sunday, Feb. 9 hunt day does not fall on Super Bowl Sunday. Hunter turnout the second day of the weekend is expected to improve as a result.

Those interested in hunting a state or federal waterfowl area during the youth weekend should call ahead about any changes in entry procedures or hunt areas.

At the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area in Butte and Glenn counties, for example, only the Little Dry Creek Unit will be open during the youth waterfowl weekend. Howard Slough and Llano Seco will remain closed. The lottery for Little Dry Creek will take place at 4 a.m. the morning of each hunt day – as opposed to the evening before as occurred during the regular waterfowl season.

At the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area in Yolo County, no lottery will take place the evenings before the Saturday and Sunday hunt days. Once reservations have been processed in the morning, hunters will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Sutter National Wildlife Refuge in Sutter County will be open only for a one-day, post-season youth hunt on Sunday, Feb. 9.

California’s Youth Waterfowl Hunt Days are available to those 17 and younger possessing a valid Junior Hunting License and Harvest Information Program (HIP) validation. To participate in these Youth Waterfowl Hunt Days, hunters must be 17 years of age or younger and accompanied by a non-hunting adult 18 years of age or older. A Federal Duck Stamp or e-stamp is required of hunters 16 years of age and older. Daily bag and possession limits apply along with all other waterfowl regulations for the 2019-20 waterfowl season. The regulations are available at CDFW’s Waterfowl Hunting webpage.

Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908