Tag Archives: Public Safety

Four Black Bears Transferred to Oakland Zoo Under Unique Circumstances

A female black bear and her three cubs were transferred to Oakland Zoo from the care of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Wildlife Investigations Lab on Tuesday.

Though it is CDFW policy not to place large adult mammals into captivity, a sequence of unique circumstances provided these bears an opportunity for a life as educational ambassadors at Oakland Zoo’s upcoming California Trail exhibit, rather than euthanasia for the sow and attempted rehabilitation of the cubs.

In the early hours of Monday, May 15, the sow and cubs broke into a home in Pine Mountain Club in Kern County. The elderly resident of the home attempted to haze the bears by banging pots and pans to no avail. The sow charged and swiped at the resident, causing injury to her left arm. She was treated at a local hospital and is recovering.

Per the CDFW public safety policy, a black bear that is known to have attacked or injured a human is deemed a public safety bear and must be euthanized.

During the investigation, CDFW learned of eight other incidents in the same vicinity over the three weeks leading up to the incident involving a sow with three cubs, believed to be the same four bears. These incidents were not reported to CDFW. None of these incidents resulted in human injury, however the bears did significant property damage to vehicles, garages and homes.

On the night of May 15, CDFW set a culvert trap in Pine Mountain Club and by the early morning of May 16, the sow and her cubs were safely captured. CDFW transported them to a holding facility at the Wildlife Investigations Laboratory near Sacramento. The cubs were approximately 12-15 lbs. and not yet weaned from the sow.

CDFW decided to hold and monitor all four bears until the cubs were weaned, with the hope that the cubs could be rehabilitated and eventually returned to their natural habitat. As a known public safety animal, the sow was to be euthanized per CDFW policy.

However as monitoring continued, CDFW staff determined that the bears were habituated to humans and not suitable candidates for release. CDFW began to search for a captive facility for the cubs.

Oakland Zoo requested to take the three cubs, as well as the sow, for their 56-acre California Trail expansion, its focus to highlight California’s natural habitat as part of an initiative to emphasize native species and educate the public about human-wildlife issues. In the interest of the cubs’ well-being and outreach opportunity, CDFW supported this unique strategy of placing the sow into captivity.

The exhibit, scheduled to open in summer of 2018, is intended to mimic California habitat, educate visitors about wildlife in California and inspire people to take action for the future of the state’s wildlife resources and habitats.

“Oakland Zoo is very grateful to be in a position to provide a home for these bears,” said Dr. Joel Parrott, President and CEO of Oakland Zoo. “They are an important example of the human-wildlife conflict and highlight how we need to care for wildlife throughout California.”

“We are so happy to be able to help these four bears,” said Colleen Kinzley, Director of Animal Care, Conservation and Research at Oakland Zoo. “As too often is the case when wild animals come into conflict with humans, it’s the animals that lose. Oakland Zoo’s purpose is to help people understand the challenges and the responsibilities of living with wildlife. Our first responsibility will be to provide these bears a rich life in a complex natural habitat that will be part of our new California Trail exhibit opening in 2018. We will share their story and help people to understand the role we all have in preventing these types of situations.”

Tuesday’s transfer of a sow, predestined for euthanasia, with her three cubs was highly unusual. No opportunity for transfer of a known public safety animal has previously existed. This situation is unique and does not set precedent for future outcomes for other habituated bears, public safety animals or nuisance wildlife. Additionally, captivity is far from an ideal outcome for a wild bear.

The best outcome for these black bears would have been to exhibit natural, healthy behaviors in their native habitat, free of human-related attractants, wildlife feeding issues and eventual habituation. During CDFW’s investigation, Pine Mountain Club residents reported that the sow had been well known in the area for a couple of years and they believed this was her first litter of cubs. The sow was known to scavenge for human-related food sources, cause property damage, and was teaching her cubs how to enter vehicles and homes in search of food. As a result of habituation, these bears did not recognize how to search for or rely on natural food sources.

“We are thankful for the unique opportunity Oakland Zoo has provided for these bears, and for the partnership that developed because of it,” said CDFW Wildlife Veterinarian Brandon Munk. “These four bears will have a new facility to call home and a group of people to help care for them. While it is always best to keep wildlife in the wild, sometimes that is not a good option. Wildlife that habituates to humans or becomes a public safety concern are not good candidates to be released back into the wild. There will never be enough space in zoos to place habituated or public safety animals, so we all must do our part to keep wildlife wild, by not feeding wildlife.”

Despite extensive public education and outreach in Pine Mountain Club about how to live in bear country, many residents are known to feed bears. Not only is feeding wild animals illegal, giving them access to human food and garbage causes them to lose their natural foraging habits and can make them aggressive.

CDFW regularly educates communities about how to keep both humans and wild animals safe. CDFW will continue to reach out to Pine Mountain Club and surrounding communities to create bear-aware communities and prevent future circumstances like this. Learn more at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild.

Video B-roll:

https://youtu.be/1ZIYVmwn9to

https://youtu.be/MGJcyVg_i44

Still photos:

www.flickr.com/californiadfg

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Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937
Erin Harrison, Oakland Zoo Marketing and Communications, (510) 632-9525 ext. 135

 

Be ‘Bear Aware’ this Spring and Summer

As spring and summer beckon people outdoors, California’s black bears are also active after a long winter hibernation. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) takes this opportunity to highlight the native black bear – one of most adaptable animals in the state – and encourages citizens to help reduce nuisance encounters with this iconic mammal by being “bear aware,” which means taking responsible actions that promote responsible behavior while living and recreating in bear country.

California has a healthy population of black bears that typically prefer remote mountainous areas. But as more people frequent parks and wilderness areas and choose to live in or near bear habitat, bears become more accustomed to the presence of people and as a result display less shy and elusive behavior.

“Over the years, we have seen bear behavior patterns change significantly”, said Marc Kenyon, manager of CDFW’s human/wildlife conflict program. “Each spring and summer we receive hundreds of calls from the public reporting anything from bears raiding food in campgrounds to bears taking dips in residential swimming pools. Bears have also been known to break into homes and cabins and steal food right off of the kitchen counter – sometimes while the occupants are home.”

Kenyon notes that bears have a highly specialized sense of smell. According to Kenyon, a bear can smell bacon frying from about three miles away, given the right conditions. An animal that is specialized at finding food sources coupled with greater numbers of people at its doorstep, can create a storm of human/wildlife conflicts. However, nuisance-bear behavior may be significantly reduced – or even eliminated, if people change their behavior.

Tips for Bear-proofing your Home, Rental or Timeshare:

In settled areas close to bear habitat, bears may venture in searching for food. The best defense against bear break-ins and bears in your yard is to eliminate attractants to your property by following these tips: 

  • Purchase and properly use a bear-proof garbage container.
  • Wait to put trash out until the morning of collection day.
  • Do not leave trash, groceries or pet food in your car.
  • Keep garbage cans clean and deodorize them with bleach or ammonia.
  • Keep barbecue grills clean and stored in a garage or shed when not in use.
  • Only provide bird feeders during November through March and make them inaccessible to bears.
  • Do not leave any scented products outside, even non-food items such as suntan lotion, insect repellent, soap or candles.
  • Keep doors and windows closed and locked.
  • Consider installing motion-detector alarms and/or electric fencing.
  • Harvest fruit off trees as soon as it is ripe, and promptly collect fruit that falls.
  • Bring pets in at night. Provide safe and secure quarters for livestock at night.
  • Consider composting bins as opposed to open composting.
  • Securely block access to potential hibernation sites such as crawl spaces under decks and buildings.
  • Do not spray bear spray around property – when it dries, it can serve as an attractant.
  • Do not feed deer or other wildlife – not only can it be unlawful, it will attract bears to your property.

Tips for Bear-proofing your Campsite:

Maintaining a clean campsite is the responsible and safe thing to do when visiting bear country. Here are a few tips for bear proofing your campsite: 

  • Haul garbage out of camp regularly – check with camp host or other camp personnel about safe garbage storage. Use bear lockers if available.
  • Store food (including pet food) and toiletries in bear-proof containers or in an airtight container in the trunk of your vehicle if bear lockers are not available. In some areas, food storage in the trunk is not advisable. Check with camp or park personnel.
  • Clean dishes and store food and garbage immediately after meals.
  • Clean your grill after each use.
  • Never keep food or toiletries in your tent.
  • Change out of clothes you cooked in before going to bed.
  • Do not clean fish in camp.
  • Do not leave pets unattended in camp or sleeping outside.

Tips for Hiking in Bear Country:

  • Bears may react defensively if your presence is not known – make noise while hiking. Talk loudly or whistle.
  • If possible, travel with a group of people.
  • Avoid thick brush and walk with the wind at your back so your scent is ahead of you.
  • Watch for bear sign along trails – scat, tracks and stripped bark off trees.
  • Avoid sites where dead animal carcasses are observed.
  • If you see a bear, avoid it and give it the opportunity to avoid you.
  • Leash dogs while hiking in bear country – dogs can surprise and aggravate bears – bringing the bear back to you when the dog flees from the bear.

Facts about Black Bears: 

  • Black bears are the only bear species found in California. They range in color from blonde to black, with cinnamon brown being the most common.
  • There are an estimated 35,000 bears in California.
  • Males are much larger than females and can weigh up to 500 pounds, although average weight is about 300 pounds.
  • Black bears can sprint up to 35 mph and they are strong swimmers and great tree climbers.
  • Bears are omnivorous eating foods ranging from berries, plants, nuts and roots to honey, honeycomb, insects, larvae, carrion and small mammals.
  • Bears typically mate in June and July.
  • As winter approaches, bears will forage for food up to 20 hours a day, storing enough fat to sustain them through hibernation. Bears often hibernate in large hollow trees 40 to 60 feet off the ground.
  • Bear cubs are born in winter dens in January and February and are hairless, deaf and blind.
  • Black bear attacks are rare in California and typically are defensive in nature because the bear is surprised or defending cubs; however, bears accustomed to people may become too bold and act aggressively.
  • Female black bears will often send cubs up a tree and leave the area in response to a perceived threat. Do not remain in the area – when you leave, she will come back for her cubs.

For more information about black bear biology, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Mammals/Black-Bear/Biology.

For information about bear-proof containers and where to buy them, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild/Products.

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Media Contact:
Lesa Johnston, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 322-8933

State Agencies Pilot Wildlife Crossing Mitigation Credit System

California’s state wildlife and transportation departments signed a credit agreement on an innovative pilot project to create advanced mitigation credits for wildlife highway crossings. The mitigation crediting system developed for the Laurel Curve Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Project on Highway 17 in Santa Cruz County can be used to transition into a statewide program being developed through the new Regional Conservation Investments Strategies Program.

Using the Laurel Curve project as a pilot, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) developed a model compensatory mitigation crediting system.

An agreement between CDFW and Caltrans creates credits that can be used to mitigate for impacts to wildlife movement for future transportation projects within a geographical area defined as the Service Area, and determines the price of each credit. Mitigation credits are calculated using a first-of-its-kind methodology which takes into account the length of highway to be improved in lane miles or the project footprint in acres and the total cost of the project. When appropriate, Caltrans may sell or transfer the credits within Caltrans or to other transportation agencies with projects in the Service Area, thereby freeing funds for additional infrastructure projects.

“Highway 17 bisects undeveloped, wildlife-rich land in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and for the safety of deer, mountain lion, and motorists, too, we need to connect this habitat with a safe corridor,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird.  “CDFW, Caltrans and the new transportation package have come together to solve this problem.”

Senate Bill 1, the transportation funding package, includes $30 million for advanced mitigation strategies for projects similar to the creative Highway 17 project.

“Not only will this improve wildlife habitat connectivity and highway safety, but will also allow us to expedite future transportation projects using the mitigation credits made available,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

CDFW and Caltrans worked closely with the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to formulate the credit agreement. Caltrans, CDFW, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, Pathways for Wildlife, the U.C. Santa Cruz Puma Study and the Santa Cruz County Transportation Commission all worked together to develop a solution for the wildlife crossing at Laurel Curve.

Caltrans has built similar wildlife crossings on highways 1, 68, 101, 152 and 280.

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Media Contacts:
Jennifer Garrison, CDFW Habitat Conservation Planning Branch, (916) 653-9779
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 651-7824
Jim Shivers, Caltrans, (805) 549-3237

Commercial Dungeness Crab Season to Open throughout Most of the Southern Fishery; One Area Will Remain Closed

On Nov. 15, commercial Dungeness crab season will open from Point Reyes in Marin County south, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced today. But at the recommendation of state health agencies, the CDFW Director is moving to close the commercial Dungeness crab fishery between Point Reyes and the Sonoma/Mendocino county line and to close the commercial rock crab fishery north of Pigeon Point in San Mateo County.

This has the effect of closing approximately 60 miles of coastline to commercial Dungeness crab fishing that otherwise would have opened on Nov. 15. The fishery north of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line is not scheduled to open until Dec. 1.

The commercial Dungeness crab fishery had been scheduled to open all the way up to the Sonoma/Mendocino county line (about 60 miles north of Point Reyes) on Nov. 15 and the rock crab fishery is otherwise open year round, but some crabs collected and tested showed elevated levels of domoic acid. The naturally occurring toxin can sicken people who consume crab.

At the recommendation of the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham submitted to the Office of Administrative Law an emergency rulemaking to keep the commercial Dungeness crab fishery closed north of Point Reyes (38°00’ N. lat.) and to close the commercial rock crab fishery north of Pigeon Point (37°11’ N. lat.). Last fall and winter, domoic acid along the West Coast interrupted Dungeness and rock crab fisheries from Santa Barbara to the Oregon state line.

“Given the very difficult season endured by commercial crabbers and their families last year, we were hopeful to open all areas on time this year,” said Director Bonham. “Fortunately, domoic acid levels are much lower than this time last year and, despite this action, we are optimistic we will still be able to have a good season.”

The recreational season for Dungeness crab opened on Nov. 5 with a warning from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to recreational anglers not to consume the viscera of Dungeness crab caught north of Point Reyes. State and federal laws prohibit the commercial distribution of seafood products that contain domoic acid levels above the federal action level of 30 parts per million in the viscera. Because of this, OEHHA in consultation with CDPH recommended to CDFW to close or delay the start of the commercial Dungeness crab season north of Point Reyes and close the commercial rock crab fishery north of Pigeon Point.

Closure of the above-referenced commercial fisheries shall remain in effect until the Director of OEHHA, in consultation with the Director of CDPH, determines that domoic acid levels no longer pose a significant risk to public health and recommends the fisheries be open, and the Director of CDFW provides notification to the commercial fisheries. Recreational fisheries will remain open under a warning to anglers not to eat the viscera of crab caught in the affected areas.

CDFW will continue to coordinate with CDPH and OEHHA to test domoic acid levels in crab along the coast to determine when the fisheries can safely be opened.

CDPH, in conjunction with CDFW, has been actively testing crabs since early September and results from the most recent tests showed that select crabs from the closed areas had elevated levels of domoic acid in their viscera. 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.

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Memo from Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (11/7/2016)
Finding of Emergency (11/7/2016)
Notice of Emergency Regulatory Action (11/7/2016)

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

CDFW Determines Female Bear Attacked Southern California Man

Investigators from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have concluded the investigation of a bear attack on a Southern California man last Monday. CDFW is unable to confirm the current location of the bear. No further efforts will be made to trap and/or euthanize the bear.

On Oct. 10, a 54-year-old hiker on national forest lands near Sierra Madre in Los Angeles County saw a bear on the trail in front of him, standing at his height. A few moments later, a second bear attacked him from the side, causing severe but not life-threatening injuries. The hiker was admitted to the hospital that day and has since been released.

Wildlife officers and animal experts examined tracks and other evidence at the scene and believe that the first bear seen may have been a yearling (approximately 12-24 months old), while the second bear may have been its mother. The CDFW wildlife forensics lab, which analyzed evidence including DNA extracted from saliva on the victim’s clothing, confirmed that the second bear was female.

“If it was a mother bear and her young, and the hiker came between the two through no fault of his own, it was just bad luck for them both,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Rick Mayfield. “We are very thankful the individual’s injuries were not life-threatening, and fortunately, he will recover.”

There are approximately 30,000 black bears in the state. Bear attacks on humans are extremely rare, and there have been no recorded bear fatalities in California to date. Hikers and outdoor enthusiasts are reminded to be “Bear Aware” at all times while in animal habitat.

For tips on living with wildlife, please visit www.keepmewild.com.

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Media Contact:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 212-7352