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.

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

Elk, Pronghorn Antelope Captures to Be Conducted in Northern California

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is planning to capture numerous elk and pronghorn antelope in northern California over the next two weeks.

Under the direction of CDFW veterinary staff, CDFW wildlife biologists will lead the captures. Capture crews will locate elk and pronghorn via helicopter, capture them with net guns and restrain the captured animals for tagging and collaring.

From Feb. 6-8, CDFW will capture as many as 10 adult Roosevelt elk in Humboldt County in northwestern California. From Feb. 9-13, CDFW will capture up to 22 Rocky Mountain elk in Shasta, Lassen, Modoc and Siskiyou counties in northeastern California. Pronghorn captures are scheduled for Feb. 14-15, also in northeastern California.

The elk will be captured on lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and National Park Service (NPS) as well as on private properties with permission from landowners. CDFW is grateful to the USFS, NPS, timberland owners and other private landowners that are providing access to their lands for the captures.

Each elk will be ear tagged and fitted with a GPS collar. The collars will provide detailed information about elk for approximately five years. The information will enhance CDFW’s knowledge of current elk distribution, abundance, survival and habitat use.

For additional information regarding captures in Shasta, Lassen, Modoc or Siskiyou counties, please contact CDFW wildlife biologist Erin Nigon at (530) 598-6011. For information regarding captures in Humboldt County, please contact CDFW wildlife biologist Carrington Hilson at (707) 502-4078. For information on pronghorn captures, please contact biologist Richard Shinn at (530) 233-3581

Northern Commercial Dungeness Crab Season Will Open Dec. 31

The commercial Dungeness crab season in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties is scheduled to open at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, to be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 8:01 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2019.

Delays due to quality only affect the Dungeness crab fishery in this area (Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9). Dungeness crab quality test results from Dec. 17, 2019 met the minimum guidelines established by the Tri-State Dungeness Crab Committee. Director Charlton H. Bonham had announced a delay to Dec. 31 based on the last round of tests conducted on Dec. 3, 2019, but with these new results no additional delay is warranted. Tri-State managers met this morning to determine that their respective Dungeness crab fisheries would open coastwide within the Tri-State region on Dec. 31, 2019.

No vessel may take or land crab in an area closed for a meat quality delay (i.e., Fish and Game districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 through Dec. 30). In addition, any vessel that takes, possesses onboard or lands crab from ocean waters outside of a delayed area is prohibited from participating in the crab fishery in any delayed area for 30 days following the opening of those areas. Permitted vessels that have already participated in the Dec. 15 opener south of the Sonoma-Mendocino county line would not be able to set gear in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties until 12:01 am Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020. This applies to any delayed areas in Oregon and Washington as well. For more information, please see CDFW’s Frequently Asked Questions regarding the 2019-2020 Dungeness crab commercial season.

To help minimize the risk of whale and sea turtle entanglement in trap gear, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife recommends implementation of Best Fishing Practices developed by the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group. This includes following guidance on surface-gear set-up, reducing excess line, using neutral buoyancy line and minimizing knots and lead.

For more information on Dungeness crab, please visit:
www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Whale-Safe-Fisheries and www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab.

Media Contacts:
Christy Juhasz, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2887
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

 

Invasive Snails Found in Santa Ana River and Bear Creek

Anglers, Residents and Visitors Urged to Help Prevent Further Spread

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has confirmed the presence of New Zealand mudsnail (NZMS) within San Bernardino County. The invasive snails were found in both the Santa Ana River and designated wild trout stream of Bear Creek within the greater Santa Ana River Watershed.

Despite their small size, NZMS is a highly problematic aquatic species. At only 4 to 6 millimeters in length on average, dense populations of NZMS can displace and outcompete native species, sometimes by consuming up to half the food resources in a waterway that native insects and fishes would eat. The snails have been linked to reducing populations of aquatic insects, including mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies, chironomids and other insect groups upon which trout and other organisms depend.

CDFW urges anglers, boaters, visitors and locals to “clean, drain and dry” all recreational items and fishing gear, which generally means anything that has gotten wet. It is important to leave any stream water, debris and organic plant matter at a recreational site in order to prevent the further spread of the snails. Once NZMS is established in a new habitat, it is impossible to eradicate it without damaging other components of the ecosystem. Boaters, anglers and others who may visit any body of water, within or outside of infested areas, are asked to decontaminate their equipment and follow the “clean, drain and dry” best practices for all equipment and clothing used in a waterway:

  • If you wade, freeze waders, wading boots and other gear overnight (at least six hours, though 24 hours is recommended).
  • After leaving the water, inspect waders, boots, float tubes, paddleboards, kayaks or any gear used in the water. Leave all water and debris at the site that you exited.
  • Additionally, remove any visible snails with a stiff brush, clean off soils and organic material, and follow this by rinsing at the site, preferably with high-pressure hot water.
  • It is critical to completely dry out gear for a minimum of 24 hours.
  • Never transport live fish or other aquatic plants or animals from one body of water to another.
  • An informational flier on the “clean, drain and dry” directive is available for download on CDFW’s website.

The Santa Ana River is the largest river completely in Southern California. Its flow begins in the San Bernardino mountains and concludes at the ocean in Huntington Beach. Bear Creek begins at Big Bear Lake and connects with the Santa Ana River in the mountains. The Santa Ana River watershed has a drainage basin size of 2,650 square miles, is home to 4.5 million people, and is popular among recreationalists and fishermen.

To date, NZMS has been identified in over 17 bodies of waters in the coastal Southern California counties of Ventura, Los Angeles, and Orange, including Lower Santa Ana River. NZMS-positive lakes and streams in the Eastern Sierra are in Inyo and Mono counties – Diaz Lake (Inyo), Pleasant Valley Reservoir (Inyo), Tinnemaha Reservoir (Inyo), Lone Pine Creek (Inyo), Lower Bishop Creek (Inyo), Bishop Creek (Inyo), Bishop Creek Canal (Inyo) and Los Angeles Aqueduct (Inyo); Owens River (Mono and Inyo); Upper Owens River (Mono), Hot Creek (Mono), Rush Creek below Grant Lake Dam (Mono) and Crowley Lake (Mono).

CDFW has launched public outreach and education efforts to discuss NZMS in San Bernardino County with local water districts, federal and state agencies, non-profit fisheries partners and fly fishing clubs. Greater outreach efforts will occur in the next few months and into the spring, including posting NZMS signage at Bear Creek angler survey boxes and at other water access points along the Santa Ana River.

For more information on NZMS , please visit the Invasive Species page on CDFW’s website. The U.S. Geological Survey’s website also features an interactive map showing the current distribution of NZMS  in California and throughout the U.S.

Media Contacts:
Jennifer E. Hemmert, CDFW Inland Deserts Region, (951) 634-8793
Tim Daly, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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