Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are cautioning motorists of an unusually high number of collisions between drivers and wildlife on mountain highways this autumn. The increase has been particularly notable on Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 50 in Placer and El Dorado counties.
“There were an unprecedented 23 incidents involving large animals on Highway 50 and I-80 in just six days from Nov. 14-19,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “Drivers need to use caution and watch out for wildlife as they travel through the Sierras and other rural areas.”
“Motorists need to be on the lookout for animals on or near roadways, particularly deer and bears,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “It’s not only dangerous for the animals, but drivers and their passengers can be injured or killed if they hit – or swerve to miss – an animal.”
Caltrans and CDFW offer a few tips for motorists:
Be particularly alert when driving in areas frequented by wildlife and give yourself more time than usual to react safely by reducing your speed.
“Sweep” the roadway from side to side with your eyes as you drive. This increases your chance of seeing anything that might become a hazard.
Pay particular attention when driving during morning and evening, as wildlife are most active during these times.
If you see an animal cross the road, know that another may be following it.
Don’t litter. Odors from all kinds of products may entice animals to venture near roadways.
There are probably several factors behind the animals’ increased movements near highways. One is the deer rut, or mating season, and bucks are always more active this time of year. Recent wildfires in the mountains and foothills also destroyed a considerable amount of vegetation, forcing wildlife to travel farther than usual to forage. The drought has stressed existing vegetation, likely reducing its normal nutritional value and forcing animals to eat more than usual. Bears are getting ready for hibernation and are foraging far and wide to get enough nutrition to make it through the winter.
“Wildlife corridors” constructed under some highways have helped reduce wildlife-related incidents. Caltrans recently completed construction of a wildlife crossing on State Highway 89 in Sierra County and has two others planned for construction next season. The district also built a wildlife crossing on Highway 50 and has a project programmed for next season to study wildlife activity near state highways.
In addition, Caltrans has wildlife warning signs posted in key areas along its state highway system and will be installing more with help from CDFW and other partner agencies. Caltrans will also be using its electronic message boards to alert motorists of increased wildlife activity.
Caltrans District 3 is responsible for maintaining and operating 4,385 lane miles in 11 Sacramento Valley and Northern Sierra counties. CDFW’s North Central Region is responsible for managing California’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources across 17 counties.
Amargosa voles, small rodents that inhabit rare marshes of the Mojave Desert, have faced dire circumstances in recent years. Loss of habitat, extreme drought and climate change brought this subspecies of the California vole to near extinction, leaving only a few hundred clinging to existence. It is now one of the most critically endangered mammals in North America. Its luck may be changing with the birth of the first set of pups from a new captive breeding program at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
An interdisciplinary research team is working to study the vole and ultimately shore up the population so that it doesn’t go extinct. As part of that effort, the team began a captive breeding program. Ten females and 10 males, all about five weeks of age, were removed from the wild in mid-July and brought to UC Davis.
The research team includes members from UC Davis, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and UC Berkeley.
In the field, researchers have observed fluctuations in the size of the Amargosa vole population.
“The numbers are at their highest just after breeding in the spring when the vegetation is still good,” said project lead Janet Foley, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “But as the summer wears on and the limited marsh habitat dries up, the population may crash. This year, we saw their main marsh shrinking fast and we knew a large number would die in the coming months. If we wanted to save the species, we had to act quickly.”
During the first few weeks in captivity at Davis, the voles remained quarantined in individual enclosures. They underwent full diagnostic testing for pathogens and genetic analysis to ensure the most diverse breeding pool possible before placed together in breeding pairs.
By October, all three of the pairs produced pups. There are four healthy pups now. Eventually, the animals will be placed outside in large escape-proof tubs in a secure location. The tubs will be planted with bulrush to mimic their native habitat.
Researchers aren’t sure how long it will take the captive population to build. They also hope to learn about optimal breeding conditions – such as food, shelter, length of daylight and temperature – for the voles. Once a few hundred voles have been born in captivity, researchers plan to reintroduce them to the marsh areas in their home range.
“We know the population is already inbred, but we don’t know whether that has affected them as a species,” Foley said. “There’s so much we have yet to learn about this subspecies. This is a great opportunity to understand population genetics, basic ecology and behavior. Previously, we’ve made assumptions about those things, but now we can verify them.”
Taking a toll on the vole
The Amargosa vole (Microtus californicus scirpensis) inhabits sparsely located wetlands just east of Death Valley National Park. Those marsh habitats, which exist only in a few small, isolated patches throughout the desert, are increasingly threatened by drought, climate change and habitat modification by humans. The current drought has likely exacerbated their dire situation. Low water means fewer bulrushes – the wetland plants this subspecies depends heavily upon for habitat and food.
Once thought to be extinct, the Amargosa vole was rediscovered in the late 1970s by a state fish and wildlife biologist. It was listed as an endangered species in 1980 by the state and in 1984 by the federal government. Recent BLM research indicates an 82 percent chance that the species could go extinct within five years if immediate management action is not taken.
In the past few years, the research team has worked to update information about the number of voles and where they live. Researchers have looked at additional factors impacting the Amargosa vole, including infectious diseases, competition with other rodents, predation, and other environmental pressures.
“The commitment and collaboration demonstrated by the inter-agency/academia vole working group is a great example of what can be accomplished in a short time to conserve not only the Amargosa vole, but also its unique desert marsh habitat that other species also depend on,” said program co-lead Deana Clifford, CDFW wildlife veterinarian and assistant clinical professor at UC Davis. “By pooling our resources and working together we can increase the chances that healthy populations of Amargosa voles will persist well into the future.”
Funding for the research and captive breeding colony comes from BLM, CDFW, USFWS and the State Office of Emergency Services (drought funding). UC Davis and CDFW are donating personnel time, and a private landowner has been providing free field housing for the research crews.
About UC Davis
UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.
About the School of Veterinary Medicine
Leading Veterinary Medicine, Addressing Societal Needs: The School of Veterinary Medicine serves the people of California by providing educational, research, clinical service and public service programs of the highest quality to advance the health of animals, people and the environment, and to contribute to the economy. For further information, please visit www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/.
About the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife works to manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.
Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) remind motorists to remain alert for wildlife near roadways during Watch Out for Wildlife Week (WOW), which runs September 15-21.
“It’s important that motorists, when driving through areas frequented by deer, elk and other animals, be alert to protect themselves as well as California’s wildlife,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.
Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting native species and their natural communities, reports more than 200 people are killed nationally in collisions with deer, elk and other large mammals each year with an estimated 1.5 million animals hit annually.
The Watch Out for Wildlife campaign is supported by Caltrans, CDFW, Defenders and the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis.
“It’s a shame that many animals and people are injured and killed on our roads every year,” said Craig Stowers, CDFW’s Game Program Manager. “Many injuries, deaths and costly vehicle repairs can be avoided if drivers would pay more attention when animals are most active, and be prepared to react safely if an animal moves onto the road.”
Caltrans, CDFW and Defenders offer a few tips for motorists:
Be particularly alert when driving in areas frequented by wildlife and give yourself more time to react safely by reducing your speed.
Pay particular attention when driving during morning and evening, as wildlife are most active during these times.
If you see an animal cross the road, know that another may be following.
Don’t litter. The odors may entice animals to venture near roadways.
Here are a few examples of what Caltrans, CDFW and their partners are doing to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions:
Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing, Los Angeles County Caltrans has applied for $2 million in federal funding for the environmental and engineering design phases of a future wildlife crossing over U.S. Highway 101 at Liberty Canyon Road in Agoura Hills. In the interim, Caltrans is providing wildlife fencing in Liberty Canyon to prevent wildlife mortalities along the freeway until a permanent structure can be built. The highway presents an impassible barrier for wildlife migrating into or out of the Santa Monica Mountains. A new wildlife crossing promises to provide an improved habitat connection that will sustain and improve the genetic diversity of wildlife in the area.
State Route 76, San Diego County Five wildlife crossings and directional fencing were installed as part of the SR-76 Melrose to Mission Highway Improvement Project in 2012. A wildlife movement study, including road kill surveys, camera station surveys and tracking transect surveys, is underway to determine the effectiveness of the crossings and fencing. A review of the data collected to date suggests the combination of directional fencing and wildlife crossings may be limiting vehicle-wildlife collisions and allowing for wildlife movement across SR-76. Medium-to-large species using the wildlife crossings include the badger, bobcat, coyote, raccoon, striped skunk, desert cottontail and opossum.
State Route 17, Santa Cruz Caltrans has built wildlife undercrossings to accommodate wildlife on several highways in the Bay Area and is currently working with the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County to build a new wildlife undercrossing at the Laurel Curve on State Route 17. Since 2007, motorists have hit 14 mountain lions along this section of the highway in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Land Trust is working to raise $5 million to purchase land on either side of the Laurel Curve, which would make it possible for Caltrans to proceed with building the undercrossing.
Central Coast Caltrans is seeking $1.8 million in federal funding to finance wildlife corridor projects in Monterey, San Benito, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties where local wildlife exists in close proximity to state highways. If the request is approved, Caltrans will obtain an additional $2.5 million in state funding to finance all aspects of the projects. Caltrans assembled an extensive list of stakeholders and partners for this proposal, including the California State Coastal Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, UC Davis, the Elkhorn Slough Foundation, the Pinnacles National Monument and the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County.
Caltrans has installed new wildlife fencing and electric mats at unfenced intersections along U.S. Highway 101 near San Luis Obispo, which bisects a major wildlife corridor in the Los Padres National Forest.
Media Contacts: Mark Dinger, Caltrans Public Affairs, 916-657-5060
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, 916-322-2420
The winners of the “Race to Protect Your Favorite Place” youth poster contest have been announced by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Invasive Species Program.
As part of the California Invasive Species Action Week, 34 youths from across California submitted their original artwork. Participants were asked to create original posters depicting invasive species that threaten their favorite places and how they can take action to help protect that habitat. The top three posters for each grade division were selected by members of the California Invasive Species Advisory Committee and the poster which best exemplified the contest theme was selected as the CDFW Invasive Species Program Choice Award.
Jack Carr Ritchie, 8, of Half Moon Bay, was named the winner of the Invasive Species Program Choice Award. His poster depicts his family, represented by a Viking, utilizing prescribed fire, mechanical removal and goat grazing to control bristly oxtongue (Picris echioides) in Half Moon Bay. “We want to get rid of bristly oxtongue because it takes over everywhere and its bristles can hurt people,” Carr Ritchie wrote when submitting his poster.
The top three winners of the 2014 Invasive Species Action Week youth poster contest divisions were:
First Place: Kailan Mao, 10, Borrego Springs; subject: Sahara mustard
Second Place: Mario Giannini, 10, Chico; subject: northern pike
Third Place: Ivy Sayre, 9, Chico; subject: yellow starthistle
First Place: Charin Park, 13, Saratoga; subject: biodiversity conservation
Second Place: Rayni Kirkman, 12, Whiskeytown; subject: zebra mussel
Third Place: Clara Shapiro, 11, Chico; subject: velvetleaf
First Place: Claire Kepple, 18, Quincy; subject: gold-spotted oak borer
Second Place: Trisha Tabbay, 15, Los Angeles; subject: hydrilla
Third Place: Albert Brumat, 16, Los Angeles; subject: guava fruit fly
CDFW’s Invasive Species Program staff congratulates all the participants for their excellent work, and thank the teachers, nature centers, volunteer organizations and parents who encouraged, educated and assisted the students.
All submissions have been on display in the Nimbus Hatchery Visitor Center in Gold River during Invasive Species Action Week, Aug. 2-Aug. 10. To view the winning entries online, please visit the youth poster contest webpage at www.dfg.ca.gov/invasives/actionweek/postercontest.html.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed its 2014 waterfowl breeding population survey. The resulting data indicate the total number of breeding ducks (all species combined) remains similar to last year. The number of breeding mallards, however, has declined 20 percent compared to 2013.
The total number of breeding ducks is estimated at 448,750 compared to 451,300 last year. This estimate is 23 percent below the long-term average. The estimated breeding population of mallards is 238,700, a decrease from 298,600 in 2013, which is below the long-term average. CDFW attributes the decline to very low precipitation and poor habitat conditions. However, many other species increased in number this year.
“Habitat conditions were poor the last two years in both northeastern California and the Central Valley and the production of young ducks was reduced as a result, so a lower breeding population was expected in 2014,” said CDFW’s Waterfowl Program Biologist Melanie Weaver. “We would expect another low year of duck production from these two important areas in California in 2014. However, habitat conditions in northern breeding areas are reported to be better than average.”
CDFW has conducted this survey using fixed-wing aircraft since 1955. The California Waterfowl Association, under contract with CDFW, assists CDFW by surveying a portion of the transects using a helicopter. The population estimates are for the surveyed areas only, although surveyed areas include the majority of the suitable duck nesting habitat in the state. These areas include wetland and agricultural areas in northeastern California, the Central Valley from Red Bluff to Bakersfield, and the Suisun Marsh.
The majority of California’s wintering duck population originates from breeding areas surveyed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Alaska and Canada, and these results should be available in July. CDFW survey information, along with similar data from other Pacific Flyway states, is used by the USFWS and the Pacific Flyway Council when setting hunting regulations for the Pacific Flyway states, including California.
The federal regulation frameworks specify the outside dates, maximum season lengths and maximum bag limits. Once CDFW receives the USFWS estimates and the frameworks for waterfowl hunting regulations from the USFWS, CDFW will make a recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission regarding this year’s waterfowl hunting regulations.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers contacted more than 800 hunters while patrolling more than 14,000 square miles of Inyo and Mono counties during the deer season opener that started Sept. 20. During the opening weekend, 13 CDFW wildlife officers issued eight citations and 22 warnings.
Violations included hunting deer without a valid deer tag in possession, having loaded guns in a vehicle on a public roadway, overlimits of trout, speeding and driving without insurance.
Officers also conducted a wildlife checkpoint operation to promote safety, education and compliance with law and regulations through education, preventative patrol and enforcement.
On Monday, Sept. 23, the southbound lanes of Highway 395 were reduced to one lane and all vehicles traveling south on U.S. 395 were screened by the CDFW’s law enforcement officers. Screening consisted of an introduction and brief questions. Approximately 2,000 vehicles were contacted. Of those, 262 vehicles submitted to an inspection. A total of four violations were found, including three deer tagging violations, and one angler was found to have an overlimit of trout (32 trout). Several hunters were warned for not fully filling out their Deer Harvest Report Cards.
Average screening took less than 20 seconds per vehicle and the average inspection took about two minutes and 30 seconds per vehicle. If violations were found, the occupants were detained and issued citations.
CDFW also provided informative literature about the invasive quagga mussel and New Zealand mud snail to help reduce the spread of these invasive species.
Lt. Bill Daily, CDFW Law Enforcement, (760) 872-7360
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944
Dr. Brenda Johnson, Habitat Conservation Planning, (916) 653-0835
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420
The Natural Community Conservation Planning (NCCP) Act of 2003 is 10
years old and the organizations that make it work commend its value and effectiveness. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and its partners, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and members of the California Habitat Conservation Planning Coalition, celebrate what they have accomplished since the Legislature passed the NCCP Act of 2003.
This environmental act is the only state law in the nation designed to actively protect ecosystems using a science-based, stakeholder-driven approach. Natural Community Conservation Plans balance the conservation and long-term management of diverse plant and animal species with compatible, economically beneficial land uses.
“These plans create ‘win-win’ situations by permanently protecting vast regions of habitat while streamlining the permitting process for carefully sited development and infrastructure projects,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “They also ensure the process is open to public input.”
To date, nine large, regional plans have been approved through the CDFW NCCP Program. Together they will permanently protect more than two million acres of wildlife habitat. More than one million acres have already been protected in reserves. Seventeen other plans that will protect millions of additional acres of habitat are now being prepared. These 26 plans specifically identify more than 700 species of plants and animals, and many unique natural communities, for conservation in perpetuity. CDFW has helped direct more than $254 million in federal funds to NCCP reserve land acquisition and more than $27 million for plan preparation. California has also provided nearly $12 million to help local organizations and agencies implement approved plans.
Public Contact: Regina Abella, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3728 Media Contact: Dana Michaels, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 322-2420
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites nonprofit organizations to help wildlife by auctioning big game hunting license tags for the 2014-15 season. These tags will allow the highest bidder to hunt bighorn sheep, deer, elk and pronghorn antelope in California. Only 12 to 14 of these special fund-raising tags will be reserved for 501(c)(3)nonprofit groups to sell.
Nonprofit organizations compete for a chance to auction these special fund-raising tags, which hunters can only buy through such auctions. The possibility of winning such a rare prize attracts bidders to the groups’ fund-raising events, which helps them raise more money for their organizations.
Applications must be submitted by 4 p.m. on Oct. 14, 2013.
Fish and Game Code, section 4334 requires the proceeds from the sale of these tags to be returned to CDFW to fund programs that benefit bighorn sheep, deer, elk and pronghorn antelope. In last year’s auctions, tags for hunting two bighorn sheep, one pronghorn antelope, two elk and eight deer raised more than $385,000 for the research and management of these wildlife species.
Organizations that have previously applied or expressed interest in future opportunities to sell these tags have been notified by e-mail. Representatives of nonprofit groups without Internet access may request a printed application package by calling the CDFW Wildlife Branch at (916) 445-4034, sending a FAX to (916) 445-4048, or writing to:
Ms. Regina Abella
CDFW Wildlife Branch
1812 Ninth Street
Sacramento, CA 95811
Robert Stafford, CDFW Region 4, (805) 528-8670
Rocky Thompson, CDFW Region 4, (805) 594-6175
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is holding a lottery for apprentice wild bird quail hunts on the Chimineas Unit of the Carrizo Plains Ecological Reserve in San Luis Obispo County. These opportunities are designed for intermediate apprentice hunters who have some bird hunting experience.
The hunts will be held on Oct. 26 and 27, 2013 and guided by volunteers from the Arroyo Grande and Santa Maria Valley sportsmen’s associations. Ten permits will be drawn for each day of the hunt. All applicants will need to possess a valid junior hunting license at the time of the drawing.
All apprentice hunts are staffed by CDFW employees and trained volunteers who provide guidance and assistance to the hunters and ensure that good safety practices are followed.
Interested applicants should apply through the Game Bird Heritage link at http://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/GameBirdHeritageHunts/Default.aspx no later than Oct. 10. Late or incomplete applications will not be entered in the draw. Successful applicants will be notified by phone and will receive additional information, including maps and special regulations, prior to the hunt.
The Chimineas Unit of the Carrizo Plains Ecological Reserve is located in southeastern San Luis Obispo County. It is a 30,000-acre property owned by CDFW that was acquired for habitat protection of deer, tule elk, pronghorn antelope and a host of other wild bird species.
Media Contacts: Mark Dinger, Caltrans Public Affairs,(916) 657-5060
Dana Michaels, California Department of Fish and Wildlife,(916) 322-2420
Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) remind motorists to remain alert while driving to improve safety for travelers and wildlife alike during “Watch Out for Wildlife (WOW) Week,” September 16-22.
“It’s important that motorists, when driving through areas frequented by deer, elk and other animals, do all they can to protect themselves as well as some of California’s greatest natural resources – our wildlife,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.
The California Highway Patrol reported more than 1,800 wildlife-vehicle collisions in 2010. Approximately $1 billion in property damage is also caused by these incidents. The Defenders of Wildlife (DOW), a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting native animals and plants, reports more than 200 people are killed in collisions with deer, elk, and other wildlife each year with an estimated 1.5 million animals hit annually.
The WOW campaign is supported by Caltrans, CDFW, and the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis. Caltrans and its partners work together to protect natural resources while providing safe and effective transportation.
“It’s a shame so many animals are injured and killed on our roads every year,” said Craig Stowers, CDFW’s Deer Program Coordinator. “And it’s not a pleasant experience for the drivers who hit them, either. Many deaths, injuries, and costly vehicle repairs could be avoided if drivers would just pay more attention, be aware of when animals are most active and be prepared to react safely if an animal moves onto the road.”
Caltrans and CDFW offer a few tips for motorists:
Be particularly alert when driving in wildlife areas.
If you see an animal cross the road, know that another may be following.
Don’t litter. It could entice animals to venture onto the road.
Examples of what Caltrans, in cooperation with our partners, is doing to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions:
U.S. Highway 101, San Luis Obispo County
U.S. Highway 101 near San Luis Obispo bisects a major wildlife corridor in the Los Padres National Forest. Caltrans installed electric mats at unfenced intersections to prevent animals from entering the roadway and ramps to allow wildlife to escape from the highway, if necessary. In recognition of this effort, the California Transportation Foundation gave Caltrans its 2013 Safety Project of the Year Award.
State Route 76, San Diego County
State Route 76 serves the North County inland areas of San Diego County. Five wildlife crossings and fencing were installed as part of the SR-76 Melrose to Mission Highway Improvement Project in 2012. A wildlife movement study is now underway to determine the effectiveness of the crossings and fencing. Data gathered from the survey will help improve wildlife fencing and crossing effectiveness.
State Route 89, Sierra County
This month, Caltrans will begin Phase II of the Kyburz Wildlife Crossing Project on State Route 89 in Sierra County. Fencing and other barriers will be erected to prevent wildlife from accessing the highway and encourage use of the undercrossing. In addition, monitoring cameras will be installed to evaluate the effectiveness of the fencing and barriers.