California Fish and Game Commission Meets in Sacramento

At its December 2019 meeting in Sacramento, 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 the two-day meeting.

The Commission made a listing decision under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) regarding the foothill yellow-legged frog. Due to the level of genetic divergence, geographic isolation, and differing levels of imperilment between populations and threats within these populations, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommended separating the listing into different clades for the foothill yellow-legged frog. The Commission’s decision was consistent with that recommendation. The Commission listed the Southern Sierra, Central Coast and South Coast clades as endangered under CESA, and the Feather River and Northern Sierra clades as threatened under CESA. The Commission also decided that listing the North Coast clade is not warranted at this time. The Commission is scheduled to adopt findings for the decision at its February 2020 meeting.

The Commission recognized five newly inducted members of the California Waterfowler’s Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees are L. Ryan Broddrick, Dean A. Cortopassi, John M. Eadie, Richard Janson and Mickey W. Saso. The California Waterfowler’s Hall of Fame was established in 2006 to recognize those individuals who have made significant contributions to enhancing waterfowl and their habitats in California.

After hearing from numerous Delta anglers, the Commission voted to postpone adoption of a Delta Fisheries Management Policy and potential amendments to the Commission’s Striped Bass Policy to a future meeting.

Successful and sound management of game populations has allowed for the Commission to authorize publication of notice to amend hunting regulations for big game mammals and waterfowl. Amendments to be considered include additional hunting opportunities in some elk and desert bighorn sheep zones where populations continue to thrive, and new hunting opportunities for veterans and active military personnel for waterfowl hunting.

The Commission authorized publication of notice to amend the regulations for CDFW lands to add properties to the lists of wildlife areas and ecological reserves, and to remove properties from those lists for which CDFW no longer has management authority. This focused regulatory package also proposes authorization of new site-specific public uses, as well as other amendments to address operational or public safety concerns.

The Commission received an annual report from CDFW on management activities of the Statewide Marine Protected Area Program and heard other marine-related items.

The Commission also elected to move the dates of the next meeting to Feb. 20-21, 2020 with marine items being heard on the first day and wildlife items on the second day.

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

The full Commission agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at www.fgc.ca.gov. An archived video will also be available in coming days.

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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.

Little brown myotis

All for the Benefit of Bats: CDFW Celebrates “Bat Week” in California

October 24-31 is Bat Week, an annual international celebration of these fascinating winged mammals and the important role they play in our environment.

California is home to 25 species of bats, ranging from the commonly found Mexican free-tailed bat, a medium-sized bat that makes its home in caves, attics, under bridges and in abandoned structures, and canyon bat, smallest of California’s bats with a wingspan of about seven inches, to the western mastiff bat, which has a wingspan of almost two feet.

Bats – which are the only mammals that can fly – can be found in just about every corner of California. They serve several hugely important functions, including pest management, pollination of rare plants and seed dispersal.

About two-thirds of bats are insectivorous. Each night, a bat will consume between 50 and 100 percent of its own weight in insects. They protect our food crops and timber industry – worth more than $57 billion per year – and if it weren’t for bats, farmers might need to use far more chemical pesticides than they do now. Nationwide, the service bats provide to American agriculture by suppressing insect populations has been valued at an estimated $4 billion to $50 billion per year.

Unfortunately, population declines have caused 17 of California’s 25 native bat species to receive some level of state or federal protection. And the threat is only increasing.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) biologists are preparing for the possibility of the introduction of a fungus known to be deadly to bats. In June 2019, the fungus that causes White-nose Syndrome (WNS) was detected in low levels for the first time in Plumas County. The fungus – Pseudogymnoascus destructans – grows in and on bats’ skin during winter hibernation and spreads quickly through bat colonies. WNS has killed more than six million bats elsewhere in the U.S. and minimizing its impacts on California’s bats is a top priority for CDFW’s Nongame Wildlife Program.

“Given the huge impact WNS has had on eastern populations of bats, and its occurrence now in Washington state, it is essential to be vigilant for signs of an outbreak of the disease in California so we can take appropriate action, when needed,” says Scott Osborn, CDFW’s lead for WNS response.

Californians can learn more about WNS, including how to report bats that could be suffering from the disease, on CDFW’s website.

In addition to reporting bats that might be suffering from WNS, other ideas to promote bat conservation can be found on the Bat Week 2019 website. For example:

  • You can report bat sightings using the North American Bat Tracker, and help biologists document the location and health of existing bat colonies.
  • You can take an urban bat walk in many communities. Contact your local nature center, museum, zoo or other educational institution to see if a bat expert is available to lead a walk.
  • You can build a bat house for your own yard, helping to promote a healthy environment in your own backyard.
  • You can plant a bat-friendly garden that attracts night pollinators, like moths, that bats like to eat.

“In addition to the important ecosystem functions they provide, bats are simply amazing animals,” says Osborn. “They occupy a completely unique niche among animals: they fly, they use echolocation to navigate at night and capture insects in complete darkness, and many hibernate to escape the harsh conditions of winter when their insect prey is unavailable. When you consider all these adaptations are packaged in an animal that weighs about as much as a nickel, you can’t help but feel a sense of awe.”

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Media Contacts:
Scott Osborn, CDFW Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 324-3564

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

Mallards in flight

CDFW Completes 2019 Waterfowl Breeding Population Survey

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed its annual waterfowl breeding population survey. Mallards, gadwall and cinnamon teal comprised 85 percent of ducks observed. The survey results included the following:

  • Total breeding ducks in the survey area decreased 14 percent from 2018 and are 14 percent below the long-term average.
  • Mallards – which were the most abundant species of ducks surveyed – decreased 12 percent from 2018 and are 28 percent below the long-term average.
  • Gadwalls increased eight percent from 2018 and are 29 percent above long-term average.
  • Cinnamon teal decreased 36 percent from 2018 and are 17 percent above long-term average.

According to Dan Skalos, a CDFW waterfowl program biologist, the decline was disappointing, given near-normal precipitation levels over the past two years. “It would have been nice to see higher numbers in the survey, but there may be some increases still ahead,” Skalos said. “The abundant rainfall we saw in May likely led to a longer nesting season and should contribute to better production going forward.”

Skalos also noted that while local waterfowl production should be better than the past few years, the decrease in wildlife-friendly agriculture (e.g. wheat and other annual crops that provide important nesting cover) in the Central Valley will limit long-term improvement of populations.

CDFW biologists and warden pilots have conducted this annual survey using fixed-wing aircraft since 1948. The population estimates are for the surveyed areas only, which include the majority of the suitable duck nesting habitat in the state. Surveyed areas include wetland and agricultural areas in northeastern California, throughout the Central Valley, the Suisun Marsh and some coastal valleys.

The 2019 California Survey was flown April 22-26 in the Central Valley and May 7-9 in northeastern California. Some of the scheduled transects in the northeastern stratum were not flown due to high winds, but the survey was 100 percent complete in the Central Valley and 95 percent complete in the northeast, for a total survey effort of 99 percent.

The full Breeding Population Survey Report can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/birds/waterfowl.

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. Those survey results should be available in early August. 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.

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Media Contacts:
Dan Skalos, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3763
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

North Coast Roosevelt elk herd

CDFW to Host Public Meeting to Discuss North Coast Elk

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold a public meeting on Monday, July 15 to provide information and receive input that will help biologists refine the management plan for the North Coast Roosevelt Elk Management Unit.

The meeting will be held at Lake Earl Grange Hall, 6820 Lake Earl Drive in Fort Dick (95538), from 3:30-5 p.m. It will be a drop-in “open house” format with staff presentations, including a status update on elk populations and current elk research studies in the management unit. The public will have an opportunity to offer recommendations for consideration in the update of the management unit plan. CDFW staff will also be available to discuss hunting and landowner programs such as the Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) program.

As potential regulatory changes are considered, other in-person opportunities to provide comment will be available at the California Fish and Game Commission Wildlife Resources Committee meeting in September, and at the December Commission meeting when potential changes may be formally proposed.

For more information about the meetings, or if you cannot attend and would like to submit questions or comments, please contact CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Shawn Fresz at shawn.fresz@wildlife.ca.gov. More information about CDFW’s Elk Management Program is also available on CDFW’s website.

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Media Contacts:
Shawn Fresz, CDFW Wildlife Program, (707) 445-7850
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

overflowing trash receptacle

California Black Bears are Back in Action: Stash Food and Trash

California’s black bears are waking up hungry from their winter downtime. To help minimize unwanted bear foraging behavior, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding those living in or visiting bear country to store food and dispose of garbage properly.

Black bears typically prefer remote mountainous areas. However, as more people frequent or live in natural bear habitat, the abundance of food and garbage associated with human activities is a temptation hungry bears find hard to resist.

“Over the years, we have seen bear behavior change significantly in areas where more people live and recreate in bear habitat,” said Vicky Monroe, CDFW’s Conflict Programs Coordinator. “Beginning with spring and into late fall, we receive a steady stream of calls from the public reporting anything from bears breaking into cabins and tents to bears stealing food off picnic tables.”

Black bears, like other bear species, have a highly specialized sense of smell, which can sometimes lead them to towns and recreation areas where they may quickly find an overflowing garbage can or someone’s leftover hamburger and French fries.

The public can help bears stay out of human settlements and stick to their natural diet by properly disposing of leftover food and garbage. Additional suggestions include:

  • Residents and vacationers should remove any food attractants from around their home or rental. Pet food, barbecue grills and bird feeders are also attractants. Store trash in bear-resistant storage sheds until trash pickup day.
  • Use sensory deterrents (such as ammonia), electric mats and bear-resistant fencing to exclude hungry and curious bears from gaining access to attractants.
  • Visitors to towns and tourist areas should not pile trash in a trash can or bin that is already overflowing – take trash to a proper receptacle or another location if necessary.
  • Keep campsites and other recreation areas clean. Use bear-resistant coolers and store all food in bear lockers.
  • Never feed wildlife.

Additional information can be found on CDFW’s website, including tips on how to keep California black bears wild, information about bear proof containers and information about black bear biology.

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Media Contacts:
Lesa Johnston, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 322-8933
Victoria Monroe, CDFW Human-Wildlife Conflict Program, (916) 856-8335