The year 2013 was anything but dull for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). A fish restoration project, a new herd of bighorn sheep, balding deer, wandering bears, abandoned lion cubs and wildlife art contests were among the top stories that defined the year.
“Each year, our staff continues to dedicate themselves to protect and preserve the state’s plant, fish and wildlife resources as well as the habitats that support them,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “I’m truly grateful for the hard work and accomplishments of everyone, including those in our volunteer programs. It’s an honor to be leading this organization into 2014.”
CDFW deals with a huge range of issues every day. The following stories are a few that were closely watched and widely covered in 2013.
Habitat Conservation Plan Kicks-off in Santa Clara Valley
The final step in one of the most ambitious conservation efforts of the past decade in California took place in 2013. CDFW along with other federal agencies issued permits for the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan, providing a framework for protecting approximately 46,500 acres of habitat in a sensitive and ecologically unique area of our state. The plan also streamlines the environmental permitting process for covered activities conducted by local agencies in an area of approximately 460,000 acres. Read more here: http://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/federal-and-state-agencies-partner-to-protect-thousands-of-acres-of-pristine-wildlife-habitat-in-santa-clara-county/.
Southern California Bears
California is home to more than 35,000 black bears, some of whom continue to stir up trouble in neighborhoods up and down the state. In Southern California along the I-210 corridor, they have become particularly persistent, attracting much media and public attention. The state’s most famous ursine, “Meatball,” brought national attention to bears and their interactions with people. Meatball was given national news coverage, received his own Twitter page, and was featured on the City of Glendale’s Rose Parade float. During the parade, the media commented about the bear’s activities, how he acquired his nickname and that he is now safely living in a facility in San Diego County. On the heels of Meatball’s fame and in an ongoing effort to educate the public about how to live responsibly in bear habitat, CDFW held its second annual Bear Aware Youth Film Contest. Two high school students from Pasadena were this year’s winners. Watch the film at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/BearFilmContest/.
Silver King Creek Paiute Cutthroat Trout Restoration Project
After years of study and planning, CDFW’s Paiute Cutthroat Trout Restoration Project began in August 2013. Approximately 50 scientists, wildlife officers and other staff hiked to the remote stream at 8,500-feet elevation and spent a week setting up, testing, treating and neutralizing the creek. This effort could lead to the removal of this extremely rare fish from the federal list of threatened species. More details can be found at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/fish/REsources/WildTrout/WT_Paiute/WT_PaiuteCutRestor.asp.
CDFW Creates First Bighorn Sheep Herd in 25 Years
Once a rare sight, Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep are on their way to recovery thanks to an effort by CDFW biologists, staff and volunteers in the Eastern Sierra. For the first time in 25 years, a new herd of the elusive and endangered sheep were translocated to the rugged mountain terrain south of Bishop. Contractors flying helicopters went into the steep terrain and captured more than a dozen male and female sheep and brought them to a staging area where they were evaluated for good health. Scientists also assessed the sheep’s genetic profile to ensure they could be successful in the wild after being released in a new area more than 50 miles from where they were captured. In 1999 there were less than 100 sheep in the wild and today there are more than 500. See a video story on this effort here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KOMCxxTL6U.
Hair Loss Syndrome Strikes States Deer Herd
California’s migratory deer population is suffering from what wildlife experts call “hair loss” syndrome. However, the real problem appears to be from the infestation of non-native lice with symptoms that range from a scruffy looking hair coat to near complete baldness. Researchers are not sure how the lice arrived, but they do suspect it is having serious impacts to the state’s deer population. Wildlife biologists speculate that the deer spend so much time grooming that they become easy targets of prey for coyotes, mountain lions and other carnivores. This impacts the survival rate of fawns, which is less than half of what it should be. In May, CDFW released an announcement profiling the extensive research being conducted. The news garnered local, state and national media attention, which reached over five million readers, viewers and listeners combined.
Marijuana Cultivation Study
CDFW’s Habitat Conservation Program conducted a groundbreaking study on the impacts of water diversions for marijuana cultivation in Humboldt and Mendocino counties. Field investigations completed in the summer of 2013, confirmed marijuana cultivation, as currently practiced, is having significant negative effects on aquatic resources and resulting in take of state and federally listed salmon and steelhead. Unregulated surface water diversions for marijuana cultivation, and the continuation of drought conditions into 2014, could greatly diminish efforts to halt the decline of commercially important fish species and potentially lead to endangered listings of other sensitive aquatic species.
San Joaquin Kit Fox Poster Contest
They’re cute but not cuddly – the endangered San Joaquin kit fox is trying to make a comeback in the Southern Central Valley but is facing many manmade hurdles including habitat loss. In March 2013, CDFW launched its first-ever San Joaquin kit fox poster contest, which asked selected high school students in Kern County to create posters to generate awareness for the plight of their furry neighbor. CDFW received more than 60 entries and announced $1,300 in sponsored prizes in June.
See the winning entries here https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.501899279889544.1073741836.130403963705746&type=3.
California’s biodiversity is unparalleled in North America and unique world-wide. Each year, the department receives a number of petitions to list California species as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. Part of the department’s trustee responsibility is to review and evaluate the status of California’s most imperiled species and make recommendation about their recovery and management. 2013 was no exception with the department receiving an unprecedented number of requests – most notably the gray wolf, (great) white shark and northern spotted owl.
CDFW’s Q&A column reaches 14 years and 700 columns milestone
Marine Environmental Scientist Carrie Wilson started the popular hunting and fishing Q&A column in January 2000 for Western Outdoor News. She began writing the column to help answer the many frequently asked hunting and fishing questions the department was regularly receiving all in one place. By November 2013, her column was published for the 700th time. With the success of the column in that publication, CDFW decided to syndicate the column in 2008 and distribute it to all media outlets statewide.
Rescued Mountain Lion Cubs in Siskiyou County
In November, CDFW staff received a report of three mountain lion cubs found in a small town located in the Salmon Mountains of Siskiyou County. After keeping an eye on the cubs for several days, staff determined they had been abandoned and needed help. CDFW intervened and obtained the cubs providing veterinary care, food and shelter. Because they lost their mother so young, they will also never have the opportunity to learn the hunting and survival skills necessary to live in the wild. CDFW worked tirelessly to place them in appropriate facilities in Kansas and Texas that will care for them and keep them safe for the rest of their lives. See the lion cubs here https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.572246906188114.1073741846.130403963705746&type=3.
Trout Fest Series Expands in Central Valley
California is home to some of the best trout, bass, sturgeon and salmon fishing in the nation. In the Central Valley, CDFW hosts “Trout Fest” –a free, hands-on event held at local hatcheries to introduce the public to the sport of responsible fishing. Participants learn proper fishing techniques, how to clean and cook a fish, and the role of the hatchery system. The annual event has seen tremendous success and has grown from one centralized location to four.