California Outdoors Q&A

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  • September 22, 2022
steelhead in russian river

Planted steelhead

Q: Is CDFW doing anything to improve genetic diversity of planted steelhead?

A: Yes. CDFW follows recommendations from the Hatchery Science Review Group, requirements in Biological Opinions, and works with partner fisheries management agencies to develop Hatchery Genetic Management Plans (HGMPs). HGMPs, which are specific to each hatchery program, prioritize hatchery practices that ensure genetic diversity of the steelhead run is maintained or improved when possible. Under the HGMPs, CDFW has a target number of natural origin steelhead that are incorporated into the hatchery broodstock which ensures there is no genetic drift between hatchery and natural origin fish. These efforts coincide with assessing the run of steelhead to predict peak run timing. CDFW is making every effort to maintain genetic diversity and to keep the steelhead run sustainable for generations to come.

Hatcheries are constantly evaluating their practices and adopting the best scientific methods to maintain genetic diversity. Steelhead are produced to mitigate for construction of dams that blocked off historic spawning habitat and in order to sustain a healthy population in rivers such as the Russian, Feather and Mokelumne, to name a few, and to provide maximum angler opportunity while adhering to best hatchery management practices.

CDFW raises steelhead at several of its hatcheries including Warm Springs Fish Hatchery in Sonoma County, Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Sacramento County, and Mad River Fish Hatchery in Humboldt County.

Beaver dams

Q: How can beavers help tamp down wildfire risk?

A: Beavers are incredibly good at engineering dams that slow water down and spread it out. The process can help wet larger areas of land inducive to vegetation growth which are much greener and lusher than typical side channel growth in water restricted areas. In turn, this can act as a buffer to wildfires potentially moving through the area by either stopping the spread or slowing it down.

Funding for CDFW’s new beaver restoration program was identified and approved in June as part of the FY 22-23 Budget Act. The program funds dedicated scientists who, once hired by CDFW, will begin working on projects that help the environment by bringing beavers back to California rivers where they once thrived. This is new funding and a new program for CDFW. However, CDFW has been, and still is, involved in beaver restoration activities through some of its fisheries and restoration grant programs.

Black bears

Q: There are some problem bears in our small community of cabins and vacation homes in the Mammoth Lakes area. Specifically, we have a mother bear with two cubs routinely breaking into properties looking for food and making a mess. The property damage is extensive. Does CDFW relocate problem bears?

A: We’re very sorry to hear about these unwanted human-bear encounters. The root cause of most human-bear conflicts throughout California is black bears gaining access to food attractants such as human or pet food and garbage. This is often due to unintentional or intentional feeding, both of which are illegal in addition to being unhealthy and harmful for the bear. This leads to predictably bold and destructive bear behavior. Human-food conditioned bears lose their natural and healthy fear of people, and then they can become increasingly brazen in their attempts to gain access to human food and trash. In your case, sadly, it appears we have a sow – mother bear – teaching these destructive behaviors to her cubs.

We always recommend that you report bear issues to CDFW when they first occur and before they escalate. One of the easiest and most effective ways to report bear and other wildlife conflicts to CDFW is through our statewide online Wildlife Incident Reporting (WIR) system. These reports are closely monitored and directed to the appropriate wildlife biologists and human-wildlife conflict specialists in your area who can assist.

Given the severity of your situation, CDFW is still able to help and would be happy to meet with you and your neighbors to discuss best practices for securing food and garbage that likely are luring the bears to your community. It will take a community-wide effort to solve the problems you are now facing. CDFW staff can also suggest other non-lethal deterrents that have proven safe and effective in resolving bear conflicts such as electric fencing or electrified door mats.

Relocation is never an ideal option, as it often simply moves the problem bear to another community to deal with. Bears can be territorial, so relocating a problem bear can also set it up for a life-and-death conflict with other bears already in the area. Relocated bears can and do travel hundreds of miles to return to their home areas. CDFW’s Black Bear Policy in California, which was updated earlier this year, explains the various options for dealing with conflict bears in California. Thanks for reaching out. We look forward to working with you and your neighbors to assist in safely coexisting with your black bear neighbors.

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Categories: General