California Outdoors Q&A

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  • March 7, 2024
Monarch butterfly outdoors

Butterflies in Education

Q: How would you suggest schools teach the life cycle of caterpillars becoming butterflies?

A: Monarch butterflies are the best known of California’s butterflies, however due to their population fluctuating dramatically in recent years, a scientific collecting permit from CDFW is needed to raise them for educational and other purposes.

Fortunately, there are other ways for teaching about metamorphosis. Instead of captive rearing, CDFW strongly suggests educators create habitat to teach children about butterflies and other pollinators such as bees and birds. This allows children to see these animals in a more natural environment while still providing the opportunity to view all stages of the butterfly lifecycle and a permit is not needed.

When creating habitat, it’s important to include appropriate host plants, like a native milkweed species for monarch butterflies, pipevine for pipevine swallowtail butterflies or fennel for the anise swallowtail butterflies. Another key component is making sure you have an abundance of plants that provide nectar. CDFW recommends using native plants because ornamental plants often are bred to be showy but not for their ability to produce the pollen and nectar pollinators need. Finally, pesticides should be avoided.

Advanced Hunting Clinics

Q: Does CDFW offer hunting instruction that goes beyond the basic certification level?

A: CDFW’s Advanced Hunter Education (AHE) program offers in-person clinics and virtual webinars that increase a hunter’s skill set. Since the reduction of COVID-19 restrictions, CDFW has been able to increase the number of clinics, which offer information on the type of firearm to use, ammunition, tracking, field dressing, shoot-don’t shoot scenarios, conservation and safety. CDFW aims to increase the number of in-person clinics scheduled throughout the state.

Clinics are offered throughout the state and nearly every month of the year. The classes are meant to focus on the techniques of hunting, as opposed to covering just the basics of safe and ethical hunting.

“Don’t let the word ‘advanced’ fool you. You do not have to be advanced to attend these clinics or webinars,” said CDFW Hunter Education Administrator Captain Shawn Olague. “The program is geared toward giving participants the knowledge and confidence to pursue  activities they are interested in. You will leave an event with a newfound understanding that will help you be more successful in the field.” 

Traditionally the most popular clinics cover wild pig, turkey and waterfowl hunting. Other topics include hunting backcountry big game, avoiding wilderness emergencies, hunting with air guns and even the art of sausage-making. The full 2024 list of topics, dates and locations is found at Advanced Hunter Education.

View past Advanced Hunter Education webinars via the recordings that are placed on the CDFW YouTube channel. The videos can also be found on the Advanced Hunting Clinics home page.

Salmon Making a Wrong Turn

Q: I remember a story late last year about salmon apparently getting lost on their way back to their natural spawning location. Why do fish sometimes get lost and choose the wrong stream or river?

A: In November, several salmon swimming upstream to spawn were found dying or dead in a small North Stockton (San Joaquin County) creek. The fish were likely trying to find their way to the Mokelumne River many miles to the north instead.

Usually, salmon raised in hatcheries find their way back to their native river for spawning season, but some take wrong turns along the way. There are several potential reasons for that. It’s believed fish raised in hatchery settings don’t have quite the same strong olfactory (smelling) skills that guide them to the river they were hatched. Also, many rivers in northern California are connected to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and it’s possible through changing tides and flows that water from one river is mixing with water from other rivers, and that can confuse salmon returning upstream.

“There’s a natural instinct of fish to follow flow,” said Jason Julienne, the senior environmental scientist who oversees CDFW’s Sacramento Valley anadromous fish hatcheries. “And where you have a mixing of flows from different tributaries, as is the case in the Delta, it can confuse adult Chinook salmon coming back to the Central Valley that are depending on sense of smell cues to get where they’re supposed to go.”

Other factors that can contribute to fish straying include the trucking of fish downstream to a release point, and water delivery operations such as diversions, pumping and dam releases.

CDFW can determine the origin of raised fish thanks to a coded wire tag that’s implanted in a portion of all hatchery-raised fish at about five months old. The tag is uniquely coded to the hatchery where it was raised, it contains information indicating the age of the fish and the location where it was released.

It's also possible (and fairly common) for fish to make it all the way back to a different hatchery than the facility where they were raised.

Categories: General