Human-Wildlife Conflicts Program

Coyote walking with head down 


Mountain Lion profile Mountain Lion
Profile of a black bear Black Bear
Young Raccoon in Tree Raccoon
two male turkeys Wild Turkey

As the State’s trustee agency for fish and wildlife resources, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife serves as the lead agency charged with helping to resolve human-wildlife conflict, public safety, and depredation.

California is home to the most natural diversity of any state with a human population expected to grow to 50 million by 2050. Most human-wildlife interactions do not escalate to conflict. Learn how to prevent, address, and transform human-wildlife conflicts.

Wildlife Incident Reporting

The Wildlife Incidence Reporting (WIR) System is a statewide online reporting system to submit wildlife incidents, sightings, and request technical assistance. CDFW uses the WIR System to respond to incident reports, collect data, and monitor reporting trends. Only four other states use a similar type of online reporting system.

WIR Incident Response Categories

  • Animal Welfare - Orphaned, sick, injured, or displaced wildlife requiring assistance;
  • General Nuisance - Wildlife considered a nuisance, no significant property damage has occurred;
  • Property Damage - Wildlife has caused harm or damage (depredation) to personal property, pets or livestock;
  • Perceived Public Safety - Circumstances indicate a possible threat to human health or safety, as perceived by the reporting party;
  • Public Safety - Wildlife has injured a human or human injury is determined to be likely without intervention;
  • Sighting - Observations of wildlife not otherwise characterized or requiring a response.

Technical Assistance

The Human-Wildlife Conflicts Toolkit provides valuable information on how to reduce or prevent conflicts. CDFW staff can also provide technical assistance by phone, email, mail, or in-person. They may investigate reported property damage (depredation), human-wildlife interactions or conflict, public safety, wildlife health issues, and more.

Science Spotlight: Meet CDFW’s new statewide Regional Wildlife Conflict Specialists Team!

Top Reported Wildlife Incident Types

  • Property Damage (30%) - Most reported species: black bear, coyote, mountain lion, wild pig.
  • Animal Welfare (24%) - Most reported species: birds (various), black bear, deer, foxes.
  • General Nuisance (20%) - Most reported species: black bear, coyote, raccoon, foxes.

Who To Contact

Public Safety Emergency? Call 9-1-1

Education and Outreach

Public education, community outreach, and engagement on a local level are vital to effectively address human-wildlife conflicts and support safe human-wildlife interactions. CDFW works closely with staff, agency partners, stakeholders, and diverse communities throughout California. Learn more!

CDFW regularly works with others to increase awareness of important wildlife issues, including through the development of educational materials, news releases, seasonal campaigns, and participation in community events.

Laws and Regulations

Knowing how to safely and effectively address human-wildlife conflicts may feel overwhelming. What methods you may use are governed by federal, state, and local laws, and regulations. It is your responsibility to follow all laws and regulations. Learn more!

The CDFW Law Enforcement Division works with other law enforcement and agency partners to protect and conserve fish and wildlife, and serve the public in California.


Proposed laws must first go through a bill process, be sponsored and passed, before being signed into law. There are federal, state, and local laws. Below are some, but not all, fish and wildlife laws:

California Fish And Game Code

California Penal Code

  • Cruelty to Animals [§597].
    • It is unlawful to maliciously and intentionally maim, mutilate, or torture any wildlife pursuant this code.

California Health and Safety Code

California Food and Agricultural Code

Federal Laws

  • Bald Eagle Protection Act (1940)
    • It is unlawful, without Federal permit, to take, possess, sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, at any time or manner any bald eagle or golden eagle, alive or dead.
  • Endangered Species Act (1973)
    • The purpose of the Act is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.
  • Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918)
    • It is unlawful, without Federal permit, to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird.


Regulations are rules created by a governmental agency, often to implement a law. An agency holds a public hearing, then makes a decision to adopt or reject a regulation. CDFW implements and enforces regulations set by the Fish and Game Commission. Listed are some regulations, but not all:

California Code of Regulations

TITLE 14. Natural Resources. Division 1. Fish and Game Commission-Department of Fish and Wildlife.

TITLE 14. NATURAL RESOURCES. Division 3. Department of Parks and Recreation.

  • §4305. Animals. It is unlawful within a State Park to molest, hunt, disturb, harm, feed, touch, tease, or spotlight any kind of animal or fish or so attempt.

TITLE 17. PUBLIC HEALTH. Division 1. State Department of Health Services.

  • §2606. Rabies, Animal. Any person having knowledge of the whereabouts of a rabid or suspected rabid animal, or of any person or animal bitten by a rabid or suspected rabid animal shall report the facts immediately to a local health officer.
  • §2606.8. Skunk Rabies.

Code of Federal Regulations



Drought Response

California experienced it's longest period of extreme drought in recent history from December 2011 to March 2019. CDFW received funding from the Governor's Emergency Drought Relief Fund to develop a Drought Response Implementation Plan for Human-Wildlife Conflicts (DRIP).

  • CDFW recorded no fewer than 35,243 staff hours responding to 30,763 wildlife incidents (September 2015 - June 2017).
  • Funds supported staff time for incident responses, data reporting, and vital equipment purchases.
  • CDFW standardized its data collection and reporting protocols and coordinated statewide response.
  • DRIP Species Summary Reports were generated for the top reported conflict species.

This project demonstrated the need for effective wildlife incident response in California. The total impact to residents is unknown. No comprehensive pre-drought data exists.

DRIP Species Summary Reports

Human-Wildlife Conflicts Toolkit


There are 25 known bat species in California, such as the little brown bat (Myotis species), Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis), and hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus). Most bats eat insects and can eat up to 100% their body weight in insects each night. Some species eat nectar or fruit. There are no bat species in California that consume blood.

Bats provide valuable ecosystem benefits, including the control of insect populations (which can help protect crops), plant pollination, and nutrient dispersersal. Bat populations are at risk due to diseases (such as White-Nose Syndrome), habitat loss, and roost disturbance. Seventeen bat species in California are rare and/or Species of Special Concern. Bats found in or near a building should not be handled. Some bats may carry rabies.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:

If a person or pet is exposed to a bite, saliva, or scratched by a bat, notify your local health department immediately.


There are two beaver species in California: the American beaver (Castor canadensis) and the Mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa). American beavers are more commonly distributed. By the early 1900's, American beavers had nearly gone extinct due to the demand for beaver pelts as part of the fur trade.

Beavers provide many ecosystem benefits. Natural activities, such as building dams, can create new wildlife habitat, regulate water flow, reduce the intensity of fire on a landscape, and improve water quality downstream. These same activities may cause concern of property damage to crops, timber, or human infrastructure.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:


California is home to one of the most diverse variety of bird species in North America. These birds provide many ecosystem benefits including, but not limited to, serving as pollinators, predators, scavengers, and seed dispersers. Many birds in California are Species of Special Concern as a result of habitat loss.

For more information on how to coexist with birds visit: Living Around Birds (USFWS)

Birds of Prey

There are over 30 bird of prey species (raptors) in California. This group of birds consists of eagles, falcons, hawks, harriers, kites, and owls. Raptors are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, in addition to other federal and state laws and regulations.

Some raptors are predators and hunt live prey, such as rodents and rabbits. Other species are scavengers with a diverse diet including dead, sick or injured animals. Raptors provide significant ecosystem benefits including helping control rodent populations. Raptors may cause concerns due to property damage when hunting or nesting or health hazard due to sick or dead birds (disease outbreak). Some raptors may be seen along roads looking for roadkill and may be at risk of injury due to vehicles. 

Prevent Potential Conflicts:

Condors & Vultures

California is home to two species of vultures, the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) and the endangered California condor (Gymnogyps californianus). Vultures are scavengers that primarily eat dead animals. They lack sharp talons (claws) and do not usually consume live prey. These birds have strong beaks for tearing into food, as well as excellent eyesight and sense of smell that they use while searching of food. Both species are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, in addition to other federal and state laws.

Vultures provide significant ecosystem benefits by consuming deceased and roadkill animals. They are highly intelligent and social birds. Vultures may cause concerns due to property damage or health hazard when when gathering in large roosts (communal perching areas).

Prevent Potential Conflicts:

Crows & Ravens

California is home to the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) and common raven (Corvus corax). Both species are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and can be found throughout California. Ravens are much larger than crows and may travel in pairs, while crows are smaller and flock in large groups (a “murder” of crows).

Both crows and ravens are scavengers and can eat almost anything including seeds, dead or injured animals, and other birds. They provide many ecosystem benefits in this role. When gathering in large groups, crows may cause concern due to property damage or health hazard. Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus (WNV) to crows. Crows cannot transmit WNV to humans.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:

Geese & Ducks

California provides important habitat each year for millions of migratory waterfowl to feed, shelter, and nest along the Pacific Flyway (migration path). Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) and mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) are some of the most commonly seen waterfowl. Waterfowl are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, in addition to other federal and state laws and regulations.

Waterfowl provide many ecosystem benefits including as nutrient and seed dispersers. They can be migratory or year-round residents. Large resident flocks may cause concern due to property damage, health hazard, and water quality concerns.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:


There are more than 15 species of gulls in California, including the California gull (Larus californicus), ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis), and Western gull (Larus occidentalis). They are social birds with a diverse diet, including insects, fish, rodents, and eggs. Gulls are commonly referred to as “seagulls”, though they do not only live in coastal environments or near bodies of water. All gulls are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Gulls are an important part of the natural food chain. Some gull species have learned to exploit resources provided in human-modified areas, where flocks may be seen around parks, parking lots, unsecured dumpsters, and landfills. Large flocks may cause concern of property damage, human health or safety hazards, and water quality issues.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:


There are two species of pelicans commonly found in California. These are the American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) and the California brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis). Pelicans can be seen along California's coasts as well as inland on large lakes or rivers.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:

Wild Turkeys

Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are a non-native game bird that were introduced to California in 1877. There are five subspecies of wild turkey distributed throughout the state. Male turkeys, or “gobblers", have a "beard" of modified feathers on their neck and sharp spurs on their legs for fighting other males - both of which are used to impress female turkeys, or “hens”.

Wild turkeys provide an ecosystem benefit by helping to control insect populations. They also eat leaves, grasses, fruits, berries, and seeds, in addition to insects. Turkeys may cause concern due to crop damage and other property damage. During the mating season, male turkeys can also become territorial or aggressive.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:


There are 17 woodpecker species found in California, including acorn woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus), northern flicker (Colaptes auratus), and Nuttall's woodpecker (Dryobates nuttallii). Two species are listed as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act: the gila woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) and gilded northern flicker (Colaptes auratus chrysoide). All woodpeckers are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

A woodpecker diet is diverse and may include insects, acorns, nuts, seeds, berries, and sap. Woodpeckers provide many many ecosystem benefits that include controlling insect populations, dispersing seeds, and creating shelter for other species. Woodpeckers may cause concern due to property damage or noise disturbance as they build nests, search for food, or use surfaces to “drum” (social display). Physical exclusion is more effective than frightening devices or repellents.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:

Black Bear

The black bear (Ursus americanus) is the only bear species living in California today. The last documented sighting of a California grizzly was in 1924, but black bears continue to be misidentified as grizzlies due to their wide range of coat colorations (including blonde, brown, cinnamon, or black). The statewide black bear population is estimated to be between 30,000 and 40,000. Black bears occur in a diversity of habitats, including natural, rural, and residential areas.

Black bears provide many ecosystem benefits by serving as seed dispersers, scavengers, and predators. Bears are omnivores (eating meat and plants) and will consume nearly anything, including seeds, plants, berries, other animals, pet food, human food, and trash (if unsecured). Bears are intelligent and adaptable, and they can learn to associate particular places or situations with finding food. Black bears may cause concern due to property damage, loss of small livestock or pets, or public safety as they search for food, as they can become habituated to and lose their fear of humans.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:

CDFW Video Presentations

Bighorn Sheep & Pronghorn

California is home to diverse species of large game species, such as bighorn sheep and pronghorn. These species provide many ecosystem benefits as nutrient and seed dispersers, and by providing food for other animals. In California, game species are carefully managed and conserved to maintain healthy populations.

Bighorn Sheep

There are two subspecies of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) in California: Sierra Nevada bighorn (Ovis canadensis sierrae, federally and state endangered species) and desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni, federally endangered, state threatened species). Bighorn populations across the state were severely reduced during the 19th and 20th centuries due to respiratory disease spread by domestic livestock, forage competition, habitat loss, and unregulated market hunting.

Both rams (males) and ewes (females) have horns that are used for defense, fighting, and even eating (e.g., scraping spines off of cacti). Bighorn sheep have specialized hooves that provide a natural grip to climb up and down steep cliffs. They feed on grasses in the summer and browse on shrubs in the fall and winter, moving up and down in elevation depending on food availability. Mountain lions can heavily prey on bighorn herds in some areas of the state.

Bighorn sheep may come into conflict with humans due to property damage (such as golf courses), animal welfare concerns if they become entangled in fencing, public safety when crossing roads, or from competition with livestock for food and water.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:


Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), commonly called pronghorn antelope, are not a “true” antelope species. They are native only to North America and once occurred throughout much of California. Pronghorn are now primarily distributed in the northeast part of the state. Both bucks and does have horns - not antlers - that are shed each year.

Pronghorn are social, with migrating herds traveling between their summer and winter range each year. They are North America's fastest land animal reaching speeds up to 55 miles an hour. Their diet may include flowering plants, cacti, and grasses, and most of their water comes from plants that they eat. Pronghorn may come into conflict with humans due to property damage and animal welfare concerns if they become entangled in fencing, or public safety crossing roads.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:


Bobcats (Lynx rufus) can be found in diverse habitats throughout much of California. They have short "bobbed" tails and black ear tufts and are about twice the size of a typical house cat. Bobcats are often mistaken for mountain lions, as well as lynx, however there are no lynx in California. The bobcat's diet is diverse and can include birds, rabbits, rodents, reptiles, and fawns.

Bobcats provide many ecosystem benefits by helping to control rodent and other small prey populations. They are solitary and typically avoid humans but may cause concern due to property damage as they hunt for food. Unsecured poultry or small pets may be mistaken for prey. Effective January 1, 2020, hunting or trapping bobcats is prohibited in California.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:


Coyotes (Canis latrans) are native to and found commonly throughout California. They can adapt to diverse habitats including rural, residential, and urban areas. Most coyotes live in family groups and establish territories, and they may be heard calling to each other (yipping, howling, barking) at any time of the day- most often at night.

Coyotes provide many ecosystem benefits, such as controlling rodent and other small mammal populations. Coyotes will consume nearly anything, including rodents, rabbits, birds and eggs, reptiles, fruits, and plants, as well as pet food, human food, and trash (if unsecured). Coyotes may cause concern due to property damage, loss of small livestock or pets, or public safety as they search for food, as they can become habituated to and lose their fear of humans.

Preventing Potential Conflicts:

CDFW Video Presentations

Deer & Elk

California is home to diverse species of large game species, such as deer and elk. These species provide many ecosystem benefits as nutrient and seed dispersers, and as food for other animals. In California, game species are carefully managed and conserved to maintain healthy populations.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:


California is home to 6 subspecies of deer (Odocoileus hemionus spp.): the California mule deer, Columbian black-tailed deer, Desert mule deer, Inyo mule deer, Rocky Mountain mule deer, Southern mule deer. Deer may be migratory or resident. Migrating herds travel between their summer range (high elevation) and winter range (low elevation) each year. Resident herds stay rear-round in one area.

Deer diet may include grasses, plants, acorns, bark and buds. Deer may cause concerns due to property damage as they feed, public safety crossing roads, or health hazard due to diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease. They may browse gardens, orchards or vineyards if “deer-proof” fencing or deterrents are not used. If fed, deer can also lose their fear of humans and their presence may attract predators.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:


California is home to three species of elk (Cervus canadensis spp.): the Roosevelt elk, Rocky Mountain elk, and Tule elk. Tule and Roosevelt elk are native to the state. Rocky Mountain elk are non-native and were first introduced in 1966 for game farming and hunting purposes.

Elk establish resident herds year-round and each species prefers specific habitat. Their diet can include grasses, forbs, plants, shrubs, trees (up to 6 feet), fungi, and aquatic vegetation. Elk may also feed on crops, orchards or vineyards. Elk may cause concerns due to property damage as they forage, public safety crossing roads, or health hazard due to disease such as bovine tuberculosis

Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with elk:


There are several fox species in California, including the gray fox, red fox, desert kit fox, and San Joaquin kit fox. They are intelligent and highly adaptive. Foxes may be seen in diverse habitats statewide. A fox diet may include birds, rodents, rabbits, and squirrels. Foxes provide many ecosystem benefits helping control rodents and other small prey populations.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:

Gray fox

Gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) are a native species to California. They may be seen in natural habitat and rural areas statewide. Gray foxes are most active at dawn, dusk and night. They are the only fox species that climbs trees.

The gray fox diet is diverse and includes rodents, rabbits, squirrels, insects, berries and nuts. Gray foxes may cause concerns due to property damage when hunting for food or health hazard if showing signs of disease like canine distemper. Gray foxes avoid people. Feeding foxes can increase the risk of disease to other wildlife or pets.

Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with gray foxes:

Kit fox

There are two subspecies of kit fox (Vulpes macrotis spp.) in California: the San Joaquin kit fox and the Desert kit fox. The San Joaquin (SJ) kit fox is protected under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) and the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The Desert kit fox has no special status. Kit fox populations are threatened by major habitat loss; disease; rodenticides; and competition or predation from larger animals like coyotes, bobcats, red foxes or dogs. Desert kit foxes weigh up to 3.5 lbs. with large ears and a small, narrow face. SJ kit foxes are similar in appearance, but slightly larger, weighing up to 5 lbs.

A kit fox's natural diet includes plants, insects, rodents, squirrel, birds, and lizards. Kit foxes may cause concerns due to property damage when denning or may restrict human activity when actively searching for food or potential den sites. They may also cause health concerns if sick with mange. The largest SJ kit fox population is located within Bakersfield city limits and these urban foxes may eat pet food, human food or trash. Kit foxes avoid people, unless fed, at which point they lose their fear of humans.

Prevent potential conflicts:

Red fox

Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are a non-native species found throughout California. They can thrive in many different habitats, including rural or urban areas. This species should not be confused with the rare and threatened native Sierra Nevada Red Fox.

Red foxes have a diverse diet that can include rodents, birds, squirrels, chickens and their eggs, human food, and trash. Red foxes may cause concerns due to property damage when hunting for food or cause health concerns if showing signs of disease like canine distemper. Feeding foxes can increase the risk of spreading disease to other wildlife or pets. 

Prevent potential conflicts:

Marine Wildlife

California is home to diverse marine wildlife, including birds, fish, and mammals such as sea lions and sea otters (PDF). These marine species, including threatened or endangered species, may be seen along coastlines statewide.

Marine wildlife are protected by State and Federal laws and regulations, such as the Marine Life Protection Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This law prohibits the "take" of any marine mammal, which includes harassing, disturbing, feeding, capturing, injuring or hunting.

Marine wildlife provide many ecosystem benefits, but may cause concerns due to property damage, health, or public safety if they gather in large groups or come in contact with humans. Injured, sick, oiled, or entangled wildlife may also cause concern for animal welfare. Disturbance by people can cause injury, disease, habituation, avoidance, or site abandonment while breeding or raising young. Do not feed or touch marine wildlife.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:

Mountain Lion

Mountain lions (Puma concolor), also known as cougars, pumas, panthers, or catamounts, are a native species typically found in the mountains and foothills of California. They are usually solitary, except when females are raising young. Most mountain lions will establish and defend a territory, ranging from 100 square miles for males and 20-60 square miles for females. Mountain lions are a "specially protected mammal" in California under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1990.

A natural diet mainly consists of deer, but may include smaller species such as raccoons and rodents. Mountain lions provide many ecosystem benefits by helping to maintain healthy large prey populations. Mountain lions may cause concern due to property damage if they mistake livestock or pets for food while hunting, or as concern for public safety if they encounter people. They actively avoid humans. Feeding other wildlife, such as deer or raccoons, may attract mountain lions.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:

CDFW Outreach Resources

Native Insects & Spiders

California is home to a large variety of native insects and spiders found in rural, suburban, and urban areas. No one knows for certain how many native insect or spider species live here, but there are estimated to be over 28,000 species in the state - more than anywhere else in the United States. New species are still being discovered.

California insects and spiders provide many ecosystem benefits as pollinators, predators, seed and nutrient dispersers, and consumers of dead plant matter. They also play a role as a key food source for other animals. They may cause concern due to agricultural or property damage, or from the standpoint of human health and safety.

Learn More:

CDFW Video Presentation:


There are at least 200 species of ants in California, including California harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex californicus), western carpenter ants (Camponotus modoc), and honey ants (Myrmecocystus mexicanus). Ants are closely related to bees and wasps. The majority of ants are social and form large colonies, where ants care for all stages of rearing young (some species even “control” other ant species to carry out worker ant chores!).

Learn More:

Bees and Wasps

Over 2,000 species of bees and wasps are found throughout California, including the western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis), tarantula hawk (Pepsis thisbe), urban anthophora bee (Anthophora urbana), western yellowjacket (Vespula pensylvanica), and orange-banded burrowing bee (Andrena prunorum). Some bee and wasp species are considered threatened, such as the Crotch bumble bee (Bombus crotchii) - a candidate species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The honey bee (Aphis mellifera) is not native to California and was introduced in 1850, though the species is now found throughout the state. 

Learn More:


Over 8,000 species of beetles occur in California, including ironclad beetle (Phloeodes diabolicus), California acorn weevil (Curculion uniformis), western pine beetle (Dendroctonus brevicomis), northern carrion beetle (Thanatophilus lapponicus), California glowworm beetle (Ellychnia californica), and ten-lined june beetle (Polyphylla decemlineata). Some species of beetles are considered endangered, such as the Sacramento beetle (Anthicus sacramento). Beetles occur in nearly every kind of habitat, and while most species have two pairs of wings not all beetles are able to fly.

Learn More:


There are at least 200 species of grasshoppers in California, including California sulphur-winged grasshopper (Arphia behrensi), Sierran blue-winged grasshopper (Circotettix undulatus), dragon lubber (Dracotettix monstrosus), and Koebel’s desert long-horned grasshopper (Tanaocerus koebelei). Some species of grasshoppers are considered endangered, such as the Lompoc grasshopper (Trimerotropis occulens) and Santa Monica Mountains grasshopper (Trimerotropis occidentaloides). Grasshoppers have well developed hind legs for jumping, and some “sing” to attract mates by rubbing their hind leg and forewing.

Learn More:

Mosquitos and Flies

There are more than 50 species of mosquitos and 400 species of flies in California, including the valley black gnat (Leptoconops carteri), cool-weather mosquito (Culiseta incidens), punkies (Culicoides spp.), western treehole mosquito (Ochlerotatus sierrensis), and black flies (Simulium spp.). Only female flies and mosquitoes bite other animals when in search of a blood meal (where most males lack biting mouthparts entirely!). Mosquito saliva contains an anti-coagulant, and this is what causes skin to form an itchy bump after biting. When controlling for mosquitos within aquatic habitats, consider that mosquitos may share habitat that also supports dragonflies, damselflies, and other insects.

Learn More:


There are more than 47 species of ticks California, such as the pacific coast tick (Dermacentor occidentalis), western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus), and American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis). Ticks are known for their “questing” behavior, where a tick will climb up a blade of grass or other plant and wait with its front legs outstretched, hoping to grab hold of a passing animal.

Learn More:


There are at least 65 species of spiders in California, including the western black widow (Latrodectus hesperus), California ebony tarantula (Aphonopelma eutylenum), and California red jumping spider (Phidippus adumbratus). Some spiders are considered threatened, such as the Dolloff cave spider (Meta dolloff)—one of the rarest spiders in North America. Contrary to popular belief, there are no known populations of the brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) in the state. Spiders are important insect predators.

Learn More:

Native Small Rodents

California is home to a variety of native small rodent species, including gophers, voles, mice, and woodrats. Small rodents are found in rural, suburban, and urban areas. Native rodent diets are diverse and may include seeds, nuts, plants, fungi, insects, other animals, and pet food or trash (if unsecured).

Native rodents provide many ecosystem benefits as nutrient and seed dispersers and serve as a key food source for other animals. Native small rodents may cause concern due to property damage or as a source of human health concerns. 

Prevent Potential Conflicts:


There are at least five species of pocket gophers in California: the Northern pocket gopher (Thomomys talpoides), Mazama pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama), Mountain pocket gopher (Thomomys monticola), Townsend’s pocket gopher (Thomomys townsendii), and most commonly observed Botta’s pocket gopher (Thomomys bottae).

Gophers are referred to as “pocket” gophers because of their fur-lined cheek pouches that hold and carry food items. Gopher damage is often confused with mole damage: gopher burrows are crescent / horse-shoe-shaped when viewed from above and are usually plugged, and they don’t typically leave above-ground tunnel systems.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:


There are over fifteen species of native mice in California, including the Pacific jumping mouse (Zapus trinotatus), deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), and Western harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis). Some native species are endangered, such as the salt marsh harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys raviventris). Some species have large cheek pouches to hold and carry food items (e.g., California pocket mouse, Chaetodipus californicus) or are known for their song-like vocalizations (e.g., Southern grasshopper mouse, Onychomys torridus).

Mice have keen vision, hearing, and sense of smell, and will use both vocalizations and chemical cues when communicating with other mice. Mice will readily climb trees and shrubs and will sometimes enter vacant buildings or homes to build their nests. 

Prevent Potential Conflicts:


There are at least ten species of vole species in California, including: the muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), red tree vole (Arborimus longicaudus), California red-backed vole (Clethrionomys californicus), sagebrush vole (Lemmiscus curtatus), and the widely distributed California meadow vole (Microtus californicus). Some subspecies of voles are endangered, such as the Amargosa vole (Microtus californicus scirpensis).

Voles can have 5-10 litters per year (averaging 3-6 young per litter) and can reproduce throughout the entire year- though typically in spring and summer. Voles mostly live underground with some species living in trees, but they are also excellent climbers and swimmers.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:


There are at least five species of woodrats in California: the desert woodrat (Neotoma lepida), busy-tailed woodrat (Neotoma cinerea), white-throated woodrat (Neotoma albigula), big-eared woodrat (Neotoma macrotis), and the widely distributed dusky-footed woodrat (Neotoma fuscipes). Some subspecies of woodrats are endangered, such as the riparian woodrat (Neotoma fuscipes riparia).

These species are known for building large nests (or “middens”) with multiple rooms that may be maintained by generations of woodrat families and can be centuries old. Woodrats are commonly called “packrats”, due their interesting habit of gathering and collecting small objects.

Prevent Potential Conflicts:

Opossum, Raccoon, Skunk

Raccoons, opossums, and skunks are some of the more common wildlife that may be seen throughout California. Each of these species have diverse diets that may include berries, plants, nuts, insects, eggs, birds, rodents, and fish. These animals provide many ecosystem benefits as seed dispersers, food for other animals, and helping control insect and rodent populations.


Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana) are the only marsupials in North America, where young are born after a 13-day gestation period and continue to grow within their mother's pouch, later riding on her back. Often referred to as "possums" (which is actually different species). Opossums are not native to California and were introduced in 1910 from the east coast. The species has adapted to living in natural, rural, and urban environments throughout the state.

If frightened, opossums may defensively open their mouths to show off their 50 teeth, as well as hiss, drool, or even "play dead". Opossums are known to consume more than 90% of the ticks they encounter (potentially reducing the spread of Lyme Disease) and they are almost completely immune to rabies and venom from snake bikes. They are mostly active at night and typically avoid other animals and people. Opossums may cause concerns as disease vectors (such as Typhus) or when searching for shelter and food- including pet food or trash (if left unsecured).

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Raccoons (Procyon lotor) are a common species seen throughout California in natural, rural, and urban environments. They are mostly nocturnal and typically avoid people, though they may be seen during the day while searching for food. Their diet is diverse and includes fruit, nuts, birds, fish, eggs, and small mammals, as well as pet food and trash (if left unsecured). Raccoons have an excellent sense of touch that is amplified in water- hence, raccoons were thought to "wash" their food when foraging.

Raccoons are adaptable animals that may become habituated to, and lose their fear of, humans if fed. Raccoons may cause concerns due to property damage while searching for shelter or food, or due to potential disease transmission (such as distemper or rabies). If attracted to one area, they may leave droppings in the same location (known as a latrine (PDF)) which can increase risk of exposure to roundworm.

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There are two skunk species in California: the spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis) and striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis). Spotted skunks are more nocturnal and typically live in more natural habitats (they are not often seen). Striped skunks are more adaptive and may be found in natural, rural, and urban areas, and they may be active during the day or night. A skunk's diet is diverse and may include fruit, nuts, insects, rodents, reptiles, and eggs, as well as pet food or trash (if left unsecured).

Skunks have poor eyesight, but possess a strong sense of smell that they use to forage for food. Skunks that feel threatened or scared may release a strong-smelling musk, or "spray", for protection, though this is often a last resort strategy to scare away potential predators. They typically avoid other animals and people, but may become habituated to, or lose their fear of, humans if fed. Skunks may cause concern due to property damage while searching for food or shelter, and they may carry diseases (such as rabies).

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Rattlesnakes are widely distributed throughout California and live in a variety of habitats. There are seven species of rattlesnakes in California, and all are venomous. When threatened, snakes will shake the “rattle” at the end of their tail (made up of keratin, the same material as fingernails) to scare away potential predators. Rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive and would prefer to be left alone. Rattlesnakes may be susceptible to diseases such as Snake Fungal Disease.

Rattlesnakes provide an ecosystem benefit by helping to maintain healthy rodent and small mammal populations. Rattlesnakes may come into conflict with humans if found near homes, in yards, or along foot trails. Most human bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally touched by someone who is walking or climbing near it.

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In the event of an emergency situation (rattlesnake bite), call 9-1-1 and seek medical attention immediately.

Squirrels, Rabbits, Moles

California is home to many species of squirrels, rabbits, and moles. Many of these species are some of the most common wildlife seen in residential and urban areas. Squirrels, rabbits, and moles provide many ecosystem benefits as nutrient and seed dispersers, and food for other animals.

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Ground Squirrel

There are many ground squirrel species seen in diverse habitat throughout California. They live in colonies and share burrows. The most common species is the California ground squirrel squirrel sitting on rock in front of tree (Otospermophilus beecheyi). Some species are threatened or endangered, such as the Mojave ground squirrel (Xerospermophilus mohavensis).

A ground squirrel diet consists of seeds, plants, fruits, and insects. California ground squirrels may also eat pet food, animal feed, or trash (if left unsecured). Ground squirrels may cause concern due to property damage when searching for food or digging burrows, or if showing signs of disease (such as plague). Do not handle sick or dead ground squirrels.

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Tree Squirrel

There are four species of tree squirrel in California: the native Douglas squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) and western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus), and non-native eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger).squirrel sitting on wooden platform eating seedsTree squirrels are often the most common wildlife seen in cities, parks and campuses statewide.

A tree squirrel diet is diverse and may include seeds, plants, insects, nestling birds, and pet food or trash (if unsecured). Tree squirrels may cause concern due to property damage when searching for food, building nests, or if showing signs of disease (such as tularemia). Bird feeders can be an easy food source. Tree squirrels typically avoid people unless fed.

Tree squirrels are classified as small game mammals. A hunting license is needed to take tree squirrels. Gray squirrels that are causing property damage require a depredation permit to take.

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Rabbits & Hares

Rabbit sitting on groundThere are eight rabbit and hare species in California. Three of the most common species are the black-tailed hare (Lepus californicus), desert cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii), and brush rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani). Hares (which includes jackrabbits) live above ground, while rabbits live in underground burrows. Hares are born with fur and eyes open at birth, while rabbits are born without fur and eyes closed.

Rabbits and hares may cause concern due to property damage when searching for food or digging burrows. They may cause wildlife or human health concerns, or if showing signs of disease such as rabbit hemorrhagic disease or tularemia ("rabbit fever").

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There are at least four species of moles in California: the shrew mole (Neurotrichus gibbsii), coast mole (Scapanus orarius), Townsend’s mole (Scapanus townsendii), and most widely distributed broad-footed mole (Scapanus latimanus).Mole bodies are designed for life underground with tiny eyes, lack of external ears, short legs, and large forelimbs with long claws for digging.

Though they make look similar to gophers, moles are not rodents and are instead in the "Insectivore” Order. Mole damage is often confused with gopher damage: mole burrows are circular with a plug in the middle (volcano-shaped) and moles commonly leave raised ridges just beneath the ground surface when searching for food.

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