Human-Wildlife Conflicts Program

Coyote walking with head down 

Coyote

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Research

The factors that shape how human-wildlife interactions may be perceived, and whether they escalate to conflict, are complex. Some people enjoy the presence of wildlife and may tolerate regular interactions. Other people may have minimal interaction, but do not tolerate even the presence of wildlife. This variation in tolerance is often poorly understood.

Research and monitoring of the different facets of human-wildlife conflict, which may include wildlife health, human dimensions, public safety, and reporting trends, are important. Of note, is the strong seasonal pattern of most human-wildlife conflicts. Learn more!

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.

Laws

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

  • §597. Cruelty to Animals. 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

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

TITLE 50: WILDLIFE and FISHERIES.

Policy

Policies are principles and guidelines developed and adopted by an agency to achieve its goals. CDFW and Fish and Game Commission policies are implemented as procedures or protocols to guide decision-making, inform plans or courses of action, and address regulatory and/or departmental needs. Listed are some policies, but not all.

Department of Fish and Wildlife

Fish and Game Commission

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 (2015-2017) to develop a Drought Response Implementation Plan for Human-Wildlife Conflicts.

  • 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.

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.

Human-Wildlife Conflicts Toolkit

Bats

Little brown bats roosting

There are 25 known bat species in California, such as the common Little Brown Bat (Myotis species). Most bats eat insects and can eat up to 100% their body weight in insects each night. Some species eat nectar or fruit.

Bats provide valuable ecosystem benefits, including the control of insect populations which can help protect crops, and as nutrient dispersers. 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. If a person or pet is exposed to a bite, saliva or scratch, notify your local health department. Exclusion (bat-proofing) works best to avoid contact.

Learn more how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with bats.

Beaver

Beaver standing in snow

There are two beaver species in California: American beaver (Castor canadensis) and the Mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa). American beavers are more commonly distributed.

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

Learn how to prevent or reduce conflicts with beavers.

Birds

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.

Learn more about how to reduce potential conflicts that may be unique to certain birds.

Birds of Prey

Hawk sitting on tree branch with his wings open

There are over 30 bird of prey species (raptors) in California. This group of birds consists of eagles, falcons, hawks, kites, owls, and vultures. Raptors are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, 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. Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts.

Crows & Ravens

Raven sitting on tree branch

California is home to the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) and Common Raven (Corvus corax). They may be seen statewide. Both species are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. 

Ravens are much larger than crows and may travel in pairs. Crows are smaller and flock in large groups (a “murder” of crows). Both birds 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. Learn how to prevent or reduce potential conflicts with crows and ravens.

Geese & Ducks

Group of Canada Geese walking in grass and in water in the background

California provides important habitat each year for millions of migratory waterfowl to feed, shelter, and nest along the Pacific Flyway (migration path). Waterfowl provide many ecosystem benefits including as nutrient and seed dispersers. Waterfowl are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) are one of the most commonly seen waterfowl. They can be migratory or year-round residents. Large resident flocks may cause concern due to property damage, health hazard, and water quality concerns. Learn how to prevent or reduce potential conflicts with geese and ducks.

Wild Turkeys

Wild turkey walking in grassWild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are a non-native game bird in California. These birds were first introduced here in 1877. There are five subspecies of wild turkey distributed throughout the state.

Wild turkeys may cause some concern due to crop damage and other property damage. During the mating season, male turkeys can also become territorial or aggressive. Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with wild turkeys.

Woodpeckers

Woodpecker with two young

There are 17 woodpecker species in California. Two species are listed as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act: Gila woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) and Gilded northern flicker (Colaptes auratus chrysoide). 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. Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with woodpeckers

Black Bear

Black bear walking in grass

The black bear (Ursus Americanus) is the only bear species in California. Grizzly bears were last seen in 1924. There are estimated to be up to 30,000 black bears in the state. They may be seen in diverse habitats, including natural, rural and residential areas.

Black bears provide many ecosystem benefits serving as seed dispersers, scavengers and predators. They will eat almost anything including seeds, plants, berries, dead or live animals, pet food, human food or trash, if unsecured. A hungry bear can travel far in search of food.

Black bears may cause concern due to property damage, loss of small livestock or pets, or public safety as they search for food or potential access to food. If fed, they can become habituated and lose their fear of humans. Bears may cause animal welfare concerns if found sick, injured or orphaned.

Learn more how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with black bears.

Bobcat

Closeup of bobcat

Bobcats (Lynx rufus) can be seen in diverse habitats throughout much of California. They have a short "bobbed" tail and black ear tufts. Bobcats are about twice the size of house cats, though people often think they are larger.

A bobcat diet is diverse and can include birds, rabbits, rodents, squirrels, raccoons, and fawns. Bobcats provide many ecosystem benefits helping control rodent and other small prey populations.

Effective January 1, 2020, hunting or trapping bobcats is prohibited in California.

Bobcats may cause concern due to property damage as they hunt for food. They are solitary and avoid humans. Unsecured poultry or small pets may be mistaken for prey.

Learn how to prevent or reduce potential conflicts with bobcats.

Coyotes

Coyote walking

Coyotes (Canis latrans) are common throughout California. They can adapt to diverse habitats including deserts, residential and urban areas. They have a diverse diet including rodents, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, and fawns. Coyotes provide many ecosystem benefits, such as controlling rodent populations.

Most coyotes live in family groups, establish territories, and may be heard calling to each other (yipping, howling) at night. Coyotes typically weigh 20-35 lbs., though people often think they are larger. Most coyotes avoid humans.

Coyotes may cause concern due to property damage as they search for food, establish territories, and raise pups. Conflicts may occur if pets or small livestock, human food, or trash are not safely secured. Many reported conflicts occur in cities and residential areas where there is little competition for food.

Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with coyotes.

Resources

Research

Deer & Elk

California is home to a diverse variety of big game species such as deer and elk (ungulates). Ungulates provide many ecosystem benefits, including as nutrient and seed dispersers, and food for other animals. In California, game species such as deer and elk are carefully managed and conserved to maintain healthy populations.

Learn more about how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts that may be unique to deer and elk.

Deer

Group of Mule deer walking

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. Their 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 or attract predators.

Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with deer.

Elk

Group of ElkCalifornia is home to three species of elk (Cervus canadensis spp.): the Roosevelt elk, Rocky Mountain elk, Tule elk. Tule and Roosevelt elk are native to the state. Rocky Mountain elk are non-native and 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.

Foxes

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. Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with foxes.

Kit fox

Kit fox family sitting on rockThere are two subspecies of kit fox (Vulpes macrotis spp.) in California: the San Joaquin kit fox and Desert kit fox. The San Joaquin (SJ) kit fox is protected under the California Endangered Species Act and 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 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, health hazard if sick with mange, or general nuisance when searching for food or if den sites restrict human activity. The largest SJ kit fox population is in Bakersfield city limits and these urban foxes may eat pet food, human food or trash. Kit foxes avoid people, unless fed.

Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with kit foxes.

Red fox

Red Fox standing in grassRed foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are a non-native species found throughout California. They can thrive in many different habitats, including rural or urban areas. Red foxes have a diverse diet that can include rodents, birds, squirrels, chickens or eggs, human food, and trash.

This species should not be confused with the rare and threatened native Sierra Nevada Red Fox.

Red foxes may cause concerns due to property damage when hunting for food or health hazard if showing signs of disease like canine distemper. Feeding foxes can increased the risk of disease to other wildlife or pets. Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with red foxes.

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.

Mountain Lion

Close-up shot of Lion

Mountain lions (Puma concolor) are a native species found in mountains and foothills throughout California. They are solitary, except for females raising young. Most mountain lions will establish and defend a territory.

A natural diet mainly consists of deer, but include smaller species such as raccoons and rodents. Mountain lions provide many ecosystem benefits helping maintain healthy large prey populations.

Mountain lions are a "specially protected mammal" in California under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1990.

Mountain lions may cause concern due to property damage if they mistake livestock or pets for food while hunting, or concern for public safety if they encounter people. They actively avoid humans. Feeding other wildlife, such as deer or raccoons, may attract mountain lions.

Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with mountain lions.

Raccoon, Opossum, 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.

Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with raccoons, opossums, and skunks.

Opossums

Two young opossums in treeOpossums (Didelphis virginiana) are a non-native species in California. They have adapted to natural, rural and urban environments. Opossums are the only marsupial in North America and females carry their young in pouches, then on their back.

Opossums may cause concerns as they search for shelter or food, including pet food or trash. They can carry diseases such as typhus, though they are not a rabies vector. They are active at night and avoid other animals or people, unless fed.

If frightened, opossums will hiss, drool, urinate, or play "dead".

Learn how to prevent or reduce potential conflicts with opossums.

Raccoons

Raccoon in treeRaccoons (Procyon lotor) are a common species seen throughout Calfornia. They are mostly nocturnal, though they may be seen during the day in search of food. Their diet is diverse and may include squirrels, birds, fish, frogs, pet food and trash if unsecured.

Raccoons are 2 to 3 feet long and usually weigh 13-20 lbs.

Raccoons may cause concern due to property damage while searching for shelter or food. They can cause concerns due to disease, such as distemper or rabies. Raccoons avoid people and pets, unless fed.

If attracted to one area, they may leave droppings in the same location (raccoon latrine (PDF)) which can increase risk of exposure to raccoon roundworm.

Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with raccoons.

Skunks

Skunk standing on ground with his tail upThere are two skunk species in California: the Spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis) and Striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis). The Spotted skunk is nocturnal and not often seen. The Striped skunk is more adaptive, may be seen in rural and urban areas, and may be active during the day.

A skunk diet is diverse and may include insects, rodents, lizards, snakes, pet food or trash if unsecured. Skunks have poor eyesight, but strong sense of smell.

Skunks may cause concern due to property damage while searching for food or shelter. They mostly avoid other animals and people, unless fed. They can carry diseases such as rabies. Skunks that feel threatened or scared will release a strong-smelling "skunk spray" for protection.

Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with skunks.

Squirrels & Rabbits

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

Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with squirrels and rabbits.

Ground Squirrel

California ground squirrel on dry groundThere 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 (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. The California ground squirrel may also eat pet food, animal feed, or trash, if 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.

Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with ground squirrels. 

Tree Squirrel

Gray tree squirrel on treeThere are four species of tree squirrel in California: the native Douglas squirrel and Western Gray squirrel, and non-native Eastern Gray squirrel and Fox squirrel.

Tree squirrels are often the most common wildlife seen in cities, parks and campuses statewide. They do not hibernate.

A tree squirrel diet is diverse and may include seeds, plants, insects, nestling birds, 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 avoid people, unless fed.

Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with tree squirrels.

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).

There are several differences between rabbits and hares.

Hares, also called jackrabbits, live above ground. Rabbits live in burrows. Hares are born with fur and eyes open at birth. Rabbits are born without fur and eyes closed.

Rabbits or hares may cause concern due to property damage when searching for food, digging burrows, or if showing signs of disease, such as tularemia ("rabbit fever"). They avoid people and other animals, unless fed.

Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with rabbits and hares.

Wild Pig

Close up of Wild Pig

Wild pigs (Sus scrofa) are seen in 56 of 58 counties in California. This non-native species thrives in natural habitat, agricultural and rural areas. They are a feral domestic pig hybrid first introduced by settlers.

Wild pigs will eat almost anything including plants, berries, insects, dead animals, small live animals such as fawns, pet food, human food, and trash.

Wild pigs are known to cause major environmental damage to natural habitat and ecosystems, as they compete against or consume native species.

Wild pigs may cause concerns due to property damage as they search for food or if showing signs of disease known to harm humans or other animals. They can cause major damage to crops, orchards, vineyards, and other property. They can carry diseases, such as brucellosis, that may harm humans or other animals.

Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with wild pigs.

Marine Wildlife

Harbor Seal laying on stone

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

Marine wildlife are protected by State and federal laws and regulations, such as the Marine Life Protection Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act. This law prohibits the "take" of any marine mammal, including to harass, disturb, feed, capture, injure or hunt.

Marine wildlife may cause concern due to property damage, health or public safety if they gather in large groups or come in contact with humans. Do not feed or touch them. Injured, sick, oiled, or entangled marine 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.

Learn how to reduce or prevent potential conflicts with marine wildlife.