Wildlife Watch

Wildlife Watch logo

Human-wildlife interactions have become increasingly common in many communities throughout the state. In 2015, Wildlife Watch was launched in an effort to reduce potential conflict. This program model supports local agencies, community leaders, and community groups to develop integrated wildlife management plans and sustainable solutions to human-wildlife conflicts. Learn more!

What is Wildlife Watch?

Wildlife Watch is modeled after the National Neighborhood Watch program, a program model that joins together local law enforcement agencies, private organizations, and residents to reduce crime and improve local communities.

Wildlife Watch empowers local agencies and residents to address and resolve human-wildlife conflicts in their own community. Communities are provided the support and training needed to develop integrated wildlife management plans specific to their constituent needs. Wildlife Watch is maintained by a network of committed agencies, community groups and individuals who have completed the required training.

Wildlife Watch’s original focus was to address and reduce human-coyote conflicts in urban areas. It has expanded to serve diverse local communities throughout the state to address human-wildlife interactions for many species such as black bear, mountain lion, deer, elk, kit fox, and more.

What is the problem?

Human-wildlife conflicts have increased in California, and frustrated citizens often demand solutions from local and state agencies. Local agencies are often unfamiliar with the role of CDFW in responding to human-wildlife conflicts. They may mistakenly believe that CDFW is responsible for all “nuisance wildlife” calls. CDFW does not provide wildlife trapping, removal, or relocations services to resolve conflicts. coyote with housecat

To help address human-wildlife conflicts, CDFW instead strives to provide technical assistance and guidance, and empower local communities with sustainable solutions.

Most human-wildlife interactions escalate to conflict due to animals becoming habituated to humans or human sources of food. Often, wild animals are simply responding to human behavior and actions. Once an animal identifies easy access to a food source (e.g., unsecured garbage bins, pet food, outdoor pets), it will often stay or return to the same area. These animals risk of losing their natural fear or avoidance of humans. It is important to identify and eliminate wildlife attractants, such as food or hiding places, in order to keep wildlife truly wild.

To become better stewards, we must recognize that:

  • Human-wildlife conflict is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Government agencies cannot solve the problem alone.
  • Community support, participation, and leadership are needed for success.

Through Wildlife Watch, communities develop integrated wildlife management plans to proactively address and prevent conflicts.

Why Wildlife Watch?

Wildlife Watch empowers local communities to proactively address human-wildlife conflicts and manage wildlife with respect for each other and wildlife. Specifically, Wildlife Watch works to:

  • Empower people to respect wildlife through the understanding of ecology and conservation principles.
  • Increase awareness of local wildlife, and reduce complacency while promoting education at all age levels.
  • Teach conservation and ecological principles based on facts not feelings, seeking first to understand and then be understood.
  • Encourage empathy and compassion for those affected by human-wildlife conflict (e.g., pet or livestock loss).
  • Value and respect each other’s diverse views about how to manage human-wildlife conflicts.
  • Reduce public safety incidents, property damage, pet or livestock loss, and general nuisance reports involving wildlife.
  • Develop effective partnerships through collaboration, coordination, and communication between the agencies entrusted to manage and protect our wildlife resources - and the communities they serve.

Wildlife Watch brings together local and state agencies, nongovernmental organizations, community groups, and individuals with the common goal of becoming better stewards of our state’s wildlife.

Conservation Coaching

There are many ways to participate in Wildlife Watch, such as starting a new program in your community, joining an existing program, or becoming a volunteer.

To start, Wildlife Watch requires focused training called “conservation coaching”. Conservation coaching guides participants through understanding animal behavior, human values and perception, ecology, and conservation principles as it applies to human-wildlife conflicts. Conservation coaches develop their skills using a T-E-A-M approach: Trust, Encouragement, Accountability, Modeling (behaviors and values to others).Wildlife Watch community meeting

Wildlife Watch provides conservation coaching on two levels—local agencies and community groups.

Local Agencies:

  • Identify a Wildlife Watch coordinator at the city or county level.
  • Develop an integrated wildlife management plan.
  • Standardize policies, protocol, and procedures.
  • Identify each department role to implement the plan (e.g., animal services, public safety, public works, parks and recreation departments).
  • Identify an appropriate outreach and education strategy to support the plan.

The municipality agrees to have one person represented from each agency or division. The goal is for each representative to understand their role and responsibility and key aspects of the plan. This mutual understanding is achieved through communication, coordination, cooperation, and collaboration. It is critical to support successful partnerships and community involvement.

Community Groups and Volunteers:

  • Identify and coach volunteers to act as “block captains” for their neighborhoods.
  • Educate residents and neighbors on safe human-wildlife interactions, eliminating attractants, deterrents or hazing, and more.
  • Identify wildlife attractants (e.g., cat food left on porch) and recommend sustainable solutions.
  • Communicate regularly with Wildlife Watch coordinator and representatives.