In early August, CDFW personnel rescued a young female black bear near Whiskeytown in Shasta County. The bear had severe burns to all four of her paws as a result of the Carr wildfire. Following her rescue, the 1.5-year-old bear spent just over one month recovering at the Wildlife Investigations Laboratory where she received tilapia fish skin treatments and other therapies to assist with healing. The recovery was deemed successful – all four paws re-epithelialized, regained function, and the bear put on a significant amount of weight – and she was released back into the wild in mid-September. Due to challenges with placing a collar on a still-growing wild animal, the WIL turned to an international company, GPS Collars Ltd., for an alternative tracking device: the EarTraX V2 GPS/GSM/UHF wildlife telemetry ear tag (https://www.gpscollars.co.uk/product-EarTraX-GPS-GSM-UHF-id5). In addition to being less obtrusive than a collar, the solar-powered unit will utilize existing cellular networks to transmit the bear’s location. The data collected will provide CDFW with valuable insight into bear behavior and landscape usage in post-wildfire areas
It’s deer season, and CDFW is looking to hunters to help collect samples for our 2018 Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) surveillance efforts. This season we are setting up CWD stations near hunt zones across the state where hunters can get their deer tested for this disease, and get their tag validated at the same time. Check out our CWD page at www.wildlife.ca.gov/CWD for a map with information about locations, dates and times of our surveillance efforts. You can also take a look at this table for the same information. We need your help to keep this devastating cervid disease out of California’s deer and elk herds. If you are planning to hunt out of state this year, make sure you are following the law, don’t bring any skull or backbone back with you! If you are hunting in a state with known CWD make sure you get your animal tested and processed in the state you harvest it, and if it tests positive give us a call (916-358-2790) we can help you dispose of it properly. Good luck.
Checking bat carcass for White Nose Syndrome under ultraviolet light
On Thursday, August 9, 2018, the CDFW Wildlife Investigations Laboratory sampled and processed over 350 bats that had been submitted by the California Department of Public Health; all bats had been found dead throughout the State and subsequently tested negative for rabies. Assisting with the sampling and processing were representatives from the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology located in Berkeley, CA. Processing involved determining the species of each bat, collecting morphometrics, screening the bats for white-nose syndrome (WNS) under ultraviolet light, and collecting biological samples. In addition to gaining knowledge of species distribution throughout the State, the bats will provide opportunities for stable isotope research, genetic analysis, wind farm mortality studies, and growth of museum collections. Furthermore, the processing provides valuable disease surveillance data with regards to WNS, a disease that is decimating bat populations throughout the United States. For more on WNS, please visit:
Please go to California Department of Fish and Wildlife Facebook page for the latest update on the two bears that were burned in the Thomas Fire in late December/early January! Both bears were suffering from extensive burns to their paws when they were brought to CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Lab in northern California. The link to the Facebook page is below.
The Wildlife Investigations Laboratory is working with biologists and wardens throughout California to ramp up Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) surveillance of deer. CWD is a fatal neurologic disease of deer and elk that has been detected in 25 states, 2 Canadian provinces, South Korea, Norway, and Finland. The disease has never been detected in California, but the best defense is a robust surveillance program, and an informed public. In 2017 effort was focused on collecting samples from hunter-harvested animals in the X-zones along California’s border. In total 100 animals were tested for CWD, and all came back negative. This year CDFW plans to expand surveillance throughout the state. Keep an eye on our CWD page for more information about CWD sampling locations during the 2018 hunt season. If you are planning to hunt out of state this year, be sure to follow the law, NO SKULL or BACKBONE. We also recommend to hunters who take a deer or elk in a CWD positive state to get your animal tested and processed in that state, and not to consume the meat until you have a negative test result.
Gray fox kits. Photo credit: Brian Murphy, Mt. Diablo Audubon Society
In February of 2018, a gray fox was brought to the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue. The fox appeared injured when it was found in a backyard in Glen Ellen. It was lying on its side, with back legs appearing immobile. The rehab facility provided supportive care but the fox died during the night. When the body was examined, no signs of trauma were found so the fox was sent to the Wildlife Investigations Lab to determine the cause of death. During necropsy it was found that the fox was carrying two fetuses. Tissues sent for analysis came back positive for bromethalin. Bromethalin is a rodenticide sold under a variety of trade names over the counter to control rats and mice. Labels specify that it must be placed in a bait station, but the wax blocks may be purchased separately. Bromethalin is a neurotoxicant, which explains the lack of mobility found in the fox.
In April of 2018, another gray fox was found dead in Ben Lomand in Santa Cruz County. When rescuers saw signs that she was lactating, they searched for her litter and were able to locate one of her kits. This kit was brought to Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley and successfully reared with other kits. The mother was sent to the Wildlife Investigations Lab to determine her cause of death. This fox had died from anticoagulant rodenticide intoxication. Four different anticoagulant rodenticides were found in her liver, three of which were second generation anticoagulants. These materials were made restricted use in California in 2014, meaning that they can only be used by professionals for control of mice and rats in and around buildings. They work by preventing the blood from clotting. At necropsy, this fox had blood in her spinal cavity and chest cavity. It is likely that she was exposed to the rodenticides when eating rodents.
Unfortunately, these cases are not rare. They serve to remind us that we can unintentionally harm wildlife with our pest control practices. For more information on rodent control that is safer for wildlife, please visit:
Andrew Di Salvo, DVM, the inaugural Free-Ranging Wildlife Health Veterinary Resident with the CDFW Wildlife Investigations Laboratory and the UC Davis Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, shares a photo from each month of his first year…
August 2017: Captured and processed San Joaquin kit foxes in Bakersfield, CA as part of sarcoptic mange surveillance and treatment efforts
June 2018: Assisted with black bear capture operations in Inyo National Forest near Bishop, CA as part of population and health surveillance efforts
May 2018: Attended CDFW media training event
April 2018: Captured and processed Sierra Nevada red fox in Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern CA as part of population and health surveillance efforts
March 2018: Translocated Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains
February 2018: Processed helicopter-captured deer in Southern CA as part of population and health surveillance efforts
January 2018: Treated orphaned mountain lion cub burned during the Thomas wildfire in Southern CA at the WIL
December 2017: Treated two black bears burned during the Thomas wildfire in Southern CA at the WIL
November 2017: Captured and processed desert bighorn sheep near Bishop, CA as part of population and health surveillance efforts
October 2017: Captured and processed fishers in Stirling City, CA as part of reintroduction and monitoring efforts
September 2017: Assisted with Southern sea otter health evaluations and transmitter implantations at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, CA