Californians around the state can now use an online tool to report incidents of fish and wildlife mortality directly to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). By contributing to CDFW’s growing database, citizens can help state environmental scientists gather important information necessary to monitor and evaluate wildlife populations and help prevent and control emerging diseases.
“The CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab is asking for this information so we can be one step ahead of a potential disease outbreak or other health concern,” said CDFW Environmental Scientist Lora Konde. “If we don’t know about it, we can’t do anything about it.”
CDFW is particularly interested in reports of dead animals with no visible injuries, sick or dead animals in unusual locations and/or more than five sick or dead animals at one location.
There are three ways to submit information:
Online: The preferred method is to submit information using the new mortality reporting form found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Living-with-Wildlife. From the “Living with Wildlife” webpage, click on the purple box, “Report Dead Wildlife,” to access the form. The form asks for such information as: observation date, the reporter’s name and contact information, what kind of animal, where the animal was located and estimated mortality date. Photographs may be uploaded as well. The form is meant to be submitted online, but can also be filled out manually, printed and faxed to the Wildlife Investigations Lab at (916) 358-2814.
Smartphone: There is not a smartphone “app” available, but the mortality reporting form on the CDFW website is phone-enabled and can be filled out and submitted directly from a smartphone. To access the form, go to the main CDFW website (www.wildlife.ca.gov) and type “mortality reporting” into the search engine. The first suggested link that appears will redirect you to the form and submission page.
Email: Reports can also be sent via email to the Wildlife Investigations Lab email at email@example.com.
CDFW’s database does not include small animals (cats, dogs, skunks, possums, etc.) killed by cars or other mechanical means. These can be reported to the California Roadkill Observation System, www.wildlifecrossing.net/california/ . However, please contact your local CDFW office (www.wildlife.ca.gov/Regions) if you observe a deer, mountain lion or bear that has been hit by a car.
For health reasons, do not touch a sick, injured or dead animal. If you find an injured or sick animal, you can contact a local licensed wildlife rehabilitation center (www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/WIL/rehab/facilities.html) for advice.
Local animal control agencies can also assist with sick animals that may need help or small dead animals that should be removed.
Public contributions to state scientists’ efforts (dubbed “citizen science”) is encouraged and greatly appreciated by CDFW. “When people are going about their daily activities and they keep an eye out in the field for sick or dead animals and take the time to report it to us, it is very helpful. The public’s input is an extra resource to support this monitoring effort and keep wildlife populations healthy,” Konde explained.
Though still relatively new, the online submission feature is already proving to be useful. In January 2015, CDFW began closely monitoring the population of band-tailed pigeons for signs of disease. Many Californians who observed increased numbers of dead birds took the time to share that information with CDFW.
“We were grateful that the public responded enthusiastically and provided us with a lot of useful information through this online reporting method,” said Konde. “This makes the process of gathering data easier and more efficient. The faster we know about an outbreak, the faster we can analyze it and take action.”