Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

CDFW To Meet On Aug. 23 To Discuss Delta Wildlife Areas


Grizzly Island bull elk photo by CDFW.

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold an outreach meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 23 in Davis regarding Bay Delta Region Type A wildlife areas. CDFW will take comments and recommendations and provide updates on habitat conditions, availability of water for wetlands and possible impacts to hunter access on these public lands.

The meeting will take place from 10 a.m. to noon in the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area’s conference room, which is located at 45211 County Road 32B in Davis. State wildlife areas to be discussed are the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area Complex.

CDFW’s Bay Delta Region includes 12 counties in northern California and is one of seven CDFW regions in the state.

CDFW annually provides an opportunity for licensed hunters to comment and make recommendations on public hunting programs, including anticipated habitat conditions in the hunting areas on wildlife areas through public meetings and other outreach.


Here’s Your Chance To See How The Sausage Is Made

Photo by Tim Hovey

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Advanced Hunter Education Program is sponsoring an Introduction to Wild Game Sausage Making Clinic on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017 in San Diego County. This is the first time CDFW is offering a clinic on this topic.

The clinic will be taught by Steve Shaw, a veteran Hunter Education Instructor whose family tradition of making sausage goes back four generations. This clinic will cover proper preparation, cooking and storage techniques, as well as family recipes. All supplies and equipment will be provided on-site.

The clinic is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon at Trident Gunsmithing Shop in Mira Mesa. The cost is $25 per student, payable by cash or check the day of class. Youths 17 years and younger are free, but must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Online preregistration is required, at Space is very limited, so participants are encouraged to register early.

Trident Gunsmithing is located off Interstate 15, near Miramar Airfield.

Dove Season Is Almost Here: Early-Season Opportunities

CDFW file photo.

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

California’s dove hunting season is rapidly approaching, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting applications for special dove hunts throughout the state.

The first half of the split season will be open statewide from Sept. 1-15, 2017. The second half will be open statewide from Nov. 11 through Dec. 25, 2017.

For mourning dove and white-winged dove, the daily bag limit is 15, up to 10 of which may be white-winged doves. The possession limit is triple the daily bag limit. There is no limit for spotted dove or ringed dove, but the season dates are the same as for mourning dove and white-winged dove.

Eurasian collared dove is the only dove species that can be hunted year-round, with no limit.

Dove hunters may be interested in CDFW’s specially managed hunt opportunities throughout California during the dove season. Please note that applications for these opportunities must now be filed through the Automated License Data System (ALDS). Hunt drawings will be held for opportunities at the following locations:

  • Merced and Stanislaus counties: North Grasslands Wildlife Area (China Island and Salt Slough units), Los Banos Wildlife Area
  • Sacramento County: Cosumnes River Preserve
  • Fresno County: Pilibos
  • San Bernardino County: Camp Cady Wildlife Area
  • San Diego County: Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve, San Felipe Valley Wildlife Area
  • San Luis Obispo County: Carrizo Plains Ecological Reserve

The application deadline for all hunts is midnight on Aug. 12. Applications can be filed online, at CDFW license sales offices or through retail license agents. Applications may also be filed over the telephone at (800) 565-1458. Additional information is available at

All hunters must abide by California’s nonlead requirements. Currently, nonlead ammunition is required for hunting doves on any CDFW-managed property, but is not required to hunt doves on private property or public lands not managed by CDFW. Starting on July 1, 2019, nonlead ammunition will be required to take all wildlife anywhere in California.

Fresno-Area Poachers Plead Guilty

Photo by CDFW

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Three Fresno men face jail time and fines after being caught poaching and unlawfully trafficking sport-caught fish, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced.

Kue Her, 36, Leepo Her, 33, and Michael Vang, 31, all of Fresno, all pled guilty to charges of illegal poaching of wildlife for profit. Kue Her was sentenced to 52 days in county jail and four years probation, with a court-ordered lifetime fishing license revocation. Leepo Her was sentenced to serve nine days in county jail, four years probation and a $1,050 fine, with a court-ordered lifetime fishing license revocation.

Vang was sentenced to one day in county jail, six hours community service, four years probation and a $1,050 fine, with a court-ordered lifetime fishing license revocation.  

Over the course of a year, CDFW wildlife officers made contact with the three men on multiple occasions as they were fishing throughout California’s Central Valley. The men were frequently found in violation of various laws, including possession of gross overlimits and retention of undersized striped bass. The egregious nature of their poaching activities led wildlife officers to suspect they might be selling fish on the black market.

Wildlife officers analyzed the suspects’ citation history and began a focused investigation into their activities. The investigation uncovered an abundance of evidence that the men had made thousands of dollars through the illegal sale of wild-caught striped bass and other local fish species. The investigation culminated in multiple search warrants served in December 2016, where wildlife officers located live crappie and bluegill in an aquarium, frozen striped bass, marijuana and evidence of a marijuana cultivation and sales, and methamphetamine and evidence of methamphetamine sales.

“The cases are a result of wildlife officers’ recognition of each independent poaching offense for the egregious offenses they were as a whole,” said Assistant Chief John Baker, Central Enforcement District, Fresno. “From there it was good old-fashioned investigative work.”

The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office and Deputy District Attorneys Sabrina Ashjian and Adam Kook prosecuted the case. Ashjian displayed particular vigilance, perseverance and tenacity in her handling of this case. These efforts, along with multitudes of other environmental and poaching prosecutions, contributed to her selection as the 2016 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year by the California Fish and Game Commission.

Anyone with information about unlawful fishing, hunting or pollution is encouraged to contact CalTIP, CDFW’s confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. The CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, is printed on the back of every hunting and fishing license. Tips can also be relayed by text to 847411 (tip411). Text messages allow for a two-way conversation with wildlife officers, while preserving the anonymity of the tipster. Texts should begin with the word “CALTIP,” followed by a space and the message. There is also an app for smartphones that works similarly. For more information on the program and the CalTIP app, please

Q&A With CSULB’s Shark Doctor

Members of Long Beach State’s research team release a juvenile tagged shark. Southern California’s coastal areas have seen an increase in great whites in recent years. (CSULB SHARK LAB)

The following appears in the July issue of California Sportsman. Sharks and the City: LA airs Tuesday night at 9 p.m. on the Discovery Channel:

By Chris Cocoles

Photos by Long Beach State Shark Lab 

For scientists like Dr. Chris Lowe, the increased sightings of great white sharks in the Pacific are a boon to continuing to understand these fascinating fish. 

Granted, more sharks patrolling the beaches dotting Southern California have surfers and swimmers taking notice, but their presence can not only help us comprehend why sharks might occasionally attack humans but also how they affect the oceans’ food chain.  

“At the time when scientists were really starting to break ground, believe it or not, there really weren’t a lot of sharks to study. And that made it really hard to do,” Lowe says, citing so many parts of the world where resident shark numbers declined rapidly due mostly to overfishing. 

But imagine how scientists are rejoicing during a time when – especially off the Southern California coast – shark populations are back at levels unheard of in recent decades, thanks primarily to conservation awareness. 

Let’s face it: We’re intrigued by sharks, whether we appreciate their longevity, marvel at their abilities as a predator or are scared to death of coming face to face with them while treating the Pacific as our personal water playground. Discovery Channel’s latest Shark Week lineup is upon us this month, and the California coast will play a part in the programming again. 

Lowe spearheads the shark lab at Cal State Long Beach (he proudly says Jaws director Steven Spielberg, a Long Beach alum, visited the school’s shark lab in the 1970s to collect research for his iconic film) and studies sharks while sharing his knowledge with the next generation of biologists. 

“We have great opportunities to make major strides in understanding shark behavior,” says Lowe, who will share some of his research when Discovery airs Sharks and the City: LA, on July 25 (9 p.m.). Lowe and others will explore the waters off the Southland and Mexican coast, near famed shark gathering place Guadalupe Island, and explain an abundance of great whites making themselves comfortable.

We had a fascinating chat with fishing fanatic and shark savant Lowe about these remarkable, feared and often misunderstood bad asses of the sea.   

A double of great whites just off the Southern California/Mexico sharks hotbed of Guadalupe Island, site of the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week special, Sharks and the City: LA, which features the shark lab team from Cal State Long Beach. (CSULB SHARK LAB)

Chris Cocoles Do you think Shark Week has positively impacted how we understand and perceive sharks? 

Dr. Chris Lowe Well, sure – I think it’s kind of been influential, along the lines of the book and the movie, Jaws, right? It’s kept sharks in the mainstream. And, of course, people are interested, which is great. What I’m for is getting good scientific information and education out to the public, because I think (now) they fear them less and want to protect them more. 

CC But are sharks still so misunderstood by a lot of people?

DCL Absolutely. I think that’s still a battle that we fight and wage all the time. And part of it is because of the way sharks are often portrayed in popular media. I always like to say that you can’t blame Discovery and (Jaws author) Peter Benchley for all of it. Frankly, I think a lot of people like to be afraid of things. They like that little buzz you get from being afraid of something. So in a way, we’ve kind of created the beast in our heads. In reality, they’re not, quite often, the way we make them out to be. And I think the more that people actually interact with sharks – they go to aquariums, they’ll get in the water and they’ll see a shark on vacation or something like that – the more they understand that a lot of that (negative perception) is just hype.

CC To me, a shark is such a fascinating creature when you consider how far back sharks are in the ecosystem. And I’m so envious of you and your Long Beach State students who get to study these fish. That’s got to be an awesome subject to dive into.  

DCL I think that will be always be my greatest achievement as a scientist; it won’t be what I achieve but what my students achieve. So that’s why I do what I do. Just going out and doing the work is great, but being able to share what I’ve learned with my students – it’s really what keeps me going. 

CC Tell us a little about your research lab at Long Beach State?

DCL The shark lab’s been around since 1969 and was founded by Dr. Don Nelson. And he was kind of a pioneer in studying shark behavior. He was a diver back when scuba diving just came out. He always wanted to figure out why sharks do what they do. And a lot of his early research focused on how they behave. One of the things he became frustrated about was, when you go diving, you’re lucky if you can spend an hour in the water. 

When you’re a scuba diver you’ve got bubbles and you’re really noisy and clanky; it’s really hard to observe sharks because, frankly, divers disturb sharks’ natural behavior. So he began to realize that we needed new tools if we really wanted to understand shark behavior. 

He was one of the first scientists to start to build his own acoustic transmitters, and at the time that was state of the art. That technology had been declassified by the military, and biologists with any sort of electronics inkling were trying to make their own transmitter that they could put on sharks to use. And they could have a receiver and hydrophone so that they could follow those animals around and see where they go. Back in those days you had to make that equipment yourself. So Don decided that something that was needed to move to the next step and ask, “Why do sharks go where they go, and how do they do it?” He started building his own transmitters, and when I was a grad student in the shark lab back in the late 1980s, I learned how to build transmitters through Don … which I no longer have to make myself, by the way. 

At the time, that was kind of revolutionary, but the transmitters were kind of large and the only things big enough to put them on were sharks. The cool thing was, we could put a transmitter on a blue shark for 24 hours and it was exhausting to do the work. At the end of the day, all we figured out was that the shark went from point A to point B, which was very cool. But we didn’t know why they were doing that. What we focused on was developing new technology so that we could answer why they were doing that. Now we’re using satellite transmitters; we’re building autonomous underwater tracking robots. 

“I’ve been working in Southern California for 30 years, and I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be able to go the beach in my front yard, basically, and catch and tag baby white sharks,” says Lowe, a Massachusetts native who received his master’s degree from Long Beach State’s program. “The recovery of the great white population is probably our greatest conservation success story.” (CSULB SHARK LAB)

CC So would you say sharks are complicated to understand?

DCL Yes and no. They’re difficult because they’re predators. The key to being a good predator is you’ve got to be sneaky and stealthy; you’ve got to move. If you’re a really successful predator and feeding on smart, evolutionary-driven prey like mammals, you have to change up your game because those animals learn very quickly. So what makes it so tough to study sharks is that they have all those features of a predator, like a hunter. The first time somebody goes out hunting, if you don’t know something about what you’re hunting, your chances of being successful are really low. But the more you learn about your prey, the more you can begin to strategize – how to sneak up on the prey and successfully take one down. It’s that predator in us that helps us better understand that behavior in sharks. It gives us framework to begin to understand how they go about taking down something like a seal, which, by the way, is one of the fastest and most maneuverable species in the ocean. 

But I wouldn’t so much say that they’re complicated; I would say they’re really well evolved for what they do. In that sense, we have to up our game as scientists, because studying them becomes that much more difficult. And it’s why technology has opened up doors for us. 

CC So often, sharks are considered “villains” when there’s an attack, especially a fatal one. When something like this happens, how does it make you feel from a biologist’s perspective?

DCL Every time those things occur, it’s horrible; nobody wants to see anyone go through something like that. But the reality of that is, we lose perspective. When I give talks – and this could even be grade-school kids – I’ll ask, “OK, how many people here are afraid of sharks?” A bunch of hands will go up and I’ll ask “Why?” to get a little bit of information as to what their understanding of sharks is. But then I’ll ask if anybody has been a car accident, and a bunch of hands will go up, and if they know anyone who’s been killed in a car accident, and a few hands will go up, and you’ll think, “wow.” And when I ask if they know anyone who’s been bitten by a shark, and they’ll look around the room because no hands are up. I’ll ask, “Are you afraid to ride in a car? Because cars are dangerous; why would you ever want to ride in a car?” When they says cars aren’t dangerous, I’ll say, “Why wouldn’t you ever go in the water? In this room, nobody knows anyone who’s been killed, let alone bitten, by a shark.” 

So it’s a matter of people getting that perspective. That’s hard, because the difference is we drive vehicles every day and people are literally killed in vehicles every day, but it no longer seems like a risk, and our ability to evaluate that risk is really proportionate to our overall use. When I ask hardcore surfers and people in the water all the time, I ask if they’re afraid of sharks, it’s, “Well, I have to admit it does cross my mind every now and then.” “Does that keep you out of the water?” “Absolutely not … My chances of dying driving to the beach so far outweigh my chances of dying while surfing.” So they understand that perspective, but one of the things that I find is people who use the ocean less have a harder time putting that in perspective. 

CC You’re from Martha’s Vineyard off Massachusetts and became an avid fisherman. How has the fishing industry had an impact on the ecosystems?

DCL Growing up recreational fishing and now my entire life, and having a grandfather and other family who were commercial fishers, I totally understand the challenges of balancing those things. I’m a fisheries biologist by training; that’s what I teach, and when you look back at how we managed resources, we didn’t do a very good job of it. But I think we’ve turned a corner. We have a better understanding of how things work ecologically in the ocean. We’re regulating fisheries in the ways we need to in order to keep populations sustainable and making the resources accessible for the next generation. That has required some hard decisions and choices over the years. 

But I think there are signs that many of those have worked, because we’re seeing recovery in many of our fisheries in the United States. But this gets more complicated because those resources are shared. You have commercial interests with people going out and fishing for those so other people can eat those resources. But there are also those who want to go out there and catch fish themselves, and those resources have to be managed to accommodate both groups. I think it can be done and we’ve gotten much better at it, but that took a lot of learning and a big investment on our part. We’re starting to see the dividends of that. I’m afraid that one of the ways we went about in solving the problem was we outsourced part of our problem. We now import about 85 percent of our seafood in the U.S. We put a lot of (American) fishermen out of business and increased regulations to try and make our existing fisheries sustainable. 

But what we’ve done is increased pressure on stocks outside the U.S. and we’ve made it cheaper to import those, which puts commercial fishers at greater risk. Instead of getting a nice, fresh ecological cod product that was caught by U.S. fishermen, we’re now importing it cheaper from other countries, where they do it in ways we wouldn’t allow our fishermen to because it’s not sustainable. 

And that even gets back to recreational anglers. As somebody who loves to fish myself, a lot of times when I work with (sport) fishers, they’ll say it’s commercial fishers’ fault; commercial guys say it’s recreational anglers’ fault. And the reality of it, it’s all of us. But even recreational anglers can have impacts too. There is a lot we can do to sustain our fisheries and make that resource available to our kids and grandkids. When I talk about those resources, sharks can be a big part of those. Quite often, conservation groups want to protect sharks but to the point where they say no sharks can be harvested, which is where I disagree with them. Shark fisheries can be sustainable but have to be managed differently than others. I think we need to do it smart, use good science, and we need to do is sustainably. And if we do that, there’s no reason why people can’t catch sharksand eat them. 

Ryan Logan (left) and Connor White try to deploy a CATS tag at Guadalupe Island. Dr. Chris Lowe says that sharks returning to California waters represents promising news, but, “Are we completely out of the woods? Absolutely not; we still have problems with trash and pollution, loss of wetlands and global climate change. But we can solve those problems both regionally and globally. (CSULB SHARK LAB)

CC So what can we expect on your Discovery Channel show?

DCL It’s based on a hypothesis that we have – that the great white population has increased, and I have colleagues who have been studying adult white sharks in the Farallones (just off the Golden Gate in San Francisco) and Guadalupe Island for 20 years. Everything we know about great white sharks comes from those two locations. But if the population is going up like we believe – and we know those places are starting to get a little crowded – researchers are seeing fewer and fewer new individuals coming in there. And there are several possible explanations for that – one is that the population is not growing anymore, which I would disagree with. In Southern California, we see more babies every year. The other is that those places are saturated and there’s no more space for adult or subadult white sharks in those locations. And that means those kinds of “teenagers” coming into that population that can’t compete with the old-school sharks that have been in that location for decades now, have to find a new place to eat. 

In Southern California, if you look at locations like the Channel Islands, the numbers of seals and sea lions are maybe some of the greatest densities anywhere on the West Coast. So if I were a white shark and I couldn’t compete (where great whites are known to be) and I wanted to eat marine mammals, where would I go? I would go to the Channel Islands … So our goal for this project was to go out there and tag some sharks.   

CC Right off the coast in your backyard, sharks, even great whites, have become common. Is that pretty cool to have that kind of access?

DCL I’ve been working in Southern California for 30 years, and I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be able to go the beach in my front yard, basically, and catch and tag baby white sharks. I could never imagine that I would ever see this day. So for me it’s really exciting to see sharks come back, white sharks in particular. The recovery of the great white population is probably our greatest conservation success story. Predators are at the top of the food chain, they’re never super abundant and they’re dependent on everything else in the food web. So if your food web is messed up, those predators just can’t come back, so the fact they have is really a sign that we’re doing some things right. In Southern California, when we those success stories, that’s impressive. We have 22 million people who live within 60 miles of the coast, and this is one of the most populated coastlines in the world and heavily urbanized. When you see those animals coming back here, that’s a sign. 

Are we completely out of the woods? Absolutely not; we still have problems with trash and pollution, loss of wetlands and global climate change. But we can solve those problems both regionally and globally. We’ve got to be smart. 

CC What’s the feeling like to tag a great white just off the beaches of
the Southland?

DCL You should see the smile on my face [laughs]. I love it, and I love doing it with my students. For them, it’s the most exciting thing because they do it for free. 

CC Are you still learning something new about sharks all the time?

DCL As fast as we’re developing new technology and better tools to answer questions that have been on the back burner for decades, as soon as we answer one, five new ones pop up. Every single day that we go out and do something, I’ll go, “I never expected that,” or, “What does this mean?” It’s nonstop. CS

Editor’s note: For more on Long Beach State’s shark lab, go to Follow on Twitter (@CSULBsharklab). Check out Discovery’s Shark Week lineup at

Connor White (left) keeps a firm grip during a tagging exercise. (CSULB SHARK LAB)


Massive upgrades in technology allow shark experts like Cal State Long Beach shark lab director Dr. Chris Lowe to better understand the majestic fish he and his colleagues study. 

State-of-the-art robotics sent into the ocean depths allows scientists to get even closer to sharks and analyze their behavior. But with new gadgets come new challenges. 

“I work with a roboticist, Chris Clark, at (Claremont’s) Harvey Mudd College, and it’s kind of tricky because an autonomous operation requires a lot of information,” Lowe says. “When we were designing the tracking robots, Chris kept asking me, ‘Well, what do sharks do and how do they behave?’”

 Lowe started looking at old shark tracks in search of trends to help establish a starting point for programming the robot with what the shark is going to do – or at least educated guesses about what it might.

“What we want the robot to do is, while it’s tracking the shark, it never gets within, say, 100 yards of the tagged shark,” Lowe says. “And we know the shark can hear the robot because it has a propeller and it makes a low-frequency sound. So if the sharkactually is curious about the robot and starts swimming towards it, the robot’s programmed to move away.”

The thought process is that even if the shark continues to snoop around the device that’s backing away, eventually boredom will sink in and the fish will return to whatever its brainwaves were convincing it to do before the robot entered the water, allowing the fish to be followed again by the robotics. 

“A lot of that programming is from basic information that we’ve already learned from the patterns that we see in sharkmovements,” Lowe says. “So now, to get at how do sharks make decisions, we can instrument those robots with all sorts of oceanographic sensors, so while the robot is tracking the shark, it’s moving up and down the water column while measuring (data). And it has a video camera for us to see schools of fish, other sharks and other species that are around the shark that we’re tracking.” 

And as more data piles up from these tendencies, the notion of getting into a shark’s complex head isn’t such an outrageous concept anymore. CC 


Online Process Available To Secure Upland Bird Hunts

Pheasant photo by CDFW.

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

California hunters can now apply online for specially managed upland game bird hunting opportunities on private and public lands.

Starting with the 2017 fall hunting season, hunters will need to apply through the Automated License Data System (ALDS) for special hunt drawings for pheasant, chukar, quail, wild turkey and dove. The new, automated application process replaces the Special Hunts Application process for wild bird hunts.

Applications for apprentice pheasant hunts will remain in the current location at For updates and information on wild upland game bird hunts, please visit

All hunt applicants must have a valid California hunting license and adult hunters must also have a valid Upland Game Bird Stamp to hunt upland game birds.

A non-refundable $2.42 fee will be charged for each application. Hunters may select their top three hunt choices per application and apply in parties, but may only apply once for each available hunt date. Duplicate entries will be disqualified.

Applications may be purchased:

All hunters must abide by California’s nonlead requirements. Currently, nonlead ammunition is required for hunting doves on any CDFW-managed property, but is not required to hunt doves on private property or public lands not managed by CDFW. Starting on July 1, 2019, nonlead ammunition will be required to take all wildlife anywhere in California.

Discovery Series Brilliantly Captures The Fascinating Unabomber Saga

Paul Bettany as Ted Kaczynski. Manhunt: Unabomber episode 102. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

“Betrayal after betrayal after betrayal. Until I couldn’t trust anyone. I want them to listen to me. I want them to pay for what they did to me. Well, let them hate me… They WILL NOT ignore me.”

-Ted Kaczynksi, as played by actor Paul Bettany in the new Discovery Channel series, Manhunt: Unabomber.


It’s funny: I consider myself a diehard history buff, but I also feel like I avoid being more aware about current events. It seems like the older the subject, the more comfortable I would feel if engaged in an intelligent discussion on the subject without looking uninformed and ignorant.  Sometimes I feel like current events are nothing more than current events and not worth my time. I was wrong about that

Until, of course, I had an inside look at something that happened fairly recently, although so much has changed over the past 20-odd years (most, sadly, have not been for the better in this guy’s opinion, but that’s a different story entirely).

I had the chance to get an advance peek at the upcoming miniseries, Manhunt: Unabomber (see the trailer above) by our friends at the Discovery Channel.  And as I stated, I really didn’t know a damn thing about this story until I watched most of the episodes that will air in the coming months (it premieres on Aug. 1)

Here’s what I claim to remember about Ted Kaczynksi (AKA The Unabomber): His crazy mugshot and playoff hockey-style beard, his being taken down in part by his brother, who ratted him out, the predictable Will Ferrell-led Saturday Night Live skits when the Unabomber was still a thing,  a memorable reference to the story in one of my favorite movies, Good Will Hunting, and a lot of mysteries about who this guy really was and why he was filling packages with bombs and mailing them around the country, killing three and injuring others.

But like most of the stories of the time, which usually eventually faded and were replaced with the next sensationalized story that captivated us, so too did Ted. The Unabomber’s place in the news cycle eventually faded. His 15 minutes – peaking in 1997 when he was finally apprehended – was post OJ and pre 9-11, and just like Twitter finds itself outraged one minute, and then moves onto the next headline shortly thereafter, eventually the Unabomber became yesterday’s news (but can you imagine the GIF’s, memes and hijinks the social media mob would have engaged in had Kaczynski come along a couple decades later?)

Sam Worthington as Jim Fitzgerald and Paul Bettany as Ted Kaczynski. Manhunt: Unabomber episode 102. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

So I had planned to watch the first episode Discovery sent me and tease it a little bit (Ted was an outdoors lover at an early age and a skilled hunter and angler ), but once I watched that two-part block, I was hooked. I binge-watched the remaining five episodes (I have yet to see the series finale and am already having withdrawals waiting for it!).

Discovery told me most of the series sticks to the factual events of the case, with a few liberties taken, such as creating a face-to-face meeting between Kaczynski and FBI agent Jim Fitzgerald, who masterminded the search, (much of what the Unabomber says during their confrontation was spoken during his trial). And what you watch from director Greg Yaitanes is compelling. 

This a series worth watching and getting hooked on, even for those a little out of the demographic who were  too young to remember it.  A great supporting cast – including one of my personal favorites, Mark Duplass, as the Unabomber’s brother, David,  gives Manhunt: Unabomber some acceleration and horsepower, but the underneath powering the engine are the two leads, Brit Paul Bettany as Ted Kaczynski and  Aussie (though born in England) Sam Worthington as “Fitz,” the FBI agent who obsessively leads the team attempting to crack the case via the Unabomber’s complicated manifesto, which reflects a man’s brilliance and tortured soul.

Bettany, in particular is spectacular as the title character. He is wonderfully sinister, and a far cry from when I had just watched the likeable Englishman show his charming side in 2004’s Wimbledon, a fun, sappy and harmless flick about a washed-up tennis player who wins one of the sport’s prestigious Grand Slam tournaments and finds love with Kirsten Dunst’s racket-swinging brat. But riding along with Bettany’s turn as one of the most infamous characters of our time was a fantastic change of pace from a versatile actor.

Worthington has more screen time and was  also excellent. but for me, the series’ high-water mark is Ted Kaczynski’s backstory, which criss-crosses a timeline from the days living in his Montana cabin – where he befriends some locals – his elementary school experience and ill-fated time as a whiz-kid Harvard student. It provides an opportunity to understand a little better as to the why and how of the story.  

Paul Bettany as Ted Kaczynski. Manhunt: Unabomber episode 102. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

“I was doomed to be a freak from the start,” Bettany’s Ted says during the episode while reciting a letter to his brother. In this context, we see a side of Kaczynksi that successfully humanizes him and broke my heart to see him endure. No longer do I envision the bearded freak hiding out in the Montana wilderness plotting his next act and baffling the FBI with his manifesto. Instead, I see a bright and sweet young boy in suburban Chicago struggling to fit in with his classmates, two years older than he was. I see a mathematical genius who suffers heartbreaking backstabbing from his best friend  (you can probably figure out how young Ted would avenge his buddy’s treason). I see him enter Harvard at an age when he should be taking high school AP trig classes and applying for Ivy League admission.

“David, I keep asking, how did I go from this innocent little kid to this? I think it was Harvard that did it. You don’t know about that either.”  

His early 1960s Harvard experience and psychological experiments conducted by Professor Henry Murray are depicted in chilling fashion. It was another case of an impressionable and gifted teenager being exploited, used and tormented by a role model he believed in and trusted. It was a sad moment and one of many turning points and triggers that turned a modern-day Einstein into a bitter, self-destructing troublemaker railing against the establishment.

Somehow, at least for me, that episode allowed me to feel sympathy as to why someone so brilliant could snap like that.  When I emailed back and forth with a Discovery Channel contact about what we love about this series, we both agreed there was a case for buying into what Ted Kaczynksi was thinking when he wrote his manifesto and why he went off course as tragically as he did.

Paul Bettany as Ted Kaczynski. Manhunt: Unabomber episode 107. (DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

Paul Bettany as Ted Kaczynski and Jeremy Bobb as Stan Cole. Manhunt: Unabomber episode 107.

At one point, Murray (Brian d’Arcy James), after treating his subject like a disposable lab rat, tells young Ted some prophetic words that would eventually haunt him for the rest of his life.

“Theodore, you did a wonderful job; you truly exceeded my expectations. … I couldn’t have asked for more from a subject or as a friend. I can’t wait to see how well you do next time.”

“Next time?” the shaken young student replies.

“I’m anticipating more great things from you, Ted.”

For more on Manhunt: Unabomber, check out the Discovery Channel’s website. 

Rescuers Free Humpback Whale From Fishing Lines


The above NOAA video depicts an unfortunate humpback whale – hello, Humphrey! – that got entangled in fishing line off the coast in Crescent City.


Here’s more from KTVU in San Francisco: 

Crews took more than seven to free it, using drones to help them see how best to cut the whale out of the netting.There were at least 12 buoys on the whale’s right flipper and tail. One fisherman counted 180 traps involved, all with lines and anchors weighing down the 30-ton whale.

Fortunately, the whale was able to make it up to the surface for air, but likely didn’t eat for that period, Milstein said.

This trapped whale is part of an upsetting and growing trend for many environmentalists, and is the focal point of legal action threatened by the Center for Biological Diversity, where Oakland-based lawyers allege the state of California is not doing enough to protect the endangered whale from commercial crab lines left in the ocean.

At this point, there is no punitive action for fishers who end up trapping sea life in their lines and traps

The number of entangled whales has grown steadily over the last two years.

NOAA Fisheries recorded that last year, there were 71 cases of whales getting entangled in lines off the costs of Washington, Oregon and California – the highest annual total for the West Coast since the federal agency began keeping records since 1982. Sixty six of those whales were reported off the coast of California.  In 2015, 62 whales were reported entangled, NOAA statistics show.

Seven humpbacks have been reported entangled so far this year, Milstein said.

Why the entanglements are on the rise is not completely clear.



Final CDFW Waterfowl Survey Confirms Drop

CDFW file photo

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed its annual waterfowl breeding population survey.

Mallards, gadwall and cinnamon teal comprised 54 percent of the ducks observed, down 30 percent from last year. The number of mallards decreased from 263,774 to 198,392 (a decrease of 25 percent) and total ducks decreased from 417,791 to 396,529 (a decrease of five percent).

The most notable decrease occurred in the Sacramento Valley area, where mallards were estimated at a record low of 31,000 (73 percent below the long-term average).

Given the abundant precipitation, one might expect the numbers to be higher. In some parts of the state, it did indeed increase available habitat (uplands and ponds). But in many areas, last winter’s heavy rains largely resulted in deep, fast-flowing water, which is not ideal for dabbling ducks. Other reasons for low duck observations could include winter flooding of nesting habitat that normally remains dry, the late-season flooding of the rice fields in the Sacramento Valley and the conversion of rice fields and pastures to tree crops.

CDFW biologists and warden pilots have conducted this annual survey using fixed-wing aircraft since 1948. This year’s survey was conducted from April 3 through May 4 in the Central Valley, and May 9-10 in northeastern California. The population estimates are for the surveyed areas only, which include the majority of the suitable duck nesting habitat in the state. Surveyed areas include wetland and agricultural areas in northeastern California, throughout the Central Valley, the Suisun Marsh and some coastal valleys.

The full Breeding Population Survey Report can be found at

The majority of California’s wintering duck population originates from breeding areas surveyed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Alaska and Canada. Those survey results should be available in early August. CDFW survey information, along with similar data from other Pacific Flyway states, is used by the USFWS and the Pacific Flyway Council when setting hunting regulations for the Pacific Flyway states, including California.

Taking At-Risk Kids Fishing



Great story by NBC 4 in Los Angeles on the L.A. Rod and Reel Club getting some less fortunate kids out on the water for a day of fishing.

Here’s more from NBC Los Angeles reporter John Cádiz Klemack:

Despite living close to the beach, many low-income and foster youth in Southern California have never been fishing — let alone seen the ocean.

But one Los Angeles-based nonprofit is changing that one trip at a time. For the last 50 years, the Los Angeles Rod and Reel Club has taken about 150 at-risk youth, mostly foster kids, from Los Angeles County, Orange County and the High Desert on an annual deep-sea fishing expedition.

On this year’s trip on July 10, 7-year-old Odyssey Valdez caught her first fish off the coast of Long Beach and filled the boat with infectious laughter.

“It builds lasting memories, she’ll have this forever,” said the girl’s mom, Aida Valdez. “I’m very grateful for that.”

Great work, L.A. Rod and Reel Club!