Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

A NorCal USFWS Biologist Reflects As Retirement Beckons

John Hamilton, a fish biologist and hydropower branch chief for the Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office, reflects on his long career in the Klamath Basin. Credit: Susan Sawyer/USFWS


The following is courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Southwest Region: 

John Hamilton was nervous as he waited to speak at a recent meeting of the Klamath Falls Trout Unlimited.

As a career biologist for the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, he was concerned his topic might be controversial, as discussions about Klamath River fish, mines, dams, logging and other human disturbance could lead to strong opinions and heated debate.

As he packs his office and prepares to leave a job he loves, Service biologist John Hamilton looks forward most to his first summer off in 51 years, training his hunting dog and spending time with his daughters Katey and Molly and his wife Lauri. Credit: Susan Sawyer/USFWS

Hamilton knew this subject well, and in the end, his nerves quickly turned to confidence as he skillfully described a time long ago when great numbers of salmon and steelhead spawned in the upper Klamath River, and how those historic runs could return.

John, shown here studying at Michigan State University, knew from a young age what he wanted to do. Credit: John Hamilton/USFWS

For the past 15 years, Hamilton has been the hydropower branch chief for the Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office, responsible for of researching migratory fish distributions and writing science-based recommendations to provide safe, effective and timely fish passage spanning an area that includes four lower Klamath River dams.

Along the way, he has experienced his share of setbacks as well as milestones. “The conflicting interests in the Klamath created a lot of challenges in dam licensing and reviews,” he said.

Now, after a successful career spanning 38 years, he reached a personal milestone – retirement.

Hamilton knew early on he was well suited for regulatory biology, as he enjoyed the detail work, reading fisheries and hydrology publications, assimilating facts and analyzing the main points into reports used to make large-scale decisions.

Hamilton’s career choice became clear while attending Michigan State University. He saw a salmon life cycle and habitat diagram, and wondered “how do scientists discover this fascinating stuff, and what did this mean for salmon restoration?”

“I had to learn more. I wanted to know as much as possible about fish life histories and habitat,” he said.”I was extremely lucky to attend Michigan State and have outstanding mentors to guide me.”

John electrofishing while doing graduate work at Humboldt State University. Credit: John Hamilton/USFWS

After graduating with his Bachelor of Science degree in Fisheries biology, Hamilton joined the Peace Corps, serving in the Philippines and teaching locals the basics of fish farming.

Upon returning to the United States, he landed his first permanent job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Great Lakes Fishery Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Eventually, Hamilton completed a Master of Science degree in Natural Resource Management at Humboldt State University. After jobs in Alaska and Michigan, the issues of salmon and dams lured him to the Klamath Basin. His career appeared to have a recurring theme of fish and hydropower projects.

“It took a while to figure out, but once I did, my career fell into place and I was able to advance fairly quickly,” he said.

One of Hamilton’s career highlights came in 2005, as part of the Department of Interior team that appeared before an administrative law judge to defend Klamath River fish passage recommendations. Hamilton said the process was much like a regular jury trial, but without the jury. “I spent about four hours on the witness stand being grilled by high-level power company attorneys about my research. It was pretty intense,” he said.

In the end, the judge ruled in favor of the fish. The power companies settled, and Hamilton’s work on salmon habitat requirements is part of a proposal to decommission and remove the lower four Klamath River dams beginning in 2020.

John takes public transportation while in the Philippines as a member of the Peace Corps. Credit: John Hamilton/USFWS

“I consider that as my finest hour,” he said. “You can achieve a great deal in complicated situations with perseverance and bulletproof science.”

Nadine Kanim, a co-worker of Hamilton’s, agrees about his tenacity.

“John always seemed like he was pushing upstream for this project, like the salmon he was trying to help,” she said. “There were a lot of powerful people who didn’t want to believe or listen to his science.”

Kanim said that besides missing Hamilton’s quick wit and sense of humor, his retirement leaves a large, hard-to-fill void. “No one has contributed more to the recovery of salmon and steelhead in the Klamath Basin than John.”

Hamilton’s research uncovered accounts from the late 19th century of thousands of salmon in the Klamath River, and how those runs rapidly disappeared due to human progress. At one time, Klamath River salmon migrations were the third-largest on the West Coast.

Now, over 100 years later, Hamilton’s work could play a key role in the return of anadromous fish to hundreds of miles of habitat, benefitting the commercial, sport and tribal fishery.

“I’ve been fishing since I was a kid. It actually helped me decide early on what I wanted to do for a career,” said John, shown here instructing a student in fly casting. Credit: USFWS

Bob Carey,  a supervisory fish and wildlife biologist in the Yreka office said of Hamilton’s efforts: “John saw the value of his work to the resource, and made great strides at modernizing our thoughts on the Klamath River system. He was extremely passionate about his work.”

Throughout his career, Hamilton was able to perfect another of his passions – fishing. “I’ve been fishing since I was a kid. It actually helped me decide early on what I wanted to do for a career,” he said.

For the past several years he has mentored local underprivileged youth, teaching them the art of fly tying and casting. Now Hamilton figures he has about six months’ worth of his own fishing to do after retiring.

As he packs his office into well-organized boxes, he looks forward most to his first summer off in 51 years, training his hunting dog and spending time with his daughters Katey and Molly and his wife Lauri.

“I have been truly blessed to do this work for so long, it was my heart and passion,” he said. “Retiring was a hard decision, but I’m hopeful that salmon and steelhead will return to the upper Klamath River in my lifetime.”

John Hamilton will likely be one of the first to welcome them home.

“Retiring was a hard decision, but I’m hopeful that salmon and steelhead will return to the upper Klamath River in my lifetime,” said John, whose retirement means even more time on the water doing what he loves. Credit: John Hamilton/USFWS

Susan Sawyer is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s public affairs specialist for the Klamath Basin.

Caples Lake Among California’s Top Summer Getaways

Photos by Caples Lake Resort

The great San Francisco Chronicle outdoors writer Tom Stienstra shared some of Northern California’s best campgrounds and cabin rentals to experience a summer outdoors adventure.

Our friends at Caples Lake Resort (above) made the list. Here’s what Stienstra had to say about the lake located along the Carson Pass Highway south of Lake Tahoe:

Caples Lake Resort: Caples Lake is one of the best in the Sierra for trout fishing. Cabins, small marina, boat rentals and scenery at 8,000 feet complete the picture. Info: (209) 258-8888,

In the Eastern Sierra, Stienstra cited such popular stops at Convict Lake and June Lake:

Convict Lake: The cabins, lodge and small resort are about a quarter mile from Convict Lake, one of the prettiest lakes you can drive to anywhere. Info: (760) 934-380, ext. 1,

June Lake: Two small resorts are ideal for family trips, boat rentals and trout fishing. Lake Front Cabins has housekeeping units about 500 feet (across the street) from June Lake; Big Rock Resort is also a short walk from water’s edge. Info: Lake Front Cabins, (877) 648-7527,; Big Rock Resort, (760) 648-7717,

It’s a really great list that Stienstra shares; worth a read for sure if you’re planning to fish this summer.

Woman Missing During Fishing Trip To Feather River

Photo courtesy of Teresa Blake’s family.

A Woodland woman is reported missing during a fishing trip along the Feather River in Plumas County .

Here’s Sacramento’s ABC TV affiliate with more:

Teresa “Terry” Marie Blake was reported missing Sunday afternoon when she didn’t return home from a fishing trip at Feather River Park Resort, according to Plumas County Sheriff’s Department. 

The department said Blake’s white 2016 Acura RDX was located Monday in a wooded area just off Highway 70, near Graeagle. 

According to a public Facebook page organized by Blake’s family to help with the search, the 58-year-old’s car was not found at the location where she went to fish. Blake’s husband, daughter and son are actively searching for her. 

If you have any information on Blake or her whereabouts, please contact the Plumas Sheriff’s Department at (530) 283-6300.

Our thoughts are with Blake and her family and for her safe return.

CDFW Seeking Grant To Repair Marijuana-Damaged Land


Abandoned marijuana camp photo courtesy of Tim Hovey.

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

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting proposals for habitat restoration projects within the California watersheds most impacted by unregulated cannabis cultivation.

Contingent on the Budget Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017-2018, a total of $1.5 million in Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration funds will be made available through CDFW’s Cannabis Restoration Grant Program. The program will focus on the North Coast watersheds extending from Sonoma County to the Oregon state line, as they have been most heavily impacted by cannabis cultivation.

“Existing damage to our watersheds due to unregulated cannabis cultivation is at crisis levels in terms of threats to habitat for aquatic and wildlife species,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “While many grow sites have been abandoned or shuttered, the infrastructure and ongoing damage remains. We are poised to initiate this critical and missing step in the process of decommissioning unwanted grow sites.”

California’s fish and wildlife are severely impacted by unregulated cannabis cultivation practices including unlawful water diversions for irrigation, conversion of lands, and prohibited herbicides, rodenticides and other environmental contaminants. The most impacted areas require immediate action. Assembly Bill 243 (Wood, Medical Marijuana) provides direction to CDFW to restore watersheds impacted by cannabis cultivation.

“Our beautiful, pristine North Coast forests have become havens for these rogue grow sites,” said Assemblymember Jim Wood, who represents five of the county areas eligible for these grants. “These sites have been ravaged by lethal chemicals, often-banned rodenticides which are used to keep animals away, but remain in the ground and eventually run off into rivers and streams, destroying everything in their path, including endangered fish species such as coho salmon. I am grateful that the Governor and CDFW are making these funds available for this much-needed cleanup.”

The FY 2017-2018 Proposal Solicitation Notice, application instructions and other information about the Restoration Grant Program are available at

Proposals must be submitted online at The deadline to apply is Friday, June 30, 2017 at 4 p.m.

Salmon Benefit Dinner Next Month In Sonoma



. (Photo courtesy


The following press release is courtesy of the Golden Gate Salmon Association: 

Sonoma, CA (June 5, 2017) — The Golden Gate Salmon Association (GGSA) will host its 4th Annual Sonoma Dinner with special guest former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer on Friday, July 21. Senator Barbara Boxer will honored with GGSA’s “Salmon Champion Award” for her career of advocacy for salmon fisherman, the iconic California chinook salmon, and protection of California’s environment needed by salmon.

The special event will be held at Ramekins Event Center, 450 W. Spain St. in Sonoma.  Doors open at 6:00pm.

It will be a great night featuring fresh caught salmon prepared five different ways by Sonoma Top Chef’s including Ari Weiswasser – Glen Ellen Star, Carlo Cavallo – B&V Whiskey Bar and Grille, Adolfo Veronese – Aventine Glen Ellen, Yoshiharo Sogi – The Zina Lounge, and Kyle Kuklewski – Ramekins.

The night will also feature wines, cocktails, silent and open auctions, and the chance to compare fish stories and raise funds for GGSA work to keep abundant salmon stocks in California. Attendees will get a brief update from GGSA on the current state of salmon affairs.

Tickets are limited and are available by calling 855-251-GGSA (4472) or by visiting Tickets are $150 per person or tables of 10, and will NOT be sold at the door.

The Golden Gate Salmon Association ( is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fisherman, businesses, restaurants, tribes, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. GGSA’s mission is to protect and restore California’s largest salmon producing habitat comprised of the Central Valley river’s that feed the Bay-Delta ecosystem and the communities that rely on salmon as a long-term, sustainable, commercial, recreational and cultural resource.

 Currently, California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in economic activity annually and about half that much in economic activity and jobs again in Oregon. The industry employs tens of thousands of people from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon. This is a huge economic bloc made up of commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen (fresh and salt water), fish processors, marinas, coastal communities, equipment manufacturers, the hotel and food industry, tribes, and the salmon fishing industry at large.

State Officials Announce Strategy To Save Struggling Salmon, Steelhead



The following press release is courtesy of the California Natural Resources Agency: 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – With the latest science showing that nearly half of California’s native salmon and trout species face extinction in the next 50 years, state agencies have committed to a suite of actions to improve survival rates, including restoring habitat, improving stream flow, removing stream barriers and reintroducing species to ideal habitat.

These actions and more are described in a Sacramento Valley Salmon Resiliency Strategy released today and available here. The science-based document addresses near- and long-term needs of Sacramento River runs of sea-going fish, focusing primarily on endangered winter-run Chinook salmon, threatened Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon and threatened Central Valley steelhead.

In a recent study, the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences concluded that if present trends continue, nearly 45 percent of the 32 species of the state’s native salmon and trout could be extinct within 50 years. Habitat loss, water diversions, dams, and the warmer temperatures brought on by climate change pose major threats to these species.

Five years of drought from 2012 through 2016 worsened conditions, and Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on May 24 asked the federal government to declare a catastrophic regional fishery disaster and commercial fishery failure in the state, as the economic damage of low harvest rates and extensive closures of both the commercial and recreational Chinook salmon fisheries reverberates through coastal towns.

Actions in the resiliency strategy aim to reduce specific risks to salmon and steelhead at different stages of their migratory lives. These fish travel hundreds of miles of Central Valley streams and spend several years in the Pacific Ocean, so the strategy targets the freshwater streams where salmon and steelhead eggs hatch, the streams and floodplains where young fish rear, the Delta channels the fish must travel to reach the ocean, and the many barriers that hinder adult fish returning to spawn in natal streams.

“In its lifetime, a salmon or steelhead moves from a mountain stream to the high seas, and, as if that’s not enough, then returns to the very stream they were born in to spawn and die,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Threats face them every mile of the journey. So our efforts to make this migration safer must be strategic and comprehensive. The salmon resiliency strategy released today describes immediate, targeted actions we can take to ensure that more fish survive several critical phases of their remarkable life cycle.”

The Strategy focuses special attention on streams that drain to the Sacramento River from Mount Lassen, Mount Shasta, and nearby volcanic peaks. Fed by snowmelt and springs, these streams stay cooler longer than most and offer refuge to winter-run Chinook salmon that evolved to use the spring-fed McCIoud and Pit rivers north of Redding. There, icy waters kept eggs and young fish alive through summer.

Today winter-run are forced to spawn 30 miles south, below Shasta Dam. In drought years their eggs and newly hatched fish have not survived due to limited cold water reserves behind the dam. Under the strategy, the State will, among other actions:

? Improve flows in the relatively pristine Sacramento River tributaries of Mill, Deer, Antelope, and Butte creeks.

? In coordination with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, complete the Battle Creek Restoration Project, which involves, among other measures, removal of a dam on the south fork.

? Reintroduce winter-run Chinook salmon to Battle Creek and the McCloud River.

? Remove a small rock dam on the Feather River to improve fish passage.

? Restore off-channel rearing habitat in the middle and upper Sacramento River.

? Improve passage of adult salmon through the Sutter and Yolo bypasses, which in some ways mimic natural Sacramento River floodplain.

? Increase the frequency and duration of Yolo Bypass inundation.

? Restore tidal habitat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Separately, as directed by the Governor, state agencies are working to achieve voluntary settlements among water users along the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and tributaries. The State’s aim is to have water districts that divert from these streams reach agreements that improve flow, stream temperature, and habitat conditions for salmon and steelhead.

Such voluntary agreements could serve as a possible mechanism to help implement objectives set by the State Water Resources Control Board, which oversees water rights and water quality. The Water Board is in the process of updating its 20-year-old water quality plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and San Francisco Bay, which involves, for example, setting standards for salinity and requiring seasonal flows of certain levels.

The Sacramento Valley Salmon Resiliency Strategy mirrors the Delta Smelt Resiliency Strategy developed by the State in 2016 to rapidly improve conditions for an endangered fish species found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Progress has been made under all of the 13 actions described in the smelt resiliency plan.

A one-year update on that plan is available here. The Salmon Resiliency Strategy relies heavily on the 2014 final recovery plan drafted by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is responsible for recovery of sea-going fish under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Other state and federal plans also support the strategy, such as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 2016 Battle Creek Winter-Run Chinook Salmon Reintroduction Plan.

A two-year update on California EcoRestore, the state’s effort to restore Delta wetlands habitat, is available here. The State will take a leadership role in each of the actions described in the strategy, but seek the support and coordination of federal and local agencies. 

Reaction from John McManus, executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association:


“We applaud the recognition by the state that far more serious action is called for now to protect and rebuild our Central Valley salmon runs.  As always, the hardest part will be supplying the extra water needed to build our salmon runs back up.  Everyone knows that too much water is being diverted from Central Valley rivers, which is gravely harming salmon.  This is the norm in all but the wettest years, like the one we just had.  There’s no doubt that serious river habitat restoration is needed, especially of side channels and floodplains where baby salmon can feed and grow.  We’d love to see more baby salmon gaining access to the Sutter and Yolo bypasses, as called for by the state plan. The problems have been studied to death and all the research consistently points to a shortage of flow in the rivers as the number one problem harming salmon.  Salmon fishermen and women stand ready to work with the state and anyone else on solutions that will rebuild salmon runs in California.”  

5.5-Mile Stretch Of Sacramento River Closed To All Fishing

The Sacramento River north of Redding. A 5.5-mile  stretch of the river from the Highway 44 Bridge to Keswick Dam will be closed indefinitely to all fishing. (CDFW)

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

Regulations went into effect as of May 26, 2017 to close a 5.5 mile stretch of the Sacramento River to all fishing, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced. An emergency regulation had expired on Mar. 30, 2017, but was made permanent upon adoption of the Fish and Game Commission and filing with the Secretary of State.

The Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon population suffered over 95 percent loss of juvenile natural production for the years 2014 and 2015 due to low reservoir storage and elevated water temperatures caused by the pervasive drought. Chinook salmon return to their natal rivers and streams every three years to spawn.

“The prolonged drought that ended in 2017 has had a dramatic impact on winter-run, including the 2014 brood year, which will return as adults to spawn this year,” said CDFW Fisheries Branch Chief Kevin Shaffer. “It is vital to protect this year’s predicted small return of spawning adults and their young, and, over the next few years, to rebuild the stock and prevent extinction of winter-run Chinook.”

Maximizing adult spawning numbers is critical to the population. CDFW fisheries staff have evaluated recent winter-run Chinook spawning locations and have concluded that the majority of spawning occurs in the recently closed section above the Highway 44 bridge to Keswick Dam.

Although fishing for winter-run Chinook in this reach of the Sacramento River is not allowed under current regulations, incidental by-catch by anglers who are not targeting salmon has been documented and is significant, especially during low flow periods. Even if returned to the water, incidental by-catch stresses the fish, resulting in the potential loss of adults before spawning. A total fishing closure in the holding and spawning areas of winter-run Chinook is necessary to ensure this endangered fish population has the highest chance of survival.

As adopted by the Fish and Game Commission and in effect as of May 26, 2017:

Sacramento River below Keswick Dam, subsection 7.50(b)(156.5)

(B) From 650 feet below Keswick Dam to Deschutes Road bridge.

  1. From 650 feet below Keswick Dam to the Highway 44 bridge.

January 1 through March 31 with a bag limit of two hatchery trout or hatchery steelhead and four hatchery trout or hatchery steelhead in possession.

Closed to all fishing from April 1 to July 31.

Open from August 1 through December 31 with a bag limit of two hatchery trout or hatchery steelhead and four hatchery trout or hatchery steelhead in possession.

  1. From the Highway 44 bridge to the Deschutes Road bridge.

All year with a bag limit of two hatchery trout or hatchery steelhead and four hatchery trout or hatchery steelhead in possession.

CDFW’s Tips To Be ‘Bear Aware’

Photo by CDFW

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

As spring and summer beckon people outdoors, California’s black bears are also active after a long winter hibernation. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) takes this opportunity to highlight the native black bear – one of most adaptable animals in the state – and encourages citizens to help reduce nuisance encounters with this iconic mammal by being “bear aware,” which means taking responsible actions that promote responsible behavior while living and recreating in bear country.

California has a healthy population of black bears that typically prefer remote mountainous areas. But as more people frequent parks and wilderness areas and choose to live in or near bear habitat, bears become more accustomed to the presence of people and as a result display less shy and elusive behavior.

“Over the years, we have seen bear behavior patterns change significantly”, said Marc Kenyon, manager of CDFW’s human/wildlife conflict program. “Each spring and summer we receive hundreds of calls from the public reporting anything from bears raiding food in campgrounds to bears taking dips in residential swimming pools. Bears have also been known to break into homes and cabins and steal food right off of the kitchen counter – sometimes while the occupants are home.”

Kenyon notes that bears have a highly specialized sense of smell. According to Kenyon, a bear can smell bacon frying from about three miles away, given the right conditions. An animal that is specialized at finding food sources coupled with greater numbers of people at its doorstep, can create a storm of human/wildlife conflicts. However, nuisance-bear behavior may be significantly reduced – or even eliminated, if people change their behavior.

Tips for Bear-proofing your Home, Rental or Timeshare:

In settled areas close to bear habitat, bears may venture in searching for food. The best defense against bear break-ins and bears in your yard is to eliminate attractants to your property by following these tips: 

  • Purchase and properly use a bear-proof garbage container.
  • Wait to put trash out until the morning of collection day.
  • Do not leave trash, groceries or pet food in your car.
  • Keep garbage cans clean and deodorize them with bleach or ammonia.
  • Keep barbecue grills clean and stored in a garage or shed when not in use.
  • Only provide bird feeders during November through March and make them inaccessible to bears.
  • Do not leave any scented products outside, even non-food items such as suntan lotion, insect repellent, soap or candles.
  • Keep doors and windows closed and locked.
  • Consider installing motion-detector alarms and/or electric fencing.
  • Harvest fruit off trees as soon as it is ripe, and promptly collect fruit that falls.
  • Bring pets in at night. Provide safe and secure quarters for livestock at night.
  • Consider composting bins as opposed to open composting.
  • Securely block access to potential hibernation sites such as crawl spaces under decks and buildings.
  • Do not spray bear spray around property – when it dries, it can serve as an attractant.
  • Do not feed deer or other wildlife – not only can it be unlawful, it will attract bears to your property.

Tips for Bear-proofing your Campsite:

Maintaining a clean campsite is the responsible and safe thing to do when visiting bear country. Here are a few tips for bear proofing your campsite: 

  • Haul garbage out of camp regularly – check with camp host or other camp personnel about safe garbage storage. Use bear lockers if available.
  • Store food (including pet food) and toiletries in bear-proof containers or in an airtight container in the trunk of your vehicle if bear lockers are not available. In some areas, food storage in the trunk is not advisable. Check with camp or park personnel.
  • Clean dishes and store food and garbage immediately after meals.
  • Clean your grill after each use.
  • Never keep food or toiletries in your tent.
  • Change out of clothes you cooked in before going to bed.
  • Do not clean fish in camp.
  • Do not leave pets unattended in camp or sleeping outside.

Tips for Hiking in Bear Country:

  • Bears may react defensively if your presence is not known – make noise while hiking. Talk loudly or whistle.
  • If possible, travel with a group of people.
  • Avoid thick brush and walk with the wind at your back so your scent is ahead of you.
  • Watch for bear sign along trails – scat, tracks and stripped bark off trees.
  • Avoid sites where dead animal carcasses are observed.
  • If you see a bear, avoid it and give it the opportunity to avoid you.
  • Leash dogs while hiking in bear country – dogs can surprise and aggravate bears – bringing the bear back to you when the dog flees from the bear.

Facts about Black Bears: 

  • Black bears are the only bear species found in California. They range in color from blonde to black, with cinnamon brown being the most common.
  • There are an estimated 35,000 bears in California.
  • Males are much larger than females and can weigh up to 500 pounds, although average weight is about 300 pounds.
  • Black bears can sprint up to 35 mph and they are strong swimmers and great tree climbers.
  • Bears are omnivorous eating foods ranging from berries, plants, nuts and roots to honey, honeycomb, insects, larvae, carrion and small mammals.
  • Bears typically mate in June and July.
  • As winter approaches, bears will forage for food up to 20 hours a day, storing enough fat to sustain them through hibernation. Bears often hibernate in large hollow trees 40 to 60 feet off the ground.
  • Bear cubs are born in winter dens in January and February and are hairless, deaf and blind.
  • Black bear attacks are rare in California and typically are defensive in nature because the bear is surprised or defending cubs; however, bears accustomed to people may become too bold and act aggressively.
  • Female black bears will often send cubs up a tree and leave the area in response to a perceived threat. Do not remain in the area – when you leave, she will come back for her cubs.

For more information about black bear biology, please visit

For information about bear-proof containers and where to buy them, please visit

Fishing License 12-Month Purchasing Bill Takes Next Step

Phorto by Nancy Rodriguez.



State Senator Tom Berryhill’s (R-8th District in the Central Valley and Sierra Foothills between Sacramento and Fresno ) bill that would make any California fishing license valid for 12 months for the date purchased, took another step on Wednesday night, when the California State Senate  unanimously voted it through  to the State Assembly. If that body approves it, Senate Bill 187 will head to Gov. Jerry Brown’s office.

Here’s the release from Sen. Berryhill’s website:

SACRAMENTO – The California Senate unanimously approved a bill authored by Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, which creates a 12-month fishing license and scraps the costly and inefficient calendar-year licenses.

Fishing licenses are based on a calendar-year cycle, with no extra time or prorated rates given for purchases made later in the season. The current system is one of the primary causes of a decline in license sales, the revenue of which funds fishery and conservation programs.

SB-187 would make fishing licenses valid for 12 months from the time of the purchase. This is the third time Berryhill authored a 12-month-license bill.

“Twelve-month fishing licenses are such a simple idea that would greatly improve the quality of life for so many Californians,” Berryhill said on Thursday. “I want to thank my Senate colleagues and I look forward to working with members of the Assembly on this important issue.”

Recreational fishing contributes more than $4.6 billion annually to California’s economy. It is a major source of outdoor tourism, jobs and tax revenue for state and local governments. But sales have plummeted as rates have increased.

In 1980, when licenses were a reasonable $5, California sold more than 2.2 million licenses.  Today, the base price for an annual fishing license has skyrocketed to $47.01, while the number of annual licenses sold has decreased a staggering 55 percent.

California has over 2.7 million anglers, yet there is a growing concern that the unprecedented decline in California’s fishing sales will threaten funding for fishery and conservation programs, as well as millions of federal dollars tied to the number of licenses sold.

SB187 enjoys a broad coalition of support that includes sport, labor, business, tourism and citizen groups.

“This bill would not only improve access to recreational fishing, it will protect California jobs dependent on outdoor tourism,” Berryhill said. “Labor unions, state and local chambers of commerce, anglers, tourism groups and everyday Californians recognize that California’s antiquated fishing licensing program has proven to be a barrier to participation.”

The California Sportfishing League has been one of the most vocal proponents of the state’s policy that currently requires all license purchases to expire on Dec. 31, regardless of when the transaction took place.

Remembering The Maine In Havana

Photos by Chris Cocoles unless noted.

Nobody is more of a history geek than this editor whenever he travels. If there’s a battlefield, museum or monument nearby, I want to see it. I’ve visited Civil War sites near Nashville and Revolutionary War battlefields around Greensboro, North Carolina. In Greece, I saw a memorial for locals murdered by Nazis and even a German cemetery  honoring paratroopers killed during the invasion of Crete.  I took my time walking through the Museum of Occupation in Riga, Lativa, a country that suffered at the hands of not just Hitler but also Stalin.

So when I went to Cuba in late March and early April (I’ll have a feature on Cuba’s adopted son, famed American writer/fisherman Ernest Hemingway, later this year), I wanted to make sure I got a history lesson while I was there. While I learned a lot of Cuban history and found some perspective about a very complicated nation, it’s funny that I had to be reminded by our tour guide about our country’s pre-Castro connection with Cuba. “That’s the U.S.S. Maine memorial,” she told us as we sped in a 50s-era Chevy along the iconic Malecón, the wide boulevard that separates Havana from the Atlantic.

We must have driven back and forth between that statue five times during our (too) short Cuban trip, and I kept wondering if I’d have time to see it. We did so much walking around Old Havana, including one night strolling on the waterfront, but we never had a chance to actually walk the Malecón. So on our last day as we headed back from Playa Girón (site of the infamous Bay of Pigs invasion), I asked our very friendly guide and our driver if we could make a quick stop so I could take a quick peek at the Maine monument. It was a very significant moment in both American and Cuban history.

The Maine entering Harbor of Havana. January 1898. Scribners Collection. (Army)
Exact Date Shot Unknown

Here’s more from PBS: 

At 9:40pm on February 15, 1898, the battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana Harbor, killing 268 men and shocking the American populace. Of the two-thirds of the crew who perished, only 200 bodies were recovered and 76 identified.

The crew of the U.S.S. Maine. (Edward H. Hart, Detroit Publishing Company)

The sinking of the Maine, which had been in Havana since February 15, 1898, on an official observation visit, was a climax in pre-war tension between the United States and Spain. In the American press, headlines proclaimed “Spanish Treachery!” and “Destruction of the War Ship Maine Was the Work of an Enemy!” William Randolph Hearst and his New York Journal offered a $50,000 award for the “detection of the Perpetrator of the Maine Outrage.” Many Americans assumed the Spanish were responsible for the Maine’s destruction.

Of course, the Spanish-American War was the byproduct of the tragedy of the Maine and the sailors who perished in Havana harbor. A little more about the famous “Remember The Maine” battlecry and  ramifications of the explosion, via

The wreckage of the Maine in Havana Harbor. (U.S. Navy photo)

No one has ever established exactly what caused the explosion or who was responsible, but the consequence was the brief Spanish-American War of 1898. American sentiment was strongly behind Cuban independence and many Americans blamed the Spanish for the outrage. The yellow press, led by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, proprietors of the New York Journal and the New York World, took every opportunity to inflame the situation with the exhortation to ‘Remember the Maine’, publicise the alleged cruelties of Spanish repression and encourage a belligerent hunger for action. They were vigorously supported by hawkish senators and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, who attacked President McKinley for trying to cool the situation down. In the end the government in Spain declared war on the United States on April 24th. The American Congress had already authorised the use of armed force and the United States formally declared war on April 25th. …

As it turned out,  the Spanish-American War was a mismatch

On July 1st, Teddy Roosevelt’s volunteer ‘Rough Riders’, whooping and hollering, helped Negro troopers of the 10th Cavalry to take the San Juan Heights above the city of Santiago, which surrendered on the 17th. The Spanish Cuban fleet, which had meanwhile fled Santiago harbour, was hunted down by American battleships ‘like hounds after rabbits’ and destroyed in four hours. American troops took Puerto Rico a few days afterwards and the Spanish government sued for peace.

Far more Americans were killed by tropical diseases – typhoid, yellow fever and malaria – in the course of the war than fell in battle (roughly 4,000 to 300). When a peace treaty was signed in Paris in December, Spain lost its last colonies in the New World. The United States took the Philippines, Puerto Rico and the Pacific island of Guam, and achieved worldwide recognition as a great power. Cuba gained independence.

To be honest, I was so focused on soaking up the Cuban culture, seeing the Maine tribute brought me back to reality of the connection our country has to Cuba (it’s incredible how much Cold War tension there was between nations that were separated by all of 90 miles).

I knew I couldn’t stay long at the memorial that warm day in Havana. Our guides had to get home and we wanted to head back to our family-owned casa particular, freshen up and  get ready to spend one more night in this exciting, energy-fueled city. So I snapped a few photos and then just stopped for a few minutes to reflect about the American sailors lost (the cause of the explosion remains a mystery).

The names of those killed on the Maine.

As we celebrate American servicemen and -women lost in the line of duty on Memorial Day, I’m reminded of what they have sacrificed for me and allowed me the chance to visit tributes to the fallen heroes and heroines, even in Cuba.

Enjoy this holiday, but please take some time to Remember The Maine and never forget all those men and women who got us here.