Outdoor Q&A: Off the California coast, what is the incidence of sharks biting humans? | Outdoor

what: How often do sharks bite people off the coast of California?

A: California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) scientists released a study in December 2022 that reviews all available information on shark incidents in California. The study showed that there were 201 confirmed shark incidents in California waters between January 1950 and December 2021. Among those incidents, 107 caused non-fatal injuries and 15 were fatal.

On average, there were fewer than three incidents a year. The annual average number of incidents resulting in injuries was less than two. The annual average number that resulted in deaths was much less than one.

While the annual number of reported shark incidents without injury has increased since 2004, there does not appear to be increased risk to ocean users, the study showed.

CDFW uses the word “incident” instead of terms such as “bite” or “attack,” which imply an intent by the shark to knowingly harm or consume a person.

Most interactions in which sharks bite people can be attributed to exploratory bites in which the shark investigates an object in its environment, or incidents in which the shark mistakes a person for its natural food source. Great white sharks have been observed chewing on many non-food items, such as seaweed, floating debris, and other inanimate objects.

Shark incidents in California remain quite rare. However, as with any activity in nature, entering the ocean includes risks that must be weighed on an individual basis and take into account a variety of considerations.

Congratulations to CDFW scientists John Ugoretz, Elizabeth Hellmers, and Julia Coates for their valuable and comprehensive study.

For more information on white sharks, see: www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/White-Shark

deer poaching

what: Can a deer hunter lose his hunting license if convicted of a poaching offense?

A: Yes. Decades of wildlife enforcement have provided anecdotal evidence that the potential loss of future hunting privileges is often more effective than fines in deterring future poaching behavior.

The relevant statute comes from California Fish and Game Code section 4340(a), which states: “Any person who is convicted of a violation of any provision of this code, or of any rule, regulation, or order made or adopted under this code, related to deer, you will lose your deer tags, and no new deer tags will be issued to that person during the then current license year for hunting licenses. Section 4340(b) also specifies that no person described in subsection (a) may apply for deer tags for the following license year.”

In addition, the California Fish and Game Commission may suspend or revoke sport fishing and hunting privileges when a person is convicted of violating the Fish and Game Code or its implementing regulations, pursuant to California Code of Regulations, Title 14 , section 745.5.

Oil spills

what: What is CDFW’s role in conserving wildlife habitat after an oil spill?

A: CDFW’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) is the state’s public trustee for protecting, managing, and restoring California’s wildlife and habitat after an oil spill.

OSPR works to protect and preserve 3,400 miles of coastline and 7,700 square miles of state waters from petroleum-derived substances.

When a spill occurs, OSPR deploys a team of wildlife officers, scientists, and oil spill prevention specialists to manage the state’s response. These first responders often work within a unified command that includes federal and local agencies and the responsible party.

OSPR was established by the Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act of 1990. The legislation arose on the heels of two major spills, the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, in which 11 million gallons of crude oil, and the 1990 American Trader spill in Orange County which resulted in the release of 416,598 gallons of crude oil.

For more information, visit the CDFW OSPR web page.