You are new to volunteering or you had done some before, perhaps through roof damage repairs for houses afflicted by a natural disaster. Or you have volunteered in food banks before, packing and sorting food so they can be sent to the needy and poor. Either way, maybe you decided to volunteer somewhere new. Somewhere where there is relative peace, quiet and greens. Lots of greens. And animals.
There are numerous Californian wildlife organizations that offer volunteer programs to anyone interested in helping animals or working in nature, and the opportunities are as diverse as the flora and fauna species. In this article, you will be focused on an organization that can be a good starting point to your world of wildlife volunteering.
Welcome to the California Department Of Fish And Wildlife.
California Department Of Fish And Wildlife: Introduction
The California Department Of Fish And Wildlife (CDFW), or California Department of Fish And Game is a state agency under the California Natural Resources Agency. It manages and protects the state’s flora and fauna, as well as their habitats and fish. Aside from preventing illegal poaching through hunting and fishing regulations, the CDFW also enforces and manages related recreational, scientific, educational and commercial uses in the wild.
There are six volunteering opportunities offered by the CDFW, all which can also be read about in their official website.
CDFW: Nature Resource Volunteer Program
If you want to assist the CDFW’s Law Division in protecting the Californian wildlife, this is the place for you. The tasks involved in this program include the classic conserving of mother Nature, education, providing services to anyone without their access, monitoring government lands, support services and bringing awareness to pollution.
In other words, you are providing volunteer support for the CDFW in their field works.
As of this writing, the CDFW is currently recruiting NRVP volunteers for the Northern and North Coast Enforcement Districts. To register, you must go through an application, interview and background check. The application consists of four forms and if you are selected, you are required to attend and complete an 80 hour training course.
In training, you are expected to complete within 60 days of the hire date. The courses included are CDFW Employee Orientation, Natural Resource Volunteer Academy, Drivers Training and Observation, Defensive Driver’s Training, Hunter Safety and First Aid And CPR.
Besides following CDFW rules and regulations, there are some things to consider regarding dangerous situations. You must back away and report to the dispatch center and a supervisor immediately. You also do not have the right to take any enforcement action. Instead, if you find anything criminal, move to a safe place and call for help.
As an unpaid volunteer, you are entitled to limited benefits such as worker’s compensation insurance and reimbursement for certain expenses.
Hunter Education Program
If you are a hunter or know about hunting enough to teach a few folks about it, you can volunteer to be a Hunter Education Instructor. This program is for new hunters that don’t have a hunting license yet and is required since to hunt legally, they need formal education on the handling of firearms.
For a total minimum of ten hours, students are given homework, classroom and field instruction in not just firearm maintenance, but also hunting ethics and sportsmanship, wildlife management and conservation, archery, black powder, wildlife identification, first aid, survival and game care. Children can also attend the course, though it is recommended to do it with their parents as the courses can be demanding for them.
There is no fee for using an instructor’s service, but it is expected to cover training aids such as targets and flip charts.
To volunteer as an instructor, you should contact a regional coordinator. Aside from being 18 and above, you must also already have completed the hunter education course before. You must not be convicted of any felony and are required to submit data of your fingerprints and background. Lastly, you must actually have already gone through hunting education yourself before you can take an examination about the basics of the program.
If you are accepted, you will be certified and issued an instructor’s ID card and start-up kit. Before you can conduct classes on your own, you may first teach under the direction of another experienced instructor.
CDFW’s Hunter Education website also provides instructor resources ranging from announcements to forms and supplies.
Gray Lodge Wildlife Area
Gray Lodge is a wildlife area teemed with grassy fields, ponds and wooded riparian areas that house more than 300 species of birds and mammals.
Volunteering in Gray Lodge consists mostly of outdoor related tasks including but not limited to leading nature walks, putting up wood duck nest boxes, removing non-native vegetation and assisting with restoration projects and nature programs for schools. If you are really skilled, you may get a chance to be part of the wildlife and habitat management programs at Gray Lodge.
To start or for more information, you can call the Naturalist Office at (530) 846-7505 or email Lori.Dieter@wildlife.ca.gov.
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area
The Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area, or Yolo Bypass, is a natural basin near one of America’s richest agricultural areas and the city of Sacramento. Aside from serving as a home to more than nearly 200 species of birds, the Yolo Bypass also functions as flood control and as a recreational and educational area.
Volunteer opportunities in the Yolo Bypass include teaching children in the outdoor educational program Discover The Flyaway, which centers around the wetlands, agriculture and wildlife of the Central Valley. You can also volunteer as an assistant in the Bat Talk and Walk program where you help prepare the tour before the guests arrive, greet them, watch and secure the gates they pass through and answer any enquiries. Other tasks include showing live rescue bats on display and crowd control.
Optionally, you can be a Driver where you are the tail car to ensure that guests remain in the caravan group and to lock gates behind them. There is also the role of a Route Checker where you inspect routes prior to a Bat Walk for accessibility and safety. You also check ground markings where people should stand while viewing live bats.
Moving on, you can volunteer to assist and lead monthly tours of the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and the city of Davis Wetlands. Training is provided on touring the two areas and although a training of first aid kit and CPR isn’t required, it is desirable.
Finally, there are special events you can volunteer yourself in, including Bucks For Ducks and California Duck Days, as well as other projects and programs such as data entry, summer camps and clean up days.
To register volunteering in the Yolo Bypass, you need to create a MyImpactPage account if you do not have one. Volunteering questions can be directed through the email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
Elkhorn Slough is a wildlife reserve located at the heart of Monterey Bay. Although currently closed, there is a docent training class for new volunteers to support services such as tours, events, workshops and more, as well as learning the history of the slough. Besides, you can also help maintain new native gardens in the reserve as well as assisting the community science.
Other opportunities include education, stewardship, group volunteering and participating in one of the two annual cleanup events of the year.