Category Archives: Other

Why Do Fawns Have Growths on their Necks and Chins?

A healthy mule deer fawn (Photo courtesy of UDWR)

Question: Many of the fawns I am currently seeing here in Santa Barbara County appear to have growths or swelling on their necks or chin about the size of a baseball. I’ve seen this over the last several years. What’s up? (Larry F., Solvang)

Answer: According to DFG Veterinarian Dr. Ben Gonzales, deer can have multiple lumps due to cutaneous tumors (aka papillomatosis or fibromas) which are thought to be induced by viruses.

The location you describe of these lumps makes him think they are more likely jaw abscesses which can develop from a broken tooth, or more likely from the migration of grass awns or foxtails. Foxtails migrate forward and find the path of least resistance. The body tries to fight this foreign body by delivering white cells (neutrophils), which collect, die and form pus-filled abscesses. The abscesses also find the path of least resistance between tissue layers and thus can end up on the upper neck. Since this is the time of year when foxtails are dry and are easily picked up and ingested during feeding, my best educated guess is that you’re seeing foxtail-induced abscesses.

Trapping tree squirrels
Question: My cat often hunts and kills squirrels, then brings them home and eats them on the porch. I’d like to reduce the number of “prizes” my cat brings home for me, so what kind of license do I need to trap the tree squirrels, and what types of traps would you recommend? (Billy James)

Answer: A hunting license is required to take all species of squirrels, and for tree squirrels there are seasons, bag limits and geographical restrictions. Tree squirrels cannot be taken with traps during the open season (see below for exception), but traps can be used to take ground squirrels. According to retired Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Capt. Phil Nelms, you have slightly different options for dealing with problem tree squirrels depending on which species are causing problems:

Gray squirrels that are causing damage can only be taken under the provisions of a special permit issued by DFG. Please check with your local DFG office to apply for a permit.

California ground squirrels may be taken with traps in accordance with sections 475 – 465.5(g) in the Mammal Hunting regulations (CCR Title 14, sections 475 through 465.5(g)). There is no closed season or bag limit for ground squirrels. A hunting license is required except when taking them to protect your property, in which case no license or permit is required from DFG.

Red fox squirrels can only be taken with traps when they are found to be injuring growing crops or other property. Traps have to be used in accordance with California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 465.5(g). Please see the 2011 Mammal Regulations booklet. Check out section 465.5(g) under furbearing mammals regulations or online at

If trapped squirrels are not immediately killed, you must release them immediately in the area taken. The law does not allow live-trapped animals to be relocated from their immediate surroundings. If taken away from its known surroundings, the animal is more likely to suffer from lack of food and water. Humanely killing the animal is the only realistic option.

We do not have a product recommendation regarding types of traps to use. You should check with the agency that provides animal control services in your area or maybe try a large nursery/garden supply business.

Squirrels may not be taken with cats! Joking aside, you are not in much danger of being cited or prosecuted for the predatory habits of your cat as long as you are not training, controlling or otherwise encouraging it to kill the squirrels. See section 307 in the current Mammal Hunting Regulations (CCR Title 13, section 307) available online at

Sturgeon possession limits
Question: I enjoy sturgeon fishing and regularly go down to the Bay for a two-day fishing trip this time of year. How many can I have in possession? Let’s say I go to San Pablo on a Friday, catch a legal-size sturgeon, tag it and then take it back to my truck to put in an ice chest. Can I then fish on Saturday and catch and tag another sturgeon? If so, upon returning to my truck I would then have two sturgeon in my possession. I believe there is a yearly limit of three, but what is the possession limit up to those three sturgeon? (Mike G., Rio Oso)

Answer: No more than one daily bag limit (one sturgeon) may be taken or possessed at any time, even if the animal is frozen or otherwise preserved (CCR Title 14, section 1.17).

Photo credit: A healthy mule deer fawn (Photo courtesy of UDWR)

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 Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at

Bloodsucking Leeches?

These "creepy leech-like" organisms are part of the aquatic food chain and are often found in lakes and ponds where they provide food for vertebrates such as fish, ducks, turtles and some birds. (Photo: Wilderness Unlimited property in Mendocino County.)

Question: My daughter and I love to swim and play in waters wherever we find them. While in French Gulch (Shasta County) last year, we decided to play around in Clear Creek. The creek was running pretty high, but when my daughter and I got out we had these black, worm-like things hanging off us. Our first thought was leeches, which got us out of the water quite quickly! Someone told me they were rock worms and wouldn’t hurt us. We haven’t returned there though because we’re still too scared they were leeches.

We also stopped at Eagle Lake (Lassen County) to go swimming and ended up with these tiny little round slime balls on us. When picking up these slimy things in question, they flattened out on our hands and started slithering like a leech across our hands. This was another trip where my daughter and I ran screaming out of the water to rinse off under the faucet! There were lots of people swimming in the lake who either didn’t seem to notice or else knew something we didn’t.

Clear Creek was a very cold creek, but Eagle Lake was very warm, so I could understand Eagle Lake possibly having leeches. Do these leeches suck human blood? Are they harmful to humans in any way? I love the outdoors and swimming, but too many encounters with creepy leech-like things are making me leery about the safety of it. (Kim B.)

Answers: Without pictures, it’s tough to say, but it sounds like you encountered two different invertebrates. According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Associate Fish Pathologist Garry Kelley, Ph.D., the organism at Clear Creek was likely a free-living caddisfly larvae (Genus Rhyacophila), commonly known as a rock worm. This type of caddisfly crawls around rock bottoms in search of food and is commonly eaten by trout. Caddisflies are not at all harmful to humans.

The organism at Eagle Lake might be a leech based on the “slithering” swimming motion you described. There are many types of leeches and most are fluid feeders. Leeches are either scavengers or are parasitic (i.e., they feed on other organisms). Some species of leeches suck blood from vertebrates (humans, waterfowl, fish, etc.) while others feed on insects, mollusks, oligochaetes or dead animal matter. Kelley suspects the organism described at Eagle Lake was non-parasitic in nature because bloodsucking was not indicated.

Can cowcod caught in Mexico be imported to U.S. waters?
Question: If we’re fishing in Mexican waters and catch a cowcod, can we legally bring it back into a California port as long as we have all of the proper licenses and the Declaration for Entry form properly filled out? I’d just like to know for sure as we fish Mexican waters frequently targeting rockfish and I’d like to avoid a citation. (Jeff M., San Diego)

Answer: No. Cowcod may not be imported or even possessed in California regardless of where caught (Fish and Game Code, section 2353(a)(2)). Broomtail groupers and canary, yelloweye and bronzespotted rockfishes are also illegal to be possessed or imported into California under this regulation and under California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.55(b)(1), even if they were taken legally in Mexico.

How many turkeys in possession?
Question: I’m going out of town on a three-day turkey hunt and need some clarification on the possession limit. If my buddy and I each get a turkey each day (total of six) and get stopped by a warden on the way home, will we be legal? I heard that you can’t have more than one bird with you at a time, but the regulation states possession limit is three birds per hunter for the season. I want to make sure I am legal. Otherwise I will have to travel back and forth after each successful day and it’s about a two-hour drive each way. Any information you could give me would be appreciated. (Brent M.)

Answer: The daily bag limit for turkeys during the spring season is one bearded turkey per day and you can take three per season. According to retired DFG Capt Phil Nelms, you may have three bearded turkeys in your possession as long as you only take one per day. You do not have to return home after taking a bird on any one day.

Fishing for sanddabs
Question: When fishing for sanddabs, how many hooks can be attached to the line on a single rod? (Len P.)

Answer: You may fish for sanddabs with as many hooks as you like on a single rod, unless rockfish, lingcod or salmon are on the vessel or in possession, in which case special restrictions apply (CCR Title 14, section 28.65).

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at

(Photo courtesy of Wilderness Unlimited)

Can Hunters Sell Their Game for Medicinal Reasons?

Black Bear (DFG file photo)

Question: If a person buys a hunting license and a bear tag and goes out and hunts a bear legally, then that bear belongs to that hunter. If that hunter takes all the usable parts of the bear, then those bear parts belong to that hunter. But if the bear and all of the usable parts belong to the hunter, then why can’t the hunter sell the parts of the bear to other cultures that can use them for medicinal reasons? Why do Americans think they have the right to tell other cultures what they can and can’t use in their beliefs of medicine, as long as the animals are taken legally? Who knows, maybe they can find a cure for illnesses that we don’t have today. I am a legal and ethical hunter who is about to drive out of this state for hunting because of all of the ridiculous laws, so please start thinking about changes in the laws in favor of making hunting more enjoyable for hunters  (James “Rufus” Smith)

Answer: California Fish and Game laws are designed to protect and preserve California’s wildlife resources. Through the enactment of these laws, the legislature grants people the privilege to take some species under very specific regulations, but has prohibited certain acts that are considered a great threat to the species’ continued existence. Selling the pieces and parts of a bear is only one example of the threats that endanger California wildlife.

According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) retired Captain Phil Nelms, the prohibition on selling bear parts is needed to protect the bear population in California and not for any other purpose or reason. Whether or not these laws impact the religious and/or cultural practices of any ethnic group and whether they should be allowed to continue is a matter for the courts to determine. In the meantime, Fish and Game wardens will continue to apply and enforce these laws with sensitivity and the understanding that all people in California are affected one way or another by the resources we all share.

Lobster fishing citation liabilities from a private boat
I have my own boat and take friends out lobster fishing with me. I always make sure each person has their license and report card. I also make sure each person has their own bag and keeps each lobster they catch separate as they catch them. My question is, if the game warden finds a short lobster in one of their bags, am I held responsible as the boat owner or would the owner of that bag be responsible? Also, do boat limits apply when fishing for lobster? (Jerry E.)

Answer: Lobsters may be brought to the surface of the water for measuring, but no undersize lobster may be brought aboard any boat or retained. All undersize lobsters must be released immediately into the water (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.90).

According to DFG Warden Ryan Cordero, if the bag or undersized lobster is claimed by any person aboard the boat, that person would most likely be issued a citation for possession of an undersized lobster. If no one claims the lobster, the game warden can issue citations to everyone aboard the boat (joint possession), or, since the boat is property of the skipper, the skipper may be the only one cited because the undersized lobster is possessed aboard the skipper’s boat. Of course, prevention is the best solution, so if in doubt, set it free.

Sport fishing boat limits apply only to fin fish, not lobster. This means that once a lobster fisherman harvests the daily bag limit of seven, he or she may no longer fish for lobster.

Hunting coons and bobcats with hounds?
Question:If we catch coons or bobcats with hounds, can we sell the furs without a trapping license since they weren’t caught with traps? (Floyd M.)

Answer: No, only furbearing and nongame mammals taken during the open season under the authority of a trapping license may be sold. In addition, bobcat pelts have to be tagged as required by CCR Tile 14, section 479. However, a person taking these animals under the authority of a trapping license is not restricted only to using traps. Under the authority of a trapping license, it is also legal to use dogs and firearms to take raccoons and bobcats.

Using electric fishing reels
Question:Is it legal to use electric reels in California? (Gerry G., Carlsbad)

Answer: Yes. Electric reels are legal to use in California for sport fishing (CCR Title 14, section 28.70).

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at