Category Archives: Nuisance Animals & Pests

Feeding Wildlife Can Do More Harm Than Good

Feeding wildlife can do more harm than good (NPS photo)

Feeding wildlife can do more harm than good (National Park Service photo)

Question: Our neighbor feeds wildlife three-day-old bread on a regular basis. The wildlife consists of deer, turkey, birds and other mammals. Although this neighbor has been told this is not good for the animals, she continues. What can be done to stop this person from feeding people food to wildlife? (Steve S.)

Answer: While feeding human food to wildlife makes those people doing so feel good, in the long run it is often to the detriment of the animal recipients. Although many animals will eat stale bread when offered, temporarily satisfying their hunger, in reality, many human foods – especially bread – lack the protein and nutritional components animals need for good health.

Although your neighbor may be well-intentioned, she is actually being very selfish. She’s hurting the wildlife and her neighbors by encouraging wild animals to get too comfortable around humans. When animals concentrate around food they are more likely to spread diseases to each other and to domestic pets. When wild animals lose their natural fear of humans they can become very aggressive. Coyotes, in particular, are well-known for eating small pets because they do not differentiate between the food you leave for them and other prey items, like dogs and cats.

People often think they are just feeding cute, furry critters, like squirrels and raccoons. If they were to put a surveillance camera out, they would likely be surprised to find out what’s actually eating the food at night. They would probably be appalled to discover animals fighting over the food, and that they’re actually keeping the neighborhood rats fat and happy.

In addition, there may be a local ordinance that bans feeding of some wild animals. Los Angeles County, for example, has an ordinance that prohibits feeding non-domesticated mammalian predators, including but not limited to, coyotes, raccoons, foxes and opossums.

Regarding deer, there is a statewide ban on feeding big game, which includes deer, bear, elk, antelope and bighorn sheep (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251.3). You may want to contact a local game warden to report your well-meaning but stubborn and misguided neighbor. Her actions may cause her to be guilty of a misdemeanor, which may carry fines or even jail time.

For more tips on preventing wildlife-human conflicts, please visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/.


Fishing from my apartment without a license?
Question: I live in an apartment complex that sits on a slough in the San Francisco Bay area. Do I need a fishing license to fish off of the shore while standing on the apartment property with my child, who is under 16? (Dan S.)

Answer: Yes, you will need a license but your child will not. Anyone 16 years or older must possess a valid California fishing license in order to legally fish the public waters of the state. The only exceptions are the two free fishing days offered each year by the state, and fishing from a public pier in ocean waters.


Catching lobsters on a baited hook?
Question: While fishing off the jetty the other day, I caught a large lobster on a baited hook but released it because I think I remember reading that spiny lobsters could not be taken on hook and line. Where can I find this in the regulations? (Gary K.)

Answer: You did the right thing in releasing the lobster, as the only legal methods of take for lobsters are by baited hoop net or by hand. Baited hoop nets are the only appliance that may be used for people fishing from a boat, pier, jetty or shore. Skin and SCUBA divers may only take crustaceans by hand and may not possess any hooked device while diving or attempting to dive for lobsters (CCR Title 14, section 29.05.) In addition, spiny lobster report cards are required by everyone fishing for and/or taking lobsters.


Gifting wild game to family members
Question: Is the practice of “gifting” still legal? With larger possession limits for waterfowl this year, does the “gifting” limit increase as well? Does gifting apply to mammals and upland game as well as waterfowl? Do you know the specific regulation number? (James S., Oakley)

Answer: Yes, gifting fish and game is legal. There is no “gifting limit.” Instead, the amount of game that can be gifted is determined by the possession limit for that species. There are two primary fish and wildlife laws that relate to this practice: Fish and Game Code, section 2001, which applies to all wildlife, and FGC, section 3080, which only applies to game birds and game mammals. Waterfowl possession limits can be found in the CCR Title 14, section 502. Details of these regulation sections can be found online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Why Problem Deer Are Not Relocated

Mule deer (USFWS photo)

Mule deer (USFWS photo)

Question: I live in the Christian Valley area above Auburn. The deer are overpopulated but they are protected in the area. The deer are starving and eat everything in sight. I’ve bought deer-resistant plants and cover them at night, but then they rip off the covering and devour my plants. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars to try to keep plants on my property. I’ve even bought coyote packets to scare them away, but they tear them off and go right by them. I try to chase these deer away but they are so domesticated now that they have charged me and kicked my dog. I need help! How can I get Fish and Wildlife to transfer the deer to a higher location? I love animals but the deer here are destroying all I’ve put out. (Mary N., Auburn)

Answer: Unfortunately, because most of the deer in your area are migratory, moving them up the hill won’t help as they will soon be moving back because of snow and forage availability anyway. More than that though, according to Game Species Conservation Program Manager Craig Stowers, it is the policy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to not move depredating deer. There are several reasons for this:

1)     Several studies (including one of our own) have indicated the survival rates for these animals are extremely low.

2)     The benefits from all wildlife captures must be weighed against the risks of injury/death to the individual animals and personnel involved. Since the survival rates are so low in these instances, the benefits most definitely do not outweigh the risks.

3)     There is a very real potential for introducing new diseases and/or parasites when moving animals from one area to another without health testing, and the only way that can effectively be done is through a quarantine process. Unfortunately, we don’t have the facilities for that and couldn’t take care of the deer long enough for test results to come back.

4)     Physical deterrence is the only proven long-term solution (fencing or some type of barrier). Even if we could move a large number of deer, there are others which would eventually move in to replace them.

As California becomes more urbanized, these types of problems will continue to increase in frequency. Traditional methods of managing wildlife populations are becoming increasingly unavailable to us, primarily because of public safety issues and changing societal values. CDFW has implemented a pilot project in the San Jose area to address a very similar problem and we are hopeful it can turn into something we can use in the future as these problems are only going to continue.


Cotton destruct for crab pots

A sport crab pot with a cotton destruct line that will eventually rot to allow the trap lid to open in the event the trap becomes lost (Photo courtesy of Captain Tom Mattusch of the F/V Huli Cat)

Breakaway lines on crab pots?
Question: Are cotton breakaway lines required on sport Dungeness crab pots? (Clinton M., Petaluma)

Answer: Breakaway lines are not required on sport crab pots, but using cotton twine to secure escape rings and crab pot doors is a very good idea. On lost pots, the cotton eventually rots away and opens the pot so that crabs and other marine life can more easily escape. Without the destruct device (such as rotten cotton or cotton twine), the pot essentially becomes a self-baiting trap). We encourage you to use traps with self-destructing components. Rotten cotton also works well on the elastic or rubber between the band and the hook. When the cotton breaks, the hook falls away and the door opens. The majority of sport crab pots do not have removable escape rings, so cotton between the hook and the elastic is better for the resource.


Duck hunting youth on refuge
Question: I am a minor (17 years old) but possess an adult hunting license. Can I transport a shotgun in my vehicle for duck hunting on one of the California refuges where you only have to be 16 years of age to hunt by yourself? (James M., Modesto)

Answer: Yes, as long as your shotgun is unloaded. Persons 16 or 17 years of age in possession of a valid resident or nonresident hunting license will be issued entry permits and may hunt by themselves, but may not be accompanied by apprentice hunters (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 551(h)).


Second rod stamp required for youth?
Question: My son is 11 years old. When I take him fishing at the lake and he fishes from shore, can he fish with two rods or must he stick with one rod only? (H. Tran)

Answer: Your son can fish with two rods. However, once he turns 16 he will need a fishing license and a second rod stamp in order to fish with two rods.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Can Fish Food Attract Bears?

Black bear (Photo: USFWS)

Black bear (Photo: USFWS)

Question: I have a question regarding a fish pond at the house we recently purchased in Tahoe. We aren’t up there all the time so I was thinking about tossing in a time-release fish feeder but do not want to attract bears. It would basically be the flake stuff in a compressed block form. The four goldfish occupying the pond seem to do fine for long periods without food and even survived for several months before we bought the house. They must have been eating bugs, algae or whatever. I’d hate for them to have struggled to survive all that time, and then I come along and think I’m doing a good thing by feeding them, and end up attracting bears.

The house is definitely in bear territory and only a block away from forest area. The fish are located in a pond in the front yard. My question is whether or not a bear is able to smell a time-release Tetramin fish feeder. Is this something to worry about? Any information you can provide would be much appreciated! Thanks. (Liz C., Lake Tahoe)

Answer: Regarding bears’ ability to smell and potentially be attracted to your automatic feeder, according to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Black Bear Program Coordinator Marc Kenyon, the answer is yes. Bears can smell fish food and are attracted to it. What’s worse is if they are attracted to the pond by the smell of the feed, then they may decide to snack on your fish in addition to the fish food.

Kenyon recommends feeding your fish with time-release pellets (feeding blocks). He has done this with his aquarium fish while away on vacation or out in the field, and he claims it worked well for him. These pellets are little disks that you toss into the pond, and over time water dissolves the material that holds it together. This process works slowly, and depending on the size of the pellet, it could last for about a month or two. The benefit to this approach is that because they are submerged, they do not put off any odor into the air, and thus bears won’t be attracted to your pond.


Boat limits with multiple trips
Question: An interesting question came up at the fish cleaning station concerning an actual trip. This was sport fishing, not commercial or commercial passenger. There is one boat that holds three people, including the captain. The scenario is the captain goes out ocean fishing with fisherpersons A and B, and returns with full limits of salmon (6). The captain drops off both people and picks up fisherperson C. Can the boat still fish with two rods under the boat limits rule, or are they limited to one rod as the captain has already caught his fish earlier in the day? The consensus at the table was he would be at risk of a violation. (David G.)

Answer: No. They can both fish until the last fisherman’s bag limit is filled (CCR Title 14, section 27.60(c)). While the skipper can still only take one bag limit per day, under a boat limit, the skipper is not done until the fishing trip is completed when he returns for the day. Boat limits apply to all species except sturgeon.


How to follow the number of tags currently sold?
Question: Is there a way to follow how many bear and deer tags have currently been sold? Can you tell me how many have been sold so far this year? Is there a public record or data somewhere? (Norm G.)

Answer: Yes, the deer tag seasons and tag quotas adopted by the Fish and Game Commission are posted online at: www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/deer/tags/index.html. In addition, a daily list of the current available deer tags is posted at: www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/. There is no bear tag quota, but the season is monitored by the number of bears reported taken. Bear season runs through Dec. 29, or until 1,700 bears are reported taken. If 1,700 bears are harvested before Dec. 29, CDFW will immediately close the season early. For daily updates on the number of reported bear harvested, please visit our website at: www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/bear/harvest.html.


Garden destroyers
Question: I have cottontail rabbits, gophers and rats that are destroying my garden and property. Do I need a license to shoot them on my private property? (Rodger D.)

Answer: Landowners and their tenants are not prohibited from taking cottontail rabbits, gophers or rats that are damaging their crops, gardens or ornamental plants (Fish and Game Code, section 4186 and CCR Title 14, section 472(a)). However, you should check with your local police department or sheriff to determine whether you may discharge a firearm where you live.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

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