Category Archives: Nuisance Animals & Pests

Moving Wing Waterfowl Decoys

Mallard drake (Photo ODFW)

Mallard drake (Photo ODFW)

Question: With waterfowl season approaching, I was wondering if you could clarify Regulation 507 regarding duck decoys that move? That regulation specifies moving wings or blades are prohibited until after Nov. 30, but I cannot find a prohibition regarding motor powered decoys that simulate swimming (clamp on propeller), or water movement to simulate feeding (magnate type), or battery powered jerk string. In short, are ONLY moving wing decoys prohibited during the first six weeks of the season? (James Scott, Oakley)

Answer: The prohibition is only for electronically powered spinning wing, or spinning wing simulated devices. There are no prohibitions to any other electronic devices which flap wings, allow the decoy to swim, feed, or cause movement other than the spinning of a wing or wing simulated device.


How to pay an old ticket?
Question: One of my friends received a ticket about five years ago for abalone taken from the Fort Ross area. Afterwards he moved out of state. He recently moved back to California though and would now like to pay his ticket but he does not have any information. How should he go about paying it? How can he find out the amount owed and where should he send payment? Thanks for any help. (James Y.)

Answer: If your friend left the state without paying the fine for the ticket he received, then the court probably issued an arrest warrant for him. Fort Ross is in Sonoma County, so he should contact Sonoma County Superior Court as soon as possible. If contacted by law enforcement prior to doing this and it is determined there is an active warrant, your friend will be cited or arrested for not taking care of his ticket.


Game wardens also lead-free in Condor Zone?
Question: Does a Fish and Wildlife officer’s pistol that he carries in the field contain lead-free ammunition? I ask because if I’m in the woods in the lead-free zone under a carry concealed weapon permit (CCW) and just camping, I must run lead-free, correct? The law should be consistent for everyone. (Dale G.)

Answer: No, the lead ban pertains to hunters. It is illegal to use, or possess with a firearm capable of firing, any projectile containing more than one percent lead by weight while taking or attempting to take big game or nongame within the condor range. This includes centerfire as well as black powder/muzzleloader and rimfire projectiles. Since wildlife officers are not hunting while on duty, their firearms may contain lead ammunition in the condor range. Any people who are not taking or attempting to take wildlife, including CCW holders, may use or possess lead ammunition.


Woodpeckers are driving me crazy!
Question: I’ve got a bunch of woodpeckers that keep pecking at my house and they are driving me crazy! Can I use a pellet gun to haze them and chase them off? Thanks. (Alan H., Ukiah)

Answer: No, woodpeckers are a nongame species so you will have to find a non-lethal method to haze them away from your house. You could try hanging shiny mylar tape like they use in orchards to scare the birds away from the fruit or try posting an owl decoy. You might also try covering the wood with metal mesh hardware cloth.

This is a USFWS question and they do have a permit process for a number of species under federal depredation provisions unless designated a fully protected bird.

For additional tips and information, please check with the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program online at http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/menu.house.html#VERT.


Deployed gear through MPAs
Question: Is it legal to travel through a State Marine Reserve (SMR) on a kayak with fish and non-deployed fishing gear on board? Does “fishing gear deployed” mean having a hook and line in the water? Or does it go so far as to require fishing hooks be removed from any fishing line on board a kayak? The term “deployed” is not defined in the regulations and I am wondering how it is enforced by the officers. (Brian M.)

Answer: Yes, you may travel through a state marine reserve with catch on board as long as no fishing gear is deployed in the water (per Section 632(a)(8) on pg. 52 of the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet). Deployed means that the gear (hook and line) is in the water. If you wish to remove all doubt, you could remove the hooks, but that is not required by law. Just make sure your gear is out of the water and secured before transiting a state marine reserve, and you will be abiding by the law.

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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.

Relocating Rescued Rattlesnakes

Rattlesnake (CDFW photo)

Rattlesnake (CDFW photo)

Question: I found and took home a dying Northern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus oreganus) after it became a victim of a wildfire. It’s now eating great and able to move fluently which is great and a job well done in my eyes. I’ve had it in captivity close to three weeks now. Is it okay to place it back into the wild (away from humans, of course)? (Daniel G.)

Answer: While we appreciate your desire to help injured wildlife, it is illegal for members of the public to rehabilitate wildlife without possessing a wildlife rehabilitation permit.

If you kept the injured rattlesnake near or with other captive reptiles at your house, the snake should not be re-released back into the wild due to the inherent danger of spreading disease into wild populations of rattlesnakes after release.

Wildlife rehabilitation is regulated in California to ensure animals are cared for and housed properly and that their reintroduction into the wild is done very carefully. Wildlife rehabilitators often give pre-release medical exams or observe wildlife patients for an extended period of time to evaluate the health of an animal prior to release. All rehabilitation facilities have a veterinarian of record who help them with medical issues and can help them assess whether an animal is healthy enough for release. Wildlife rehabilitators must return wildlife within three miles of where the animal originated and often work with the department to find suitable release sites.

We encourage you to find a wildlife rehabilitation facility that is willing to take the rattlesnake and go through the proper channels for its release. For a list of permitted wildlife rehab facilities, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/WIL/rehab/facilities.html .


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.


Hunting deer over water?
Question: I was having a conversation with my uncle the other day and we were discussing whether it would be legal to hunt over a horse or cattle trough. With the recent drought, I’m worried that the deer in our area aren’t getting sufficient watering holes. I have read the section on baiting in the Big Game Digest, but am under the impression that water is not considered bait. So our main question is, is it legal to hunt over a horse/cattle trough or any other type of man-made pool of water if there are no horses or cattle? (Tony S., Davis)

Answer: Although there are some specific exceptions, it is generally legal to hunt near cattle troughs or other sources of water. Keep in mind that many wild animals like deer will water before or after legal hunting hours.

In addition, it is NOT legal to hunt, camp or otherwise occupy for more than 30 minutes within 200 yards of wildlife watering places on public land within the California Desert Conservation Area, within 200 yards of guzzlers or horizontal wells for wildlife on public land, and within one quarter mile of five wells in Lassen County and one well in Modoc County is prohibited (CCR Title 14, section 730). “Wildlife watering places” are defined as waterholes, springs, seeps and man-made watering devices for wildlife such as guzzlers (self-filling, in-the-ground water storage tanks), horizontal wells and small impoundments of less than one surface acre in size.


Abalone dinner donations?
Question: If a non-profit organization puts on a dinner and only requests donations to attend, can a group of divers legally donate abalone to the organization to be used for the dinner? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, but only as long as the dinner is not advertised as being an abalone dinner and as long as paying for the dinner is optional. You may charge for the rental of the facilities, tables, chairs, etc. and charge for the plates, napkins, cups, etc. Abalone (like all sport-caught fish and game) cannot be bought, sold, bartered or traded.

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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.

Protecting Wildlife via Highway Fences

Game fences are installed primarily installed just along traditional migratory routes (USFWS photo of Tule elk bulls)

Game fences are primarily installed along traditional deer and elk migratory routes (Tule elk photo courtesy of USFWS)

Question: I have been hunting deer and elk out of state for years. Every western state I have hunted has installed game fencing adjacent to highways where big game frequents and/or migrates. Why in the heck doesn’t California do this? I live in Grass Valley and Interstate Highway 49 is always being widened, but never does the work include game fencing or game “underpasses.” I have never seen or read any information coming from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommending game fencing along California highways. (Sven O.)

Answer: We do install game fencing but don’t do it everywhere. Because game fences are expensive, they are primarily installed just along the major migration routes. If designed incorrectly, they can do much more damage than good. Keep in mind that California has more than 2.3 million miles of paved road and it would be impossible to fence all of that no matter how much funding we had available.

According to CDFW Game Program Manager Craig Stowers, CDFW has instead focused primarily on routes that migratory deer move through as they are highly traditional and tend to move through the same areas year after year. Then once we identify where those areas are (mostly by finding road kills, but we can also identify through tracks in the snow and/or telemetry data), we work with CalTrans to mitigate those losses. CDFW has found lots of traditional migratory route areas in the state.

Some good examples of this kind of game fencing work include the miles of fencing and under crossings on I-395 from Bordertown up to the Inspection Station just south of the intersection of 395/89, fencing and undercrossings on I-395 in the Bass Hill Wildlife Area just south of Susanville, the work done in the Loyalton-Truckee deer herd area and the work we completed last year in the I-280 area (in conjunction with Caltrans and UC Davis). Our job on that one was simply to catch the deer, which we did. Caltrans engineers and wildlife experts from UC Davis analyzed the movement data of those deer in an effort to modify roadside fencing and existing undercrossings to cut down the number of deer hit on I-280. Regardless of location, it is a very expensive and time-consuming effort, not only to determine where to install the fencing and/or undercrossings, but also to build them.


Underwater camera to find trout?
Question: Is it legal to use an underwater camera to look for trout that may be hiding underneath the creek/river bank? Does it matter if it’s used while engaged in the actual activity of trout fishing or when not in possession of a fishing pole? (Jim B., Elk Grove)

Answer: An electronic viewing device, such as an underwater camera, would be legal but a non-electronic viewing device (such as goggles, scuba mask, etc.), would be prohibited for taking fish (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 2.09). There’s an exception, though, under the provisions of spearfishing (CCR Title 14, section 2.30).


Keeping a skunk for a pet?
Question: I live in Alameda and want to know if it is legal for me to keep a pet skunk? We will, of course, have the stink glands removed for obvious reasons. (Beatrice V.)

Answer: No. Wildlife must remain wild and cannot be owned. Generally, animals found in the wild in California can never be kept as pets. Only people who qualify for a restricted species permit may possess wild animals, like skunks. Keeping wildlife is prohibited by Fish and Game laws (CCR title 14, section 671) and California health laws due to a high incidence of rabies in skunks in California. All wildlife, even skunks, belong to the citizens of California and cannot be held, domesticated…or have their scent glands surgically removed!


Trolling for salmon?
Question: This last weekend while fishing/trolling with my husband for salmon, we had three fish on board and needed one more for the two of us to have limits. My question is – do we need to fish/troll with just one rod as one of us has a limit, or may we fish with two rods until we catch one more fish? (Donna S.)

Answer: You can use two rods until you catch your final fish because boat limits apply in ocean waters. Boat limits are defined as: “When two or more persons that are licensed or otherwise authorized to sport fish in ocean waters … are angling for finfish aboard a vessel…, fishing by all authorized persons aboard may continue until boat limits of finfish are taken and possessed aboard the vessel”.(CCR Title 14, section 27.60(c)).

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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.

Helicopter Fishing?

(Photo from Creative Commons)

(Photo from Creative Commons)

Question: You’ve answered readers’ questions several times in the past about the legalities and illegalities of fishing with a remote controlled boat. But my question is about a radio controlled helicopter. I just saw a video on YouTube showing a guy maneuvering his helicopter around a small lake that was dangling a line with a hook and bait on it. The craziest part of this was that he actually caught a sunfish with this rig and the helicopter flew the fish back to him on shore so that he could take it off the hook and release it back into the water. Seems like a great idea but I’m betting it isn’t legal in these parts. What do you say? (Steve C., Chico)

Answer: All fish caught in freshwater must be taken by angling which means hook and line with the line held in the hand, or with the line attached to a pole or rod held in the hand or closely attended in such a manner that the fish voluntarily takes the bait or lure in its mouth (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.05). Thus, the remote controlled helicopter could be used as a vehicle to take the line out further but the line would need to be directly controlled by the angler. Depending on the location where the “helicopter angler” wants to use it, they should first make sure there are no local ordinances or specific rules imposed by the lake property owner or concessionaire prohibiting this practice and the flying of remote-controlled helicopters.


Bow hunting with a concealed firearm?
Question: When bow hunting in California, can you carry a concealed firearm if you possess a concealed carry permit? (DeWayne T.)

Answer: Unless you are an active or honorably retired peace officer, as specified in Fish and Game Code, section 4370(b), you may not carry a firearm during an archery only (AO) deer season or while using an AO tag, regardless of whether the firearm is concealed. Fish and Game Code, section 4370 requires:

(a) In every area in which deer may lawfully be taken during the general open season, there is an archery season for the taking of deer with bow and arrow. … Except as provided in subdivision (b), a person taking or attempting to take deer during such archery season shall neither carry, nor have under his or her immediate control, any firearm of any kind.

(b) A peace officer … whether active or honorably retired, may carry a firearm capable of being concealed on his or her person while engaged in the taking of deer with bow and arrow in accordance with subdivision (a), but shall not take or attempt to take deer with the firearm.

AO tags/seasons are only one option though. You can instead choose to hunt during the general season under a general tag with a bow, and then you could carry a firearm. Hunting under the AO authority grants a special opportunity to archers in exchange for leaving the firearm in camp.


Landing a large fish from a pier?
Question: While fishing from a public pier without a fishing license, am I allowed to go down onto the beach to land a big fish that I hooked on the pier? (Pete T.)

Answer: No. A fishing license is required when fishing everywhere except from a public pier. Even if you hooked the fish on the pier and only came down onto the beach to land the fish, you would need a valid license to avoid a potential citation. Purchasing an annual fishing license will make this a non-issue; or you may want to buy a pier net to help you land bigger fish from the pier.


Peacocks
Question:Is it legal to trap wild peacocks? If so, is it legal to sell them? Is it legal to kill wild peacocks? (R. Om)

Answer: Peacocks are not protected by California Fish and Game laws and so the CDFW has no regulations regarding trapping, selling or taking them. Check with your local animal control as peacocks are domestic animals.


Carcass possession limits?
Question: I fish for rockfish out of Santa Barbara and afterwards freeze the carcasses to use for crab bait. I am aware of the daily bag limit for rockfish but have not found any regulations for the leftover carcass (head, body, skin and guts). Are there any possession limits for rockfish carcasses? (Jim P.)

Answer: Although the general rule is once the meat has been removed and consumed or given away and you only have a carcass, it no longer counts as part of your possession. However, even parts of fish are legally considered “fish.” The letter of the law is you may not possess more than a daily bag limit of fish. So, if you catch fish and take them home to clean and you freeze the carcasses for use as bait in the future, be sure you do not take more than a possession limit of carcasses with you when you go crabbing.

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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.

Nesting Wild Mallards in My Backyard Pool?

Mallard pair

Mallard pair (ODFW photo)

Question: We have a pair of mallard ducks that seem to have taken up residency in our backyard pool and have laid eggs in the surrounding plants. I am afraid that if they hatch they will end up dead because of all the meat eating birds in the area. Why are they doing this? If I can get them to leave, where will they fly off to? I can’t seem to find any help in the town that I live in (Modesto, Calif.). I read your piece in the Modesto Bee and wondered if you had any suggestions of what I could do? (Richard, Modesto)

Answer: Unless ducks are marked with a transmitter, we can only speculate where they are headed. Most likely the ducks in your backyard are a drake and hen pair that need a safe place to build a nest. Backyard pools generally don’t have many predators so ducks often nest nearby them. Once the eggs hatch, they won’t want to hang out in the pool for long because there is no food in the water. At that point, you may want to open your backyard gate so the hen can walk her brood out to a nearby river or other water source.

Since waterfowl are protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, you cannot catch and move them yourself. It is a state and federal violation to disturb the nest of any bird, and you can’t take the eggs or move the nest. You might try contacting a permitted local wildlife rehabilitation center to ask for advice, but wildlife rehabbers cannot possess healthy wildlife or relocate the juvenile ducks or their mother. They can only take the ducklings if they are injured or orphaned, and technically they cannot do anything about the situation you’ve described unless the ducklings become injured or orphaned.

If this happens again, try covering the pool and hazing the ducks away before they build their nest. Once the eggs are laid, a person is “technically” powerless to do anything to the nest or eggs.

For a list of permitted wildlife rehab facilities, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/WIL/rehab/facilities.html.


Are hooks with pinched barbs legal for fishing salmon?
Question: I was told that a barbed hook (circle or otherwise) which has had the barb “pinched down” with pliers is by law considered legal for salmon fishing. True or false? (Rick S.)

Answer: True. As long as it is pinched all the way down so there is no barb. It’s safer to just buy barbless hooks or grind off the barbs. Barbless hooks are defined as, “A fish hook from which the barb or barbs have been removed or completely bent closed, or which is manufactured without barbs” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.19).


Where’s the search authority?
Question: My friend and I disagree about a point of law. If a game warden sees that you are fishing, or have been fishing, or sees your rods and ice chests in the car, can he demand you open the car and open your ice chests? Can he demand you open the trunk also? I think this is fair because we have definitely been fishing and always have less than our limits, but my friend thinks it is an abuse of power to demand we open our trunk or car, which is our private property. If the game warden does have this right, what would happen if we refuse to comply? Thanks! (S. Love, Los Angeles)

Answer: Yes, any wildlife officer can ask for your consent to inspect a vehicle. Whether an officer has the authority to conduct an inspection when consent is not given depends upon the specific circumstances of the contact. Wildlife officers have extensive inspection authorities that are unique to their jobs. For example, it is a crime to refuse to show a wildlife officer “… all licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians taken or otherwise dealt with under this code, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians” (Fish and Game Code, section 2012).

Also, wildlife officers are authorized to inspect all receptacles, except the clothing actually worn by a person at the time of inspection, where birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians may be stored or placed (FGC, section 1006).


Fishing multiple rods from shore outside San Francisco Bay?
Question: I know that you can use as many rods and hooks as you want outside the Golden Gate, but can I use multiple rods to catch striped bass and halibut from the shore? I already know that only one rod can be used for salmon, rockfish and lingcod. I have heard if you have a striped bass or a halibut in possession, then only one rod can be used. Is this true? (Eddie H.)

Answer: No, that’s not correct. Outside of the Golden Gate, if you are fishing from shore for halibut and striped bass, you can use as many rods and hooks as you want. If you were to catch another species like salmon or rockfish, however, you would have to release it, as only one line may be used for these species.

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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.

Casting with a Potato Gun-Style Launcher

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

Question: Is it legal to use the “Sandblaster Baitcaster” in California? This device is supposed to be great for surf fishing from the beach. It uses compressed air to cast your bait up to 300 yards from shore. See it at their website, www.bunkerupfishin.com/. (Victor H.)

Answer: This line launching device is really just another form of the old “potato guns” that were popular for a while until they were outlawed in public areas. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Dennis McKiver, potato guns are legal under federal law. Under state law, potato guns that use combustion (instead of compressed air) to launch the projectile are “firearms,” and one with a bore of over 0.5 inches is a destructive device.

Pneumatic potato guns like this one use compressed air and are legal as long as they are not used like a weapon (e.g. shot at a person, etc.), so this line launching device would be legal under state and federal laws. However, you should check for local city and county ordinances because some local governments prohibit use of any devices that propel projectiles, and if you intend to use this line launching device on any state beach, you may also want to consult State Parks.

As far as using it to cast a fishing line, nothing in the Fish and Game Code or its implementing regulations prohibit using this compressed air launcher as long as the fishing line is attached to a rod and reel, or a person is brave enough to hold the other end of line in their hands!


What to do when catching invasive fish species?
Question: What should we do when we catch invasive fish in local lakes? Specifically, Balboa Lake in the San Fernando Valley remains warm enough in winter to support some tropical fish. Certain aquarium fishes breed as well as survive in these waters. The problem now are Plecostomus (commonly found in home fish tanks to eat the algae) that have taken over the lake and the Los Angeles River.

A couple of us have caught over 200 since February in one little cove while fishing for carp. We were told by park personnel to kill them (seemed reasonable) but I wanted to make sure they are inedible so that we won’t get into trouble for wasting fish. Please advise. Thanks. (Bill S.)

Answer: From a biological standpoint, CDFW would like to see these invasive fish disposed of (killed) rather then placed back in the system. The law prohibits the waste of any fish taken in waters of the state (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.87). This regulation is intended to encourage people to eat any fish they kill, and to avoid needlessly killing fish. But, any lawful use of fish that are legal for sale by an aquarium or pet store would satisfy the requirements of this regulation, including their use as fertilizer for your garden.

Here’s something that might surprise you … Plecostomus are consumed by humans in some of their native Central and South American waters. Jackson Landers, author of “Eating Aliens: One Man’s Adventures Hunting Invasive Animal Species” includes a recipe for Plecostomus in this book.


Scuba diving for Dungeness crabs?
Question: In a recent column you said that you could not take Dungeness crabs on SCUBA. Did I read that correctly or were you referring to seasons? (Duanne S.)

Answer: I saidwhen Dungeness crab season is open, they may be taken by hand via SCUBA but divers may not possess any hooked device while diving or attempting to dive for them (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(g)).


Sale of pig mount … Is it legal?
Question: My brother harvested a pig about 20 years ago on a private ranch in California and had the head mounted. He wants to sell the mount, but doesn’t want to break the law and can’t get a definitive answer from anyone. Could you help? Thank you as always for your help! (Dave)

Answer: Your brother can give it away but cannot sell or trade it to anyone. With a few exceptions (that don’t apply to your brother), the law prohibits the sale or purchase of any part of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California. (Fish and Game Code, section 3039)


Is there a limit on sand crabs?
Question: Is it legal to catch sand crabs with a fishing license, and if legal, what is the limit? Can sand crabs be taken on all beaches of the state? (Gina N.)

Answer: Yes, it is legal to catch sand crabs with a fishing license statewide wherever fishing is authorized. The limit is 50 crabs per day and in possession (CCR Title 14, section 29.85(d)).

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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.

When Wild Turkeys Attack

Turkey strut (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Turkey strut (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I have lived in a rural area of Woodside for more than 20 years. Although many different species of wild animals wander through our area searching for food, we have never seen wild turkeys. Never until one day about three years ago when two juvenile turkeys and a male pheasant wandered into our neighborhood scavenging for food.

Well, our neighbors began feeding them, and now there are at least two pairs of wild turkeys and 15 chicks between them. I suspect there are more but these were just on our patio last week. And these turkeys can be mean! Recently, one of our neighbors was putting his garbage can out and was attacked by some large male turkeys! He fell down and broke his wrist trying to get away from them.

What can we do to rid our neighborhood of these pests? Can these turkeys be moved to another area? (Floyd B., Woodside)

Answer: Turkeys are now a part of many suburban neighborhoods in California. During the spring breeding season male turkeys can become aggressive, but this breeding behavior should pass.

Most of the complaints the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) receives regarding turkeys can be traced to someone feeding the birds. The single most important thing people can do to get rid of nuisance wildlife is to remove ALL potential food sources. If possible, discuss the matter with the neighbors who are feeding the birds, too.

Turkeys are habitat generalists and food opportunists, meaning they can thrive in a wide variety of conditions and can eat many types of foods. Adequate food is available to them naturally and so they do not need to be fed. As with many wild animals, people feed them because they like watching them, but this practice puts them at risk. To help persuade the turkeys to move on, you and your neighbors should remove any cat food, dog food and especially spilled birdseed that might be in the area.

CDFW has used turkey relocation as a tool in the past but found the effectiveness limited. It’s very unlikely that all the turkeys in the area will be successfully trapped as turkeys are quite wary, and often there are plenty of other wild turkeys living in close proximity that will move in to fill any void. Once turkeys are trapped, they must be moved to a new location where they may end up just becoming a problem for someone else. These programs also require substantial resources and money for CDFW to maintain.

Generally, CDFW does not move nuisance wildlife for these reasons. As a last resort, you can get a depredation permit for the lethal removal of the birds, though methods may be limited in suburban areas where discharging firearms is prohibited. Many people don’t want to go this route anyway, and so the most important thing to remember when coexisting with turkeys is to not feed them.

For more information, please refer to previous California Outdoors Q&A columns that pertain to and explain the issues surrounding feeding wildlife (http://californiaoutdoorsqas.com/?s=feeding+wildlife) or to CDFW’s Keep Me Wild campaign (https://www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/turkey.html).


Crab season and whale migration do NOT mix
Question: Is there any way to END crab season for the year due to the early migration of the whales? Recently, there were two whales stuck in crab netting in/near Monterey Bay and it seems absolutely asinine to continue crabbing under these conditions. Whales are a protected species, not humans. We can find something else to eat and the crabs can have an early respite from our carnivorous habits. Can’t something be done to end the crab season earlier? (Deb D., Soquel)

Answer: According to CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Pete Kalvass, who is one of the Dungeness crab fishery managers, “We appreciate your concern regarding marine mammal interactions with crab gear. The federal government via NOAA is responsible for protecting marine mammals, including whales, and we work with them in trying to minimize these types of interactions with our state managed crab fisheries.

Unfortunately, there is presently no way to guarantee zero interactions short of eliminating these fisheries. As it is, when you consider that there are approximately 150,000 commercial Dungeness crab pots set during the height of the fishery in November and December each season, entanglements are indeed quite rare. Closing a fishery prematurely as you suggest is not a simple proposition and would either take legislation or an extraordinary finding of harm to the mammals, and public hearings, before our Director could act.”

For further information, I suggest you contact one of the NOAA offices or check their website at http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/.

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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.