Category Archives: Religious/Cultural Use

Releasing Pet Ducks to the Wild?

It is not legal to release pet ducks into the wild (USFWS photo)

Releasing domestic animals to the wild is not only illegal, but most are not prepared to take care of themselves in the wild. Our pets are usually dependent upon humans for food and protection, so when released to the wild to fend for themselves, many will end up starving to death or falling prey to any number of predators. (USFWS photo)

Question: I have some ducks that I would like to find a good home for but I’m not sure where to start. They have been pets and I don’t want to eat them or risk giving them to someone else who will eat them. I’d like to release them into the wild and am hoping you can advise where I can do this. I’m willing to donate them someplace as long as I know they won’t get eaten. (Mike)

Answer: I understand you are seeking a good home for your pets, but releasing domestic animals into the wild is a bad plan and often has disastrous results. Typically, domestic animals depend on humans for food and are ill-equipped to take care of themselves in the wild. When released to the wild, many end up starving to death or falling prey to any number of predators.

If the animals do survive, they often become a nuisance in their new home and may cause damage because they tend to seek out people for food. Domestic animals also compete for resources with wildlife, and in some cases may breed with their wild counterparts which reduces the genetic fitness of wildlife populations. There is also a real possibility of introducing domestic diseases to wildlife that have no immunity. This may cause die-offs, sometimes quite massive ones. In addition to all of this, it is also against the law. Any person who willfully abandons an animal is guilty of a misdemeanor under California Penal Code, section 597s.

You might try posting a notice at a local farm or agricultural store because many of these stores regularly sell domestic ducklings. You could also search for petting zoos or small city zoos to see if they may be interested in giving them a good home. If that doesn’t work out, try advertising on the Internet. You might also check with local schools and ask friends.

Bottom line … you have a number of options to explore in your quest to find a new home for your feathered friends, but releasing them into the wild should not be one of the them.


Selling abalone jewelry
Question: I’ve recently been to a few beaches where I’ve found red abalone shells that have washed up on the shore. I’ve collected a few shell fragments and have made jewelry from them. Friends of mine have shown the items to others and now they want me to make them items as well. My questions is … Is it illegal for me to collect red abalone shells and then make jewelry, then sell them to friends, and so forth? I’ve gotten mixed answers from the Web and have tried to navigate your Website. I have seen no definitive answer. If anyone could respond to this it would be great. (Matt R.)

Answer: You may give the shells away or use them for personal use, but shells collected under the authority of sport fishing license cannot be legally bought, sold, traded or bartered.

People often ask what they can do with their old abalone shells. We get requests for shells from Native American tribes who use them for ceremonial purposes. Shells can be donated directly to a Native American Tribe, or they can be given to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and we will distribute them to Native Americans when we get requests.


Deer decoys
Question: I know that baiting for big game is illegal in California, but what about using deer decoys to attract deer to a certain location when deer hunting? (Matt W.)

Answer: Yes, decoys are legal to use while deer hunting in California. However, decoys that employ any recorded or electrically amplified bird or mammal call or sound is illegal to use for big game.


Transporting smoked/canned fish
Question: We have a vacation house on the North Coast where we spend a lot of time ocean fishing and enjoy smoking and/or canning our fish. How can we legally transport this processed fish back to our home in the valley? (Jim S., Redding)

Answer: As long as you possess only the legal limit and the fish were taken legally, transporting these fish as smoked or canned is not a problem. Regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen, or otherwise preserved, no more than one possession limit may be possessed by any one person (CCR Title 14, section 1.17).

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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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Why Don’t Wardens Release All Poached Animals?

Game Warden Kyle Kroll with K-9 detection dog, Buck, and the 57 poached abalone that they seized (Photo by Debra Hamilton for CDFW)

Game Warden Kyle Kroll with K-9 detection dog “Buck” and 54 poached abalone that they seized (Photo courtesy of CDFW)

Question: I support the work of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and want to congratulate and say thank you for all your services. However, I was watching an episode of “Wild Justice” recently and something didn’t seem right about the way the game wardens carried out a couple of operations. On the show, game wardens busted a poacher with 42 abalone. The wardens spied on a group and knew they were fishing illegally, so why didn’t they stop them when they came back to the beach? Why did the game wardens allow the group to pull the abalones away from the beach and wait? By the time you guys busted the group, all 42 abalone were dead. My 4-year-old daughter couldn’t understand why you didn’t catch the poachers as soon as they hit the beach so the abalone wouldn’t have had to die. Can you please give me an answer so that I can explain it to her? (Christopher R.)

CDFW K-9 detection dog with a poached abalone she seized (Photo by Debra Hamilton for CDFW)

CDFW K-9 detection dog “Coco” with a seized poached abalone (Photo courtesy of CDFW)

Answer:  Wardens are often faced with the dilemma of when to make contact on a poaching case. According to CDFW Lt. Patrick Foy, there are circumstances where a warden can make an excellent poaching case, contact the perpetrator, and return the live animals to the water/or wild. Those cases usually result in a fine. There are other times, such as the one you reference, where an effort needs to be made to prove that the perpetrator’s actions weren’t just a one time occurrence by a person who wasn’t aware of the law. If a warden can document that the perpetrator’s actions were planned, and intended to make a profit poaching wildlife, it is called commercialization. Commercialization cases are difficult to make, but when a warden makes them, they can lead to life-time revocation of fishing privileges, steep fines, and even jail terms. The wardens in the case you watched made the judgment that the loss of 42 abalone was necessary to permanently take the poachers out of business.


Wolves from another state?
Question: Is it legal to hunt and bring a wolf hide from another state into California? (Stephen H.)

Answer: It is legal to bring a wolf hide legally acquired in another state or province into California. You are required to complete a declaration of entry pursuant to section 2353 of the Fish and Game Code when the hide enters the state.


Fishing for crayfish in a stream closed to other fishing?
Question: Can crayfish be taken from a trout/steelhead stream closed to fishing?

Answer: Yes, taking crayfish by legal methods other than hook and line is allowed in streams closed to fishing. (See California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 5.35(e).)


Vintage Native American jewelry?
Question: I realize buying and selling bear claws is prohibited in California, but is there an exception in the law for vintage Native American jewelry? These old pieces often include bear claws in their designs, which are an important part of their culture. (Neil Z., Burbank)

Answer: No. The purchase or sale of the pieces or parts of any bear is prohibited in California. The law does not provide any exception for bear parts used in Native American art or ceremonial pieces of any age (Fish and Game Code, section 4758).


Maximum number of crab traps allowed?
Question: What is the maximum number of crab traps allowed for recreational fishermen? I see a limit of 10 hoop nets but nothing for traps or pots in the regulations. I’m fishing the Bodega and Tomales areas.

Answer: North of Pt. Arguello (just north of Pt. Conception), a recreational fisherman may use any number of crab traps or pots except when fishing from a public fishing pier, where the limit is two fishing appliances, such as crab traps or pots, per person.

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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.

Are Broken Antlers a Sign of Nutrient Deficiencies?

California mule deer (DFG file photo)

Question: I recently had a wonderful opportunity to accompany a friend to the 2010 Goodale Buck Hunt (G3) in the Owens Valley. It was great to see so many mature bucks in California! However, we noticed many large four-point bucks had broken antlers. Some actually had one complete side broken or partially broken. It appeared that the small tines on the four-point bucks had the most damage. I have never seen this many damaged horns in any other zone or any other state. Is this caused by a deficiency in nutrients? (Bob Pihera)

Answer: It may be that a mineral deficiency is playing a role, but we can’t say for sure. According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) deer program manager Craig Stowers, we have documented this deficiency regarding Tule elk in the area but don’t have any data specifically related to deer. Additionally, that particular hunt is held late (in December), pretty much in the middle of the rut. By that time those antlers have endured a lot of stress from animals fighting with each other for dominance. Given this, it wouldn’t be too unusual for these animals’ antlers to reflect a lot of wear and damage from the rutting season.


Buddhists expressing mercy by freeing fish
Question: We are Buddhists. For expressing mercy we used to buy captive fishes and set them free in rivers. However, we could not buy live bred fishes and free them here because the salesperson in the supermarket said it violates California laws. I could not find any information in the regulations you issued. Please tell us which codes apply. (James W.)

Answer: Many California fish and game laws state that it is illegal for anyone without official stocking permits to release any fish into any waters of the state. This includes both freshwater and saltwater. The code sections that apply are: Fish and Game Code, sections 2116-2302, 6300-6403 (especially 6400) and 15200-15202, and the California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 1.63, 238-238.5 and 671-671.6.


Why are more male crabs caught in traps?
Question: My son and husband have been sport crab fishing for years. They always release the females but have noticed that the male-to-female ratio in their pots is much higher for males compared to females. I tell them that the females are smarter and stay out of the traps, but I’m sure there is a scientific reason for the difference. They rarely find a female in their pots, and when they do it is late in the season. Any idea why? (Cathi D.)

Answer: While I’m sure your theory of the females just being smarter is probably true (wink), the real reason is more likely because the females are much smaller and the escape ports allow the smaller females to escape more readily from the traps before they are pulled to the surface.


Selling vintage family jewelry containing wildlife parts?
Question: While cleaning out a relative’s attic recently, I came across some Native American jewelry. I showed it to a few people and they said that some of the pieces have bear claws and even lion claws on them. They also have some bird feathers. I have no need for the jewelry and was thinking of selling them, but someone told me that bear parts are illegal to sell in California. Is this true? What about the other things? Where can I find a list of what can and cannot be sold? (Melanie)

Answer: The basic law prohibiting the sale of any bird or mammal found in the wild in California is Fish and Game Code section 3039. But, there are numerous exceptions scattered throughout the code and Commission regulations and there is no one document that clearly explains what is legal to sell. Here are some helpful tips from DFG retired Captain Phil Nelms:

1) Selling bear parts in California, even as part of jewelry or art, is illegal.

2) If by “lion” you mean mountain lion, then that is illegal. The sale of African lion parts is also illegal under the California Penal Code, section 653(o).

3) To provide a useful answer regarding the feathers, we will need to know what bird species the feathers were from and how they were originally acquired. If they are species found in the wild in California and/or were taken by sport hunting, there is little chance you could legally sell them in California.

4) For more information, both the Fish and Game Code and the California Code of Regulations are available online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/.

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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 CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.