Tag Archives: Deer

Why Don’t Some Deer Shed Their Antlers?

Stag1

Deer that don’t shed their antlers are commonly called “stags”. This is usually the result of some kind of injury (or maybe deformity) of the testicles. Weird looking antlers can also result from injury to the antlers while in velvet. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I recently heard about a few Southern California bucks that seem to carry their antlers year round. One person I heard from insisted they were mountain biking and repeatedly saw the same deer in January and in May with a 4×3 rack. While I disagreed with the person telling me this, I admitted I am no biologist and didn’t know what they were seeing. Do some deer out here not shed their antlers? I was under the impression that even though nutrition, water and climate might affect when they shed, that deer always shed their antlers. Can you share some info or point us in the right direction to learn more about the antler shedding process here in SoCal? (Al Q.)

Answer: Deer that don’t shed their antlers are commonly called “stags”. This is usually the result of some kind of injury (or maybe deformity) of the testicles. Testosterone plays a role in both antler development and shedding, so injuries can really affect the types of antlers they have. Weird looking antlers can also result from injury to the antlers while in velvet … but those kind usually fall off normally and are replaced the next year with “normal” antlers.

So, this proves there are indeed exceptions to every rule — even biological ones!


Incidental take while spear fishing?
Question: What happens if a spearfishing diver spots a large fish and shoots and spears it without realizing until too late that it’s a giant (black) sea bass or another prohibited species? Then after the fish is speared and brought to the surface, the spearfisher identifies they have a fish they can’t take or possess and promptly returns it to the ocean. Has the spearfisher violated any laws?

A fisherman (angler) who catches a prohibited species while fishing for other species can argue that the take was unintentional/incidental. Could the spearfisher successfully make a similar argument? (Steve H.)

Answer: Spear fishermen are responsible for identifying their targets before they pull the trigger and can be held accountable for shooting a prohibited species. They are also responsible for ensuring that any fish they shoot meets the minimum size limit requirements for that species, again, before they pull the trigger.

A short lingcod or illegal giant sea bass, for example, is unlikely to survive after being shot by a spear fisherman who has the ability to select his target carefully; a short or illegal fish is much more likely to survive being hooked and released by an angler fishing from a boat, who cannot selectively target which individual fish he wishes to catch.

If a diver is unsure about the size or identity of the fish he/she’s aiming at, he/she should choose a different target. Shooting a fish that you’re unsure of could be illegal, and we believe that many spear fishermen would consider it unethical, as well.

All of these same principles also apply to hunters. No one with a rifle, shotgun, spear gun or even bow should pull the trigger unless absolutely 100 percent sure that their intended target is of legal size, species, gender, etc. An accurate (or even lucky) shot made, but with an error in judgment, isn’t worth the repercussions of breaking the very laws enacted to protect the state’s fish and game.


Why the health warnings for brown trout?
Question: In the fishing regulations there are safe eating guidelines for Donner Lake. I am trying to figure out why there are different recommendations for brown trout compared to rainbow trout. The guidelines suggest people eat only one serving of browns vs. seven servings of rainbows. Why? (Tim Worley)

Answer: The recommendations in our regulation booklet are from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). The recommendations are probably from actual studies done by OEHHA of mercury levels in edible flesh from these two species from Donner Lake.

According to Dr. William Cox, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Program Manager of Fish Production and Distribution, we do not plant brown trout in Donner and so those fish are essentially wild and older in the system. Therefore, they have been on natural diets and accumulating mercury from the naturally occurring insects and aquatic life that comprises their food chain.

CDFW does plant rainbow trout in Donner as part of what we call a “put-and- take” fishery. For most of their lives those fish are not eating natural feeds, and are generally not piscivorous like the brown trout, so they accumulate much less mercury. Humans, especially children and women of child bearing ages, need to limit their intake of mercury because it can have serious health effects, including death.

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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.

Hunting From a Houseboat?

Houseboat on Lake Shasta (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Houseboat on Lake Shasta (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: On Lake Shasta, I have heard of incidents where an archer shoots at deer on the shoreline adjacent to a beached houseboat. Is this a violation of Fish and Game Code, section 3004 which forbids the discharge of a deadly weapon within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling, residence or building? In addition, people on houseboats often throw out fruit and salad scraps for the deer to eat, so the deer have become conditioned to looking for an easy meal from houseboaters when they beach the boats. The deer wander down close to the houseboats where unscrupulous archers in houseboats or small aluminum boats prowl the shorelines near the houseboats looking for an easy kill. I can’t believe it’s legal to hunt deer from boats like this. What’s the law? Thanks for all you do. (John D., Shasta County)

Answer: Archery hunting from boats on Lake Shasta is a common practice and perfectly legal provided certain rules are followed. The lake is managed by the U.S. Forest Service and no hunting is allowed around boat ramps, marinas or campgrounds. Houseboats are considered dwellings (per FGC, section 3004), so hunting and discharging a firearm or bow within 150 yards is prohibited unless the hunters have specific permission from the boat’s occupants in advance. Hunting from boats is legal as long as when shooting the boat is not moving under the power or influence of a motor or sails (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251(a)(1)). Feeding deer and all big game is illegal, and this includes tossing out fruits and salad scraps for the deer (CCR Title 14, section 251.3). I you see any of this activity going on, please call 1-888-DFG–CALTIP to report violations.


Dogs hunting fish?
Question: Some friends of mine recently sent me photos of their yellow lab “hunting” fish in a stream. They claim the dog can track and then bite the fish right out of the water. The dog then brings the fish (while still flopping) back up the beach to his master, where the fish then get cleaned and cooked. Apparently, this practice is legal back East where my friends live, so now I’m wondering about California. Can dogs be used/trained to “hunt” fish here? Since this is clearly a kind of “take,” is it legal? If so, what kind of license/tag would one need? (Thom C.)

Answer: If you review sections 2.00-2.45 in both the freshwater and ocean sport fishing regulation books, you will find the approved methods of take for harvesting fish, and using a dog is not a listed legal option (California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 2.00– 2.45).


Sharing a hunt?
Question: My hunting partner has been very assiduous in accumulating points toward a cow elk hunt and estimates that he has two chances in three this year of getting a tag. He invited me along to help cut up the carcass and to share the meat. My question is can I can bring a rifle in case a finishing shot is needed? We would only tag one elk in any case, and naturally my hunting partner would get the first shot. He’s a pretty good shot so I expect the animal to go down quickly. I’m just wondering (Walter M., Lakewood).

Answer: Leave your rifle at home unless you have a tag. The only person authorized to take or assist in taking the elk is the person with the tag.


Residency requirements to buy a fishing license?
Question: I recently went to buy a California fishing license and noted I must declare that I have resided in California continuously for the past six months. My issue is I have residences in California, Idaho and Arizona. I utilize all of them during the year but don’t spend more than six months in any one of them. Do I have to buy a non-resident license in all three states? I’m a little confused so can you please clarify the law for my situation. (G. Dzida, Redlands)

Answer: California law is clear on the definition of a “resident.” A resident is defined as any person who has resided continuously in California for six months or more immediately before the date of application for a license, or persons on active military duty with the armed forces of the United States or an auxiliary branch or Job Corps enrollees.

If you are not a California resident by this definition, you cannot purchase a California resident license. However, if you have an Arizona fishing license with Colorado River Special Use Stamp affixed to it, you may take fish from a boat or other floating device on the Colorado River or adjacent waters that form the California-Arizona border.

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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.