Tag Archives: depredation

Cameras Capturing Resident Neighborhood Mountain Lions

Mountain Lion (CDFW photo)

Mountain lions are now secretly living in and around many California neighborhoods where residents’ security cameras and trail cams frequently capture their images (CDFW photo of California mountain lion).

Question: I live in Kern County and last December caught a mountain lion on our security camera. Then, last night about 6:45 pm I saw it walking on the road in front of my home with a cat in its mouth. This is a new experience for me and my research indicates that there is no reason for concern, except to notify neighbors with pets. Can you please give me some guidance on whether I should do anything with this information? (Steve D.)

Answer: These security cameras that people and businesses are installing as well as trail cams are creating quite a buzz about lions. People are now getting the opportunity to realize what lion researchers have recently come to understand, which is that lions live around people more than we think.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Senior Environmental Scientist and mountain lion expert Marc Kenyon, we once thought that mountain lions resided solely in the mountains (hence their moniker), but it turns out they have been living all around us. With that in mind, we’ve also come to realize that mountain lions don’t present quite the level of danger that we used to think.

And you’re absolutely correct. Probably the best way to manage this situation is to simply warn neighbors about the presence of a lion. And if you visit our Keep Me Wild web page (www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/lion.html) you can learn how to live and recreate safely among these magnificent creatures.

However, there is always a chance that these animals, like all wild animals, could pose a threat to public safety. Although the risk is extremely small, it still exists and we don’t take it lightly. In addition to following the advice on the Keep Me Wild web page, please be sure to call 911 or your local police if you or your neighbors witness a lion exhibiting any threatening behavior. The local police can typically respond much faster than we can, however they will be in direct contact with us until we can arrive if our presence is necessary.

Such potentially threatening behaviors include:

  • Following people closely and secretively
  • Intently watching children
  • Twitching tail
  • Stomping front or hind feet
  • Approaching people with ears pinned back and hissing
  • On the ground and refusing to flee when you are shouting at them aggressively and/or blowing a whistle

Also, a mountain lion in a tree or crouching in some vegetation near a trail or a residence doesn’t always reflect a dangerous situation unless some of the behaviors listed above are also noted. More often than not, that mountain lion is simply trying to hide until people pass, and it may even feel threatened by the people who are watching it.

Alternate length measurements
Question: For kelp bass, barred sand bass and spotted sand bass, the marine sport fishing regulations state that the size limit is 14 inches total length or ten inches alternate length. What is the difference between total and alternate length? (Tom R.)

Answer: Total length is the longest straight-line measurement from the tip of the head to the end of the longest lobe of the tail. Tip of the head shall be the most anterior point on the fish with the mouth closed and the fish lying flat on its side. Alternate length is the straight-line distance from the base of the foremost spine of the first dorsal fin to the end of the longest lobe of the tail (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 1.62).

Verifying it’s a tom turkey
Question: I know that only tom turkeys may be legally harvested during the spring turkey season, so how do I prove this if questioned? Should I leave a wing or the beard or both on the bird? Please clarify. (Anonymous)

Answer: The regulations are intended to require that only tom turkeys may be taken during the spring season, but the law specifically states that the turkey must be “bearded” (a bearded turkey is one having a beard visible through the breast feathers). In most cases a beard will distinguish the animal as male, but in some rare incidents hens may also have them.

Keep the beard attached to the carcass until you return to your residence. You may pluck the bird in the field, but remember to keep the beard connected to the body.

Toms and hens can be easily determined by their significant head and wing color differences. If by chance you run across a rare bearded hen, even though the provisions of the law may allow you to take it, we strongly discourage it. Spring is the turkeys’ primary mating and nesting period so hens may not be harvested in order to protect their production.

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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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Any Difference Between Baiting vs. Attractants?

The use of any substance (real or artificial) that is capable of attracting an animal to an area, and when used causes the animal to feed (on the substance), is prohibited. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: What are the differences between baiting and attractants? I know baiting is illegal but was curious about attractants. What qualifies something as an attractant? Can you please define and differentiate? (Josh L.)

Answer: There is no difference … bait is an attractant and an attractant is bait.

No specific definition is provided in Fish and Game laws for these terms, but the definition of “baited area” in the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 257.5 is helpful.

It states in part: “Resident game birds and mammals may not be taken within 400 yards of any baited area. (a) . . . baited area shall mean any area where shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grains, salt, or other feed whatsoever capable of luring, attracting, or enticing such birds or mammals is directly or indirectly placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered . . . ”

Under this regulation, the use of any substance (real or artificial) that is capable of attracting an animal to an area and when used causes the animal to feed (on the substance) is prohibited. Generally, aerosols sprayed into the air are permissible because there is nothing to feed on. But the same products applied to a surface (e.g. tree, brush, rock, etc.) where the animal licks, eats, chews, nibbles, etc. the surface is considered feed and is a violation.

In addition, intentional acts that disrupt any birds’ or mammals’ normal behavior patterns (CCR T14, section 251.1) as well as feeding big game mammals (CCR T14, section 251.3) are prohibited.

For the complete regulations, please go to http://dfg.ca.gov/regulations/ to find the California Mammal Hunting Regulations for 2012-2013.

Casting nets for catching own bait?
Question: I want to use a net to cast and catch my own bait rather than continue to buy bait at the stores. Is it legal to do so? I do most of my fishing in lakes and I see shads and minnows I would like to catch. I can’t seem to find any information on the website that relates to catching your own bait and if you could what are the sizes of the nets that I can use. Any information or alternatives in regard to this would really help. (Khanh Vu)

Answer: Unfortunately, the device you describe (commonly called a throw net, casting net or Hawaiian throw net) is not legal to use in freshwater. Approved baitfish may be taken only by hand, with a dip net, or with traps not over three feet in greatest dimension (CCR Title 14, section 4.05. In addition, possession of these nets in inland waters or within 100 yards of any canal, river, stream, lake or reservoir is a violation of state law (CCR Title 14, section 2.09).

Where does inland end and ocean begin?
Question: I would like to fish with two rods in the Delta but don’t know whether the regulations are in the freshwater books or in the ocean books. Is the Delta part of the ocean regulations or is it considered inland waters? Where does it change from ocean to inland if considered inland? (Brian S., Felton)

Answer: You can legally fish in the waters of the Delta with a second rod stamp. Inland regulations apply from upstream of the Delta to Carquinez Bridge. The definition of inland waters vs ocean waters is, “Inland waters are all the fresh, brackish and inland saline waters of the state, including lagoons and tidewaters upstream from the mouths of coastal rivers and streams. Inland waters exclude the waters of San Francisco and San Pablo bays downstream from the Carquinez Bridge, the tidal portions of rivers and streams flowing into San Francisco and San Pablo bays, and the waters of Elkhorn Slough …” (CCR Title 14, section 1.53).

Hunting with a 30-30 but dispatching with a .22?
Question: If I hunt deer with a 30-30 cal, can I carry a .22 pistol at the same time (not to shoot deer)? And if I wound a deer with the 30-30 cal, can I kill the wounded deer with the .22 cal? (John D., Ramona)

Answer: Yes, it is legal to carry a .22 caliber rimfire pistol while taking deer during an open rifle season. No, you may not kill a wounded deer with any rimfire cartridge (see California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 353). If hunting in Condor Country, remember that your pistol ammunition must also be lead-free.

Non-lead Bullets for Squirrels in Condor Country?
Question: If I am a land owner or a land owner’s agent engaged in squirrel depredation in the condor area, do I have to use non-lead bullets? (John B.)

Answer: Yes, even if you are using rimfire ammunition to shoot nongame mammals, the use of projectiles containing lead is prohibited in the condor range. (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, sections 355 and 475.)

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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.

Slingshot Hunting

Slingshots may only be used to take nongame birds and mammals, and jack rabbits are not included in that list (USFWS photo).

Question: I have been searching for any regulations specifically regarding slingshots but have found no clear reference to them within the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) hunting regulations. As written, slingshots are not a legal method of take for any game. Yet there are inferences that under certain sections, such as Fish and Game Code, section 4186, that a slingshot would be considered a legal method of take. Further, varmints such as jackrabbit and ground squirrel do not fall under the regulations for fur-bearing mammals. I have not been able to find any source of reference on the DFG website or credible interpretation of the regulations by any warden or lawyer. Can you please provide clear references relating to the use of a slingshot for taking any game or non-game animals? (Ron Rios, Jr.)

Answer: Slingshots may only be used to take nongame birds and mammals (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 475). However, the only nongame birds that may be taken by any method are English house sparrows and starlings (FGC, sections 3800(a) and 3801). There is also a crow hunting season, but crows may only be taken by shotgun, falconry or archery (CCR Title 14, section 485). Common nongame mammals (“varmint” is not a term used in Fish and Game law) that may be taken include coyotes, bobcats, opossums, ground squirrels and orange-belly marmots. Take of bobcat requires possession of a bobcat tag (CCR Title 14, section 478.1).

Rabbits and tree squirrels are game mammals, and their take with a slingshot is illegal. Nongame mammals are those species not otherwise categorized in the law as resident small game (CCR Title 14, section 257), big game (CCR Title 14, section 350) or fur-bearing mammals (FGC, section 4000). The complete Fish and Game Code is available online at: http://dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/.

Keeping lobsters whole for the trip home?
Question: Is it true that spiny lobsters must be kept whole (and not tailed) until brought into our home and ready for immediate consumption? That’s what I just heard but I thought they just needed to stay whole until they could be brought ashore so that size can be determined. That’s what we’ve always done. Is it OK to tail them once ashore? (Jim A.)

Answer: No. Lobster must remain in a whole, measurable condition, until being prepared for immediate consumption (CCR Title 14, section 29.90(e)).

Who is authorized to take nongame animals causing property damage?
Question: In one of your recent columns, you stated that property owners or their tenants or agents do not need a hunting license to shoot nongame mammals that are doing crop damage on private property. What is the definition of an agent? We can get a license from a large local alfalfa ranch to shoot Belding ground squirrels. They will even give us .22 shells. Do we also need a California hunting license? My grandson is coming next month and he has no license. (Ken K.)

Answer: Nongame animals causing crop or property damage do not require a depredation permit to be taken by the landowners and/or the specific people they have designated to work on their behalf to eliminate the offending animals. On public land, or in situations where the take is not for depredation by a landowner or agent, a hunting license is required.

Special precautions should be taken to ensure that any animals causing property/crop damage are not endangered species. If someone shoots/kills an endangered species, they will have to have evidence of the property damage or face significant fines and penalties.

In order to be considered an “agent” of the landowner, you will need written documentation from the landowner stating you are taking the nongame mammals on his or her behalf for depredation purposes. This will serve as proof that you have permission to be on private land and will eliminate the need for a hunting license. If you are in condor country, be sure to use non-lead ammunition. For more information on requirements for non-lead ammunition, please go to http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/condor/ .

Can game wardens check my fishing license by my CDL?
Question: While buying my license recently, I was told by the vendor that we no longer need to carry our fishing licenses with us. He said game wardens can now scan people’s California driver licenses (CDL) to verify the purchase. Is this true? (Rick B.)

Answer: No, you are required to have your actual sport fishing license in possession while fishing (CCR Title 14, section 700) and to present your actual license upon request to any game warden who asks (FGC, section 2012). DFG game wardens do not carry CDL scanners.

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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.

Access rights to public waterways

Question: I have a question regarding access rights to California waterways. I’ve noticed “no trespassing” signs posted on many of the Delta sloughs south of Sacramento that state the area between the public road and the slough itself cannot be accessed or fished. These look like government signs.

While investigating I found that state and federal law, as well as the California Constitution (Article 10, sections 1, 4 and 7), appear to guarantee the public’s access to these waterways. Shouldn’t the public have the right to access and fish from this land? (Abe M.)

Answer: While California law allows for public access to public waters, it does not grant the public the right to cross private property to reach those waters. That means that while the waters are open to public use and passage, in order to reach those waters you may need to do so from a public launch ramp. If you want to fish from a bank, you will need to do so from areas that are public property or not marked with No Trespassing signs due to private property rights.

The signs you are referring to here are different, though. According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Capt. Mark Lucero, the posting at the Delta levees has been an issue since early 2000 when the reclamation districts first erected these signs to keep anglers from parking their vehicles on the levees and down embankments. DFG has received constant complaints from anglers upset with the posting and lack of accessibility to the river. We inform the anglers that the trespass issue is a Penal Code law and not a Fish and Game Code law. We also inform them to remain in the area is a violation of the Penal Code and they may be cited by a sheriff’s deputy. There’s been a real effort lately, through CalTIP and letters sent to DFG, to get our officers to address this issue. However, the Penal Code trespass issue is not jurisdictionally a Fish and Game priority. In addition, anglers may fish from the bank of the levees if they access the bank via navigable means and stay within the mean high tide.

Roadkill is not food!
Question:A friend recently hit a deer, causing about $1,200 damage to the vehicle. He picked up the deer and put it in his truck to take home for food. He was stopped by a sheriff’s deputy who told him to take the deer out of his vehicle or he would be cited. I heard that it is legal to pick up “roadkill.” Can you please clarify this? (Sandy B.)

Answer: The officer was correct. It is illegal to pick up roadkill wildlife in California. No one may possess wildlife in any form unless the animal was legally taken by a licensed hunter during the hunting season for that species and while using approved harvest methods. Given this, even if the first criteria were true (your friend was a licensed hunter), motor vehicles are not a legal method of take. The next time your friend sees an animal killed on the roadway, he should not attempt to retrieve it for any purpose.

Can sport-caught fish be prepared and consumed at sea
Question: Can sport-caught fish be prepared and consumed at sea when fishing/diving from a private vessel? (Ben W.)

Answer: Yes, legally taken fish may be prepared and consumed at sea, but there are some restrictions. Abalone must remain attached to their shell and lobster tails must remain attached to the carapace until they are being prepared for immediate consumption. For finfish that may be filleted at sea, the skin (or prescribed portion) must remain attached for species identification until they are being prepared for immediate consumption (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65)

Crows damaging crops?
Question: I am having problems with crows damaging my crops. Based on size, I think we also have ravens at work here. I know there is a crow hunting season, but what about ravens? Since “corvids” (crows and ravens) are very problematic predators for song birds and marbled murrelets on the coast, can landowners get a depredation permit for either species? If so, where? (Patrick)

Answer: There is no hunting season for ravens. They are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Check with the Permit Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) at www.fws.gov/permits/. Crows are also protected by the MBTA, but there is an open hunting season between December and April each year (CCR Title 14, section 485). In addition, both Federal (50 CFR 21.43 http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cfr/index.html) and state regulations (CCR Title 14 section 472(d)  http://weblinks.westlaw.com) permit the take of crows that are found committing or about to commit depredations on ornamental or shade trees or agricultural crops.  Several specific conditions apply to the use of these regulations to address depredation by crows so be sure to read the regulations on the links provided.

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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.