Tag Archives: elk hunting

How Well Can Waterfowl See?

Wood duck (Photo © Carrie Wilson)

Wood duck (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: How well can ducks actually see? Can they see color? I know deer see different shades of gray, but what about ducks and geese? (David V.)

Answer: Waterfowl can control the curvature of both the lens and cornea (mammals, including humans, only control the lens). This is basically how birds can see extremely well while flying and while in the act of diving/feeding. In addition, their eyes act independently and they use one at a time to allow for depth-perception since nearly all waterfowl have monocular, not binocular, vision (they can’t stare forward at objects).

Another unique thing about waterfowl is they can see in almost all directions. A few ducks are the exception to the rule, but usually the eye placement allows them to view in many different directions at the same time. Secondly, waterfowl have a very high number of cones (which dictates color vision in humans) which allows them to see sharp images and have color vision where colors are more vivid than humans’ ability. The breadth of color vision is much wider than our own since UV light can be observed by waterfowl (UV light is absorbed by lenses in humans). This allows waterfowl to fly at night or feed in the dark or at low light conditions.

Diving in MPA reserves with game onboard?
Question: If I am on a commercial sport diving boat and we have legally caught lobster on board, may we go into a marine protected area (MPA) to dive and be assured that we will not get a ticket if we are boarded? We would of course have lobster report cards all properly filled out and the lobsters would be of legal size and taken beforehand in a legal area. Can the boat operator be assured that he will not be cited as well? (Rusty B., Montclair)

Answer: If you have lobsters on board your vessel, you may not dive in a marine reserve with gear that can be used to catch lobster (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 632 (a)(7) and (8)). A person can’t have their “fishing gear” deployed in the water when anchored or transiting through a marine reserve or other MPA that prohibits fishing for the species you have onboard. Thus, if a diver dives with a game bag and gloves, then it could be argued they have their lobster “fishing gear” in the water. If divers really want to dive in a marine reserve off their boat with catch on board, they should do everything possible to ensure it does not appear they will be pursuing/taking lobster. This would include stowing their completed lobster report card, along with the lobster and dive bags. A diver wearing gloves and diving with a game bag, or anything else that could be used to take fish, lobsters or abalone (a large dive knife or long stick with a hooked device, etc.) would appear to have another purpose in mind besides sightseeing. It would then be up to the wildlife officer to determine the appropriate action.

Are rules for selling on eBay different?
Question: From my understanding, it is illegal to sell deer skulls, deer antlers or deer mounts in the State of California. I know that eBay is based in California and they allow the sale of deer antlers, mounts and deer taxidermy. Obviously, they are receiving money from the online sale of deer parts so how did that come about, and has there been special legislation to cover it? Was this a decision allowed by the California government, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) or has it just happened this way? (Nate H.)

Answer: Just because eBay is selling these things or allowing them to be sold, doesn’t mean it’s legal. Fish and Game Code, section 3039 generally prohibits selling or purchasing any part of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California. Complete antlers, whole heads with antlers, antlers mounted for display or antlers in the velvet may not be sold or purchased at any time. However, shed antlers or antlers taken from domestically reared animals that have been manufactured into products or handcrafted items, or that have been cut into blocks or units which are to be handcrafted, may be purchased or sold. Deer hides can also be sold.

Who can validate big game tags?
Question: I have a question regarding who can validate big game tags. In the regulations booklet there is a list of persons who may validate/countersign big game tags, but I noticed there is no mention of County Agricultural Standards Inspectors. Each county has Agricultural and Standards Inspectors and/or Agricultural Biologists and Standards Inspectors who enforce the laws and regulations of California. Would a hunter be within their legal right to have their big game tag countersigned by such a person? (Andy R., Escondido)

Answer: No. Only those people listed in the regulations booklet are authorized to validate big game tags (CCR, Title 14, section 708.6).

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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.

History of the Tejon Ranch Elk?

Rocky Mt. elk from Yellowstone National Park were imported into California in 1966 and released in Kern County (U.S.F.W.S. photo)

Question: I live in Stallion Springs, a rural community about 15 miles west of Tehachapi, and we have bands of elk that roam in the neighborhood. They move freely between the adjoining huge Tejon Ranch and the neighboring Bear Valley Springs community. I have been told by a born-and-raised Tehachapi native that the elk escaped in the early 1970s from a high fence operation located in the nearby Cummings Valley. Are they Rocky Mountain Elk or the Roosevelt subspecies? How does the Tejon Ranch conduct hunts for these elk when we never see anything in the hunting regulations about this? And, since their rutting season usually runs from late October into November in other areas, why do these animals go into the rut from the end of August to the very beginning of October? Furthermore, deer hunt zone D10 is all on private land and that zone is open to draw. Thanks for any light you can shed on these questions. (Ron A., Stallion Springs)

Answer:In 1966, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) issued a permit for the release of 300 Rocky Mountain Elk imported from Yellowstone National Park into a fenced compound on a game farm ranch in southern Kern County. By 1967, 290 elk had been shipped from Yellowstone, but due to the stress of transport and possibly other causes, only 277 survived to be released inside the ranch enclosure. Many elk died within the enclosure from several diseases brought on by stress induced by confinement, as well as a new and different diet. Later that year elk began escaping because of the lack of fence maintenance. It is not known exactly how many animals escaped to the wild (California Fish and Game, 61(4):239-241. 1975).

According to DFG’s Elk and Pronghorn Coordinator, Joe Hobbs, approximately 200 animals currently reside in this area in an around the Tejon Ranch. Elk game farming is no longer allowed in California. The Tejon Ranch runs their elk hunting through the DFG’s Private Lands Management Program (PLM). In exchange for conducting habitat improvement projects on their land that benefit wildlife, landowners can receive special PLM elk tags each year. The numbers and types of tags correspond to the population level of elk and the current conditions on the ranch. Elk in this area may have an earlier rutting season due to the warmer weather in Southern California.

Are crabs with black spots safe to eat?
Question: I just bought two crabs and found one with black spots on the outside shell. I’ve seen these before and usually avoid them, but this time the seller sneaked it into my package. When I called him about it, he said he didn’t know what it is, but it doesn’t permeate the shell. This isn’t true—I’ve seen this stuff on the flesh at the joints. It looks like oil. Can you enlighten me? Besides being ugly, is it unsafe? (Mari V., Berkeley)

Answer: According to our senior fish pathologist Jim Moore, black spots on the shells of crustaceans are typically composed of melanin, which is the end product of a series of immunological reactions. This means the crab was likely responding to some shell damage that could be caused by physical trauma or a disease agent. In this case, the black spotted crab is probably safe if cooked correctly. However, if the discolored shellfish tissue has an unpleasant taste or texture, or looks or smells unusual, we always recommend not eating it.

Concealed weapon law when hunting/fishing
Question: I have a question about carrying a concealed weapon (pistol/revolver) while engaged in hunting/fishing in California without a CCW permit. My understanding of Penal Code 12027 is that if I’m engaged in hunting/fishing, I can carry a loaded concealed weapon, but when en route to and from, I need to unload the firearm but it may be concealed. (David F., Lake Almanor)

Answer: This is correct. Licensed hunters or fishermen can carry loaded and concealed pistols, revolvers or other firearms capable of being concealed upon their person while engaged in hunting or fishing as long as they are in a place where it is lawful to carry a firearm. When going to or returning from the hunting or fishing expedition, or when transporting those firearms, they must be unloaded (PC, section 12027(g)).

This exemption does not apply in all cases though. While handguns may be used to take certain types of game in the field, the carrying of a loaded handgun while fishing from a public place in an incorporated city, or in prohibited areas outside of incorporated cities could constitute a violation of PC 12031(a)1). It is also not lawful, to carry a concealed firearm, or any firearm at all, when hunting under an archery only tag or during an archery only season.

Disposing of unwanted shotgun shells
Question: Where can I dispose of old unwanted shotgun shells and rusted bullets? (Frank G.)

Answer: Check with your local Police or Sheriff’s department. DFG has no laws or regulations regarding disposal of unwanted ammunition.

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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.