Tag Archives: invertebrates

Why Not Wolves in California?

Gray wolf captured and GPS-collared by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) (Photo courtesy of ODFW)

Gray wolf captured and GPS-collared by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) (Photo courtesy of ODFW)

Question: Even though gray wolves are slowly expanding back out into their historical ranges, why have they not returned to California? Other western states have them. What makes California different? What’s the status of the wolf planning effort? Is there funding for it? (Emma M.)

Answer: The biggest considerations on natural reestablishment of gray wolves into California are the smaller populations of prey species available (compared to other western states), the growing population of people and the decline in habitat to support them.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Wildlife Program Manager Karen Kovacs, while the gray wolf’s prey species is similar to other western states (deer and elk), California cannot compare with the other states on the numbers of prey animals. In general, wolves in the western states prey on elk. And while some states have hundreds of thousands of elk, our state has less than 10,000 elk. California has more deer than elk, but again, less than what other western states have.

Human population in California is also different. California has more than 38 million people and infrastructure to support that population including highways, development, reservoirs, intensive agriculture, etc., all of which contribute to a loss of deer and elk habitat, hence a loss of potential wolf habitat.

One other difference is that California has very limited information regarding the prior presence of wolves in the state. Very little verifiable information exists, including about two wolves collected in the 1920s. So just how widespread and what those historical numbers are is unknown.

The draft Wolf Plan will address these considerations and other consequences of wolves in California. The wolf planning process with the stakeholder working group is completed. We are in the process of revising the draft based on peer review and the last round of comments from the working group. We anticipate having the revised draft available for public review along with holding two public meetings for additional input to the department. We will then make any necessary changes and finalize the Wolf Plan. Timeframe is late spring or early summer. There is no specific funding identified at the present time.

California has no intention to reintroduce wolves as other states have done. For more information on gray wolves and the work being done in California, please go to: www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/nongame/wolf/


Filleting fish onboard vessels?
Question: I want to make sure I have this filleting of fish onboard vessels correct. If I am fishing in San Francisco Bay and catch a 36-inch striped bass and a 48-inch leopard shark, I cannot remove the fillet from either fish until I am off my boat, correct? If so, can I remove the tail, head and fins from the fish? If I move to the Delta District to fish, are the filleting restrictions different? Thank you, as always, for helping to clarify these regulations. (Howard A.)

Answer: Both striped bass and leopard sharks have minimum length requirements and no established minimum fillet lengths, so neither can be filleted until you are back on shore. Heads and tails must also stay attached so that the fish can be measured to confirm they are of legal size, unless the fish is still of legal size after removing the head and tail. No person shall fillet, steak or cut into chunks on any boat or bring ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks any species with a size limit unless a fillet size is otherwise specified (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65(c)). In addition, no fish may be possessed on a boat or brought ashore in such condition that the size and/or species cannot be determined (Fish and Game Code, sections 5508 and 5509).


Can youth hunters earn preference points?
Question: If my 9-year-old daughter has her hunting license, can she apply for preference points for any big game species, even though we know she can’t big game hunt until she is 12? (Shelley D.)

Answer: No. Hunters can only apply in the big game drawing once they are eligible to hunt for big game. Applicants for premium deer license tags, pronghorn antelope license tags, or elk license tags must be at least 12 years of age on or before July 1 of the license year for which they are applying. Youth hunters are not eligible to apply, even if it’s just to earn preference points (CCR Title 14, section 708.11).


Number of rods while fishing with crab snares?
Question: While out crabbing from our boat, my friend and I like to cast crab snares while waiting to check our soaking crab pots. I don’t see any regulations related to the number of rods we can have out when using only snares from a boat. (Paul S.)

Answer: Regulations for crab snares (referred to as crab loop traps in our laws) can be found in CCR, Title 14, section 29.80. Although there is no limit to the number of poles you use, each loop trap is restricted to no more than six loops (snares).

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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.

Returning Fish and Wildlife Back to the Wild

CDFW staff releasing waterfowl after health inspection (CDFW photo)

CDFW Waterfowl Biologist Melanie Weaver releasing a male pintail following a routine health examination (CDFW photo)

Question: If I want to release fish and other shellfishes that I got from the local market into California waters, how do I get permission or a permit? Also, what about birds? Do I need a permit? (Stella T.)

Answer: It is not legal to move and plant live finfish in any waters of California. Same goes for birds or mammals, regardless of where they came from. In addition to the fact that to do so is illegal, it is also not a compassionate gesture to relocate fish and wildlife to new waters or habitats where they are not accustomed or to environments they are not familiar with or already adapted to. Most fish and wildlife will probably not survive under these conditions, and you run the risk of spreading parasites and diseases to healthy ecosystems that may then endanger the health and well-being of native fish and wildlife living in their natural environments.

“It is unlawful to place, or cause to be placed or planted, in any of the waters of this State, any live fish, any fresh or salt water animal, or any aquatic plant, whether taken without or within the State without first submitting it for inspection to, and securing the written permission of, the department” (Fish and Game Code, section 6400). The law also states that no person having possession or control over any wild animal under this chapter shall intentionally free, or knowingly permit the escape, or release of such an animal, except in accordance with the regulations of the Fish and Game Commission (FGC, section 2121).

Many of the live fish and shellfish found in the local markets are imported into California from other states or countries under an importer’s permit. Besides being illegal, the release of these exotic species into our state waters could devastate the native species with disease or unnatural competition for food or predation. The same would apply to birds and other wildlife.


Turning deceased animals into taxidermy art?
Question: I have a question in regards to acquiring animal remains. If an animal is a legal species to possess and is found as road kill, or is decomposed to bone by nature, how can one go about obtaining the remains legally to use for taxidermy and art? I know this is a sensitive subject since there is no way to prove one “found” an animal, and ethics come into play. But I’m connected to a lot of groups on Facebook from outside of California that have laws allowing people to obtain animal remains that are not from protected species. These pieces are then used and sold as art.

Before continuing with my endeavors though, I want to make sure I can ethically source remains and legal specimens. Or if I can’t just as a citizen, what permits would I need in order to do so? I find it really hard to believe that state laws in Florida vs. California can differ so vastly. And it’s almost impossible to find reliable information on the Internet, so I figured I’d go straight to the source. (Christina G.)

Answer: First of all, any wild bird or mammal (or part thereof) found in California may not be sold (FGC, section 3039). Animals that have been legally taken under the authority of a hunting or fishing license in this state may be preserved through taxidermy consistent with California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recordkeeping requirements, but they may not be sold or purchased (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 695). Road-killed animals generally may not be possessed, with some exceptions for scientific and educational purposes.


Harvesting sea anemone for food?
Question: While eating sea anemone probably seems strange to most Americans they are eaten throughout the world, most notably in Asian countries. When chopped, tossed with flour and fried (think clam strip), it tastes like a cross between crab and clams. Is it legal to harvest sea anemone for food in California? (Brent A., Fort Bragg)

Answer: Sea anemone may not be harvested in the area between the high tide mark and 1,000 feet seaward and lateral to the low tide mark (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.05). In fact, only the following marine invertebrates may be taken in this area:

“Except where prohibited within state marine reserves, state marine parks, state marine conservation areas, or other special closures only the following may be taken: red abalone, limpets, moon snails, turban snails, chiones, clams, cockles, mussels, rock scallops, native oysters, octopuses, squid, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, sand dollars, sea urchins and worms except that no worms may be taken in any mussel bed, unless taken incidental to the harvesting of mussels” (CCR Title 14, section 29.05(b)(1)).

It would be perfectly legal, however, to take 35 sea anemone outside the 1,000 foot intertidal zone, and sea anemone do live outside that zone. A shore picker would have difficulty doing this though unless it was a zone where the intertidal area is very flat.


Any restrictions on crab bait components?
Question: Are there any restrictions on what you can use for crab bait in non-commercial crab traps? (Al and Karen B.)

Answer: No. As long as the bait sources are legal for you to possess, there are no restrictions on what you may use.

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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.

Collecting and Returning Tidepool Animals

Sea Stars of the California Coast (CDFW photo)

Sea Stars of the California Coast (CDFW photo)

Question: I have two small daughters that are very much into marine life. I thought it would be exciting for them to catch small critters, fish, etc. and put them into an aquarium at home. I figured they could then return the marine life back to the ocean every few weeks. I looked into this online and it appears that you need to obtain a permit to collect marine life in this fashion. Do you think it is possible for me to obtain the proper permits in order to do this with my kids? If so, do you have any idea how I would go about applying and the general costs? (Charles K.)

Answer: Unfortunately, as nice as this sounds, it is not legal for your daughters to do. Here are three reasons why:

  1. First of all, they cannot transport any finfish from the ocean, period. Moving live finfish from freshwater or ocean waters is illegal.
  1. Second, anything that is not legal to take with a California sport fishing license requires a scientific collecting permit and they wouldn’t qualify for one of these because they are issued only to scientists doing bona fide research or to schools or aquariums where the animals taken will be on display for the public to view.
  1. Third, they can remove invertebrates that are legal to take with a sport fishing license (although if under 16 years old they do not need a license), but nothing can be returned alive to the ocean. If they take them, they need to keep them. This is because there’s always a possibility that fish or invertebrates may have picked up parasites or diseases when kept in private aquariums. We don’t want anything being introduced to fish and invertebrates in the wild.

For the time being, it would be best for your girls to stick with fish and invertebrates that they buy from licensed aquarists or stores that sell aquarium species legally. They can, however, visit most tidepools and enjoy the fish and invertebrates in their natural environments … just don’t take them away from their homes.

Driving on a private road with a loaded gun in the vehicle?
Question:
I know that it is not legal to have a loaded gun in a vehicle when on public roads and in public accessible areas, but what about when on privately owned property where all access is controlled via locked gates? (Scott H.)

Answer: You are correct that it is against the law to carry loaded guns in a vehicle when upon or along a public way (Fish and Game Code, section 2006 and Penal Code 25850). When behind locked gates, however, there are no laws preventing this, although common sense and safety should preclude doing so. Many of the hunting accidents we investigate are caused by people getting into or out of a vehicle with a loaded firearm. Despite this allowance, it is still unlawful to shoot at any game bird or mammal from a motor vehicle, even when on private property (FGC section 3002.)


Cherry picking for the biggest crabs?
Question: I often see Dungeness crab fisherman holding onto crabs in excess of their limit while they continue crabbing. Then after pulling all their pots, they cherry pick the best ones and throw back the extras. Is this legal? Say for example I’m fishing alone and drop three pots. When I retrieve the pots, the first one contains 10 crabs, and I put them all in my fish box. The second pot also has 10 crabs and I also put them all in the box. I pull the last pot, then sort through all the crab and throw back all but the biggest 10 before heading into the harbor. This is how I would prefer to fish but don’t think it would be illegal. Am I correct? (Jesse)

Answer: What you describe is high-grading and is absolutely illegal. Recreational fishermen are limited to 10 Dungeness crabs onboard or in possession. Every crab over the limit that is in the fisherman’s possession, even if just for a short time, could get them cited for possession of an overlimit. Once a limit is in possession, all other crabs must be immediately returned to the water. If the fisherman keeps 10 legal-sized crabs from his first pot, all other crabs in any subsequent pots must be released.

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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.

A Right to Fish the Oceans of this Planet without Permission?

Ken Oda fishing on a beach in Marina (Photo by Amanda Menefee)

Ken Oda fishing on San Gregorio Beach, south of Half Moon Bay, CA (Photo by Amanda Menefee)

Question: If I am in need of food for myself and family, would it be a crime to catch fish from the ocean for subsistence without a license, and if so, why? With inland waters I realize that lakes are stocked, policed and maintained and this service has to be paid for via taxes, licenses and fines. That’s understandable.

I am aware of states with coastlines having a mileage limit from shore to international waters, and the area in between is overseen by the Coast Guard. Should it not be a God-given right to fish the oceans and seas of this planet without permission from the powers that be? (Doug P.)

Answer: In California you can legally fish from public ocean piers without a fishing license. Finfish, crabs and lobsters may be found there in different areas. All regulations must still be followed but you can fish without a fishing license in these locations only. There are also two free fishing days per year (July 4 and Sept. 5 this year), allowing people to fish in ocean and inland waters without a license on those two designated days. In addition, any children in your family can fish without a license and be entitled to legal limits until they turn 16, when a license will be required. Except for the opportunities mentioned above, subsistence fishing without a sport fishing license in ocean or freshwater is not allowed.

California waters extend from the shore (high tide line) out to three miles, federal waters stretch from three miles to 200 miles and international waters begin at 200 miles out. All waters out to 200 miles are still patrolled and managed cooperatively with the federal government. Any fish taken outside of 200 miles must still meet all fishing regulations in order to be brought back into U.S. waters, and all fish landed at California ports must additionally meet all California regulations.

Fisheries in all state and federal waters have regulations and many have strict management guidelines to properly manage the take of various species to assure overfishing does not occur which could collapse those and related fisheries. Regulations and limitations of fishing activities and take is imperative, especially in waters of a state populated by 38 million people.


Scouting for abalone out of season?
Question: I belong to a small group of diving enthusiasts and we recently had a debate come up where there are varying opinions on the subject of gauging abalone. One portion of the group is stating that it is perfectly legal to freedive with an abalone gauge out of season and measure abalone with the intent of coming back during the season to retrieve the abs. I believe this would be pursuing or hunting abalone and would be against the rules. I pointed out that the new 8 a.m. rule specifically states you can enter the water but not “be searching for” abalone prior to 8 a.m. This leads me to believe if it is illegal to search for abs during a time when “take” is not permitted, then it would be illegal out of season as well. Can you help us settle this debate? (Brian M., Antioch)

Answer: Yes, it would be legal to dive with an abalone gauge as long as you don’t dive with an abalone iron or other means to detach abalone. As long as there is no attempt to take the abalone, and it is not handled or detached from the rocks, it would be legal.


Driving at night with flashlights to view wildlife?
Question: My wife and I are outdoors lovers and we don’t want to break the law. We often drive back roads or dirt roads in and around Butte County armed with only a flashlight and no weapons to view and enjoy wildlife that wouldn’t be possible to enjoy in the daylight. Is this legal? (Dan, Oroville)

Answer: Yes, as long as you do not have a method of take with you. You may, however, attract the attention of wildlife officers that are on the lookout for poachers using spotlights to find game. These officers may pull you over and detain you to inspect your vehicle to ensure you do not have a method of take.  There are also some vehicle code provisions that prohibit the use of a flashlight or headlight on a public highway if it is shone into oncoming traffic or prevents other vehicles from seeing traffic control devices.


Treble hooks for halibut?
Question: I’m planning to go fishing for halibut and have read that the rig must not exceed two hooks. Can those two hooks be treble hooks?

Answer: Yes, you are not limited to two hooks and so treble hooks may be used (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.65).

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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 the USDA Checks Wild Waterfowl, is it a Bad Sign for Hunters?

Mallard pairQuestion: On the last day of hunting at Modesto Reservoir we had a lady from the United States Department of Agriculture that swabbed our ducks and geese for parasites, etc. I asked her why she was doing this and she smiled at me. So then I said, “Is it that Foster Farms has been having problems with viruses?” She just smiled again and nodded her head.

I can’t help but wonder what Foster Farms is up to but can bet they are up to no good for hunters. They had problems with their chickens in Livingston and other places so I can’t help but wonder if they are trying to tie this to our waterfowl. I think there is a good story here for somebody who wants to take the time to make the phone calls and dig it out! (Ron W.)

Answer: While this is an interesting question, Ron, there’s no conspiracy going on here against waterfowl hunters. I asked Krysta Rogers, Avian Specialist and Environmental Scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and here’s what she had to say:

“In response to the recent detections of avian influenza in Washington in December 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture and United States Geological Survey, in coordination with state wildlife agencies, initiated active surveillance through swab sampling of hunter-harvested waterfowl in several states, including California. Avian influenza viruses naturally circulate in wild bird populations, primarily in species that are associated with an aquatic habitat. Therefore, monitoring wild waterfowl for avian influenza activity is one of the most efficient surveillance tools for determining what viruses are circulating worldwide. Between 2006 and 2011, CDFW participated in similar surveillance efforts to aid in the detection of avian influenza viruses. As with the previous surveillance, state and federal wildlife agencies do not foresee any impacts to wild waterfowl populations or to hunting.

“Recently, in the western United States, two main viruses have been detected, H5N2 and H5N8. Both viruses have previously been found in other parts of the world. While these viruses are not known to cause significant disease in wild waterfowl, they can cause high mortality in domestic poultry. Surveillance of hunter-harvested waterfowl has resulted in additional detections of these viruses in California, Oregon, Utah and Idaho. The H5N2 virus has been detected in backyard poultry flocks in Washington and Idaho while the H5N8 virus has been detected in a backyard poultry flock in Oregon and a commercial turkey flock in Stanislaus County, California.”


Managing multiple fishing rods on the Sacramento River?
Question: If two anglers are anchored on the Sacramento River bait fishing for sturgeon and both have second rod validations allowing them to fish with four rods collectively, if one person then hooks up, is it legal for the other person to reel in the other three rods while that person is fighting the fish? In other words, is it legal for the person not trying to reel the fish in to clear the other three rods? (Monty R.)

Answer: Yes, provided the anglers are fishing in a location where the second rod validation is operative. Legally, since each fisherman is only authorized to fish with up to two fishing poles, the fisherman trying to bring in the other three poles would have to first secure one of his fishing rods so that it is no longer being used to fish. That would leave two fishing poles to reel in, which would be within the angler’s legal authority to do.


Dead heads
Question: I’ve been up shed hunting and recently have found a couple mountain lion kills. Can I legally take the dead heads? How do I prove it’s a dead head and not a poached deer? (Brice R.)

Answer: You should avoid picking up anything that is fresh but it is not illegal for someone to pick up bleached antlers. In addition, you can sell sheds that you have found but they must have been manufactured into products or handcraft items, or have been cut into blocks or units which are to be handcrafted. You cannot sell whole antlers with heads attached (Fish and Game Code, section 3039(c)).


Selling sea urchin jewelry
Question: Is it legal to use legally harvested/farmed California uni biproducts for jewelry to be sold in retail? I have a local fish market that sells large amounts of the purple urchins they obtain from Catalina Seafood. I obtain the eaten shells and use the spikes for crafts. Is it legal to sell them in California as well as globally? (Alexandra F.)

Answer: Commercially-taken sea urchin spines can be sold in jewelry, but sport-harvested marine resources may not be sold, bartered, traded, etc.

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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.

Bowfishing in the Surf?

bowfishing_IndianHeadRanch

Bowfishing (photo courtesy of Indian Head Ranch)

Question: Is it legal to bowfish in the surf? Regulations say bowfishing is not allowed within 100 yards of the mouth of a stream. I’m guessing on the beach it is ok for finfish, like spotfin croakers? However, I do know some beaches prohibit bowfishing because they consider a bow and arrow a deadly weapon. Do you know which ones? (David T.)

Answer: You should check with your local police or sheriff’s department first to determine if there are any city or county ordinances prohibiting the use of bow and arrow fishing tackle. If not, it is legal to bowfish in the surf under the following conditions: Spears, harpoons and bow and arrow fishing tackle may be used for taking all varieties of skates, rays and sharks, except white sharks. Such gear may not be possessed or used within 100 yards of the mouth of any stream in any ocean waters north of Ventura County, nor aboard any vessel on any day or on any trip when broadbill swordfish or marlin have been taken. Bow and arrow fishing tackle may be used to take finfish other than giant (black) sea bass, garibaldi, gulf grouper, broomtail grouper, trout, salmon, broadbill swordfish, white shark, green sturgeon and white sturgeon (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 28.95, 27.90 and 27.91).


Can you hunt waterfowl not listed in the regulations?
Question: I know there are quite a few types of ducks that are not listed in the waterfowl regulations (e.g. teal, mergansers, etc.). If a species is not specifically mentioned, does this mean that they can or cannot be hunted? (Joe D.)

Answer: The waterfowl regulations apply to all species of geese, ducks and mergansers. Coots have different regulations. As long as the waterfowl species you wish to take does not have more specific regulations than the general bag limits, then that non-specified waterfowl species can be included in your general bag.


Retrieving game from private property?
Question: Where can I find the regulations on retrieving game that has moved onto another’s property after being shot? I believe that it is legal but I can’t find the regs. (Joe D.)

Answer: There are no regulations which allow you to recover game that ends up on private property. You are expected to retrieve all game you harvest and not to cause wanton waste by failing to recover something you’ve shot, but you must get permission from the landowner to legally enter their property. If you are not able to reach them for permission, you may contact the local game warden or sheriff and request assistance.


Buying diamondback rattlesnakes from Texas for taxidermy?
Question: I want to buy dead western diamondback rattlesnakes for taxidermy from a seller in Texas. From what I read in the regulations, it is OK. The shipper just needs to label the box with the contents. If this is legal, can you please provide the code section regarding buying/importing dead rattlesnakes? (Bryan W.)

Answer: Dead rattlesnakes can be purchased and imported into California (Fish and Game Code, section 2353). You will just need to make sure the shipment comes with a completed Declaration for Entry form identifying what it is and where it’s coming from. This declaration must be submitted to the department or a designated state or federal agency at or immediately prior to the time of entry. Declaration is not required if shipped by common carrier under a bill of lading.

This form may be photocopied. The original copy of the declaration form shall be retained by the person importing the fish or game into the state. One copy shall be mailed to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, 1416 Ninth St., Sacramento, CA 95814, within 24 hours after entering the state. One copy shall be deposited at the point of entry with any state or federal agency or officer, and one copy shall remain with the fish or game if transported by other than owner or common carrier.

“Point of entry” refers to the city or town nearest your point of entry into California.


Lobster hooping from a public pier?
Question: While lobster hooping from a public pier, the maximum number of nets per person is two. Can a person with two nets deployed for crab/lobster simultaneously use a fishing rod for finfish? What about if the person has a fishing license and lobster card? (Steve G.)

Answer: No, the regulations state that people fishing from a public pier can fish with only two “appliances,” so the two hoop nets and one fishing rod for fin fish would total three. You don’t need a fishing license to fish from a public pier, but anyone fishing for lobsters must have a valid lobster report card.

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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.

Sidearm While Duck Hunting?

(Photo courtesy of USFWS)

(Photo courtesy of USFWS)

Question: A friend and I recently had a situation where we found pig tracks at one of the areas where we like to duck hunt. We both found it a little unnerving to be walking in knee to waist high grass armed with only bird shot if a pig were to charge. The area where we are hunting doesn’t explicitly prohibit handguns. We were wondering if California law allows us to carry a handgun, not as a method of take, but rather for defense while hunting waterfowl. I noticed the answer to the question on sidearms while hunting upland game and small game but don’t know if duck hunting has any additional restrictions. Also, if this is allowed, does the ammo in the handgun apply to the nonlead requirement while hunting duck, or is it exempt considering that it is not a method of take? Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks. (Rhyan P.)

Answer: Unless the area where you’re hunting explicitly prohibits the possession of, or hunting with, handguns, that part should not be a problem. If that is the case, and you feel that your life is in danger, you can shoot the pig. However, you are not authorized to take the carcass unless you have a pig tag and utilized a legal method of take. If you’re hunting in condor country, you must carry nonlead ammunition.


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: 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.


Where can I find bail fine information?
Question: How are fines determined and how can someone locate published documentation on fines? (John S., Bakersfield)

Answer: The State Judicial Council publishes the “Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedules” every year. If you perform a web search, most courts will link to the most current edition. The link on our web site  www.courts.ca.gov/documents/july2011_jcbail.pdf is the 2011 edition. Additionally, some fines are mandatory and established by the California legislature. Those can be found in the Fish and Game Code starting with Section 12000. See the California Legislative Information web site http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml to look up the code. With some exceptions for mandatory fines, the uniform bail and penalty schedule is a guideline used by judges. In other words, judges have a great deal of discretion in setting fines and penalties for any violation.


Crossbows for wild pigs?
Question: I am trying to get some clarification on hunting wild pigs with a crossbow. The regulations state that crossbows may be used to take deer and wild pigs only during the regular seasons (California Code Regulations, Title 14, section 353). Since wild pigs can be hunted all year, does that mean that a crossbow can be used (like a firearm) to hunt wild pigs? Can any legal hunter with a hunting license and a pig tag use a crossbow for wild pigs? The regulations have a bit of a gray area here and I would like some clarification please. (Al Q.)

Answer: Yes, wild pigs can be taken year-round with a crossbow.


Importing a water buffalo skull?
Question: I purchased a water buffalo skull with horns in Thailand (Jan 2014). The Thai post office informed me I would need a “customs” form to have it delivered in the U.S. but they did not have them. The skull remains with my son in Thailand.

The skull is clean and dry. There is no remaining material on the skull. The skull was purchased from a buffalo farm for about $60. The animal was not mistreated or tortured. It died a natural death. The farm has a number of skulls for sale.

Can you please tell me what form I need and what I need to do to have it shipped to me here in California? Thank you in advance for your assistance. I enjoy your articles! (Jerry M.)

Answer: California wildlife law does not generally apply to this situation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be the contact agency regarding importing parts from a water buffalo into California.

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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.