Tag Archives: nuisance wildlife

Protecting Wildlife via Highway Fences

Game fences are installed primarily installed just along traditional migratory routes (USFWS photo of Tule elk bulls)

Game fences are primarily installed along traditional deer and elk migratory routes (Tule elk photo courtesy of USFWS)

Question: I have been hunting deer and elk out of state for years. Every western state I have hunted has installed game fencing adjacent to highways where big game frequents and/or migrates. Why in the heck doesn’t California do this? I live in Grass Valley and Interstate Highway 49 is always being widened, but never does the work include game fencing or game “underpasses.” I have never seen or read any information coming from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommending game fencing along California highways. (Sven O.)

Answer: We do install game fencing but don’t do it everywhere. Because game fences are expensive, they are primarily installed just along the major migration routes. If designed incorrectly, they can do much more damage than good. Keep in mind that California has more than 2.3 million miles of paved road and it would be impossible to fence all of that no matter how much funding we had available.

According to CDFW Game Program Manager Craig Stowers, CDFW has instead focused primarily on routes that migratory deer move through as they are highly traditional and tend to move through the same areas year after year. Then once we identify where those areas are (mostly by finding road kills, but we can also identify through tracks in the snow and/or telemetry data), we work with CalTrans to mitigate those losses. CDFW has found lots of traditional migratory route areas in the state.

Some good examples of this kind of game fencing work include the miles of fencing and under crossings on I-395 from Bordertown up to the Inspection Station just south of the intersection of 395/89, fencing and undercrossings on I-395 in the Bass Hill Wildlife Area just south of Susanville, the work done in the Loyalton-Truckee deer herd area and the work we completed last year in the I-280 area (in conjunction with Caltrans and UC Davis). Our job on that one was simply to catch the deer, which we did. Caltrans engineers and wildlife experts from UC Davis analyzed the movement data of those deer in an effort to modify roadside fencing and existing undercrossings to cut down the number of deer hit on I-280. Regardless of location, it is a very expensive and time-consuming effort, not only to determine where to install the fencing and/or undercrossings, but also to build them.


Underwater camera to find trout?
Question: Is it legal to use an underwater camera to look for trout that may be hiding underneath the creek/river bank? Does it matter if it’s used while engaged in the actual activity of trout fishing or when not in possession of a fishing pole? (Jim B., Elk Grove)

Answer: An electronic viewing device, such as an underwater camera, would be legal but a non-electronic viewing device (such as goggles, scuba mask, etc.), would be prohibited for taking fish (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 2.09). There’s an exception, though, under the provisions of spearfishing (CCR Title 14, section 2.30).


Keeping a skunk for a pet?
Question: I live in Alameda and want to know if it is legal for me to keep a pet skunk? We will, of course, have the stink glands removed for obvious reasons. (Beatrice V.)

Answer: No. Wildlife must remain wild and cannot be owned. Generally, animals found in the wild in California can never be kept as pets. Only people who qualify for a restricted species permit may possess wild animals, like skunks. Keeping wildlife is prohibited by Fish and Game laws (CCR title 14, section 671) and California health laws due to a high incidence of rabies in skunks in California. All wildlife, even skunks, belong to the citizens of California and cannot be held, domesticated…or have their scent glands surgically removed!


Trolling for salmon?
Question: This last weekend while fishing/trolling with my husband for salmon, we had three fish on board and needed one more for the two of us to have limits. My question is – do we need to fish/troll with just one rod as one of us has a limit, or may we fish with two rods until we catch one more fish? (Donna S.)

Answer: You can use two rods until you catch your final fish because boat limits apply in ocean waters. Boat limits are defined as: “When two or more persons that are licensed or otherwise authorized to sport fish in ocean waters … are angling for finfish aboard a vessel…, fishing by all authorized persons aboard may continue until boat limits of finfish are taken and possessed aboard the vessel”.(CCR Title 14, section 27.60(c)).

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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.

Nesting Wild Mallards in My Backyard Pool?

Mallard pair

Mallard pair (ODFW photo)

Question: We have a pair of mallard ducks that seem to have taken up residency in our backyard pool and have laid eggs in the surrounding plants. I am afraid that if they hatch they will end up dead because of all the meat eating birds in the area. Why are they doing this? If I can get them to leave, where will they fly off to? I can’t seem to find any help in the town that I live in (Modesto, Calif.). I read your piece in the Modesto Bee and wondered if you had any suggestions of what I could do? (Richard, Modesto)

Answer: Unless ducks are marked with a transmitter, we can only speculate where they are headed. Most likely the ducks in your backyard are a drake and hen pair that need a safe place to build a nest. Backyard pools generally don’t have many predators so ducks often nest nearby them. Once the eggs hatch, they won’t want to hang out in the pool for long because there is no food in the water. At that point, you may want to open your backyard gate so the hen can walk her brood out to a nearby river or other water source.

Since waterfowl are protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, you cannot catch and move them yourself. It is a state and federal violation to disturb the nest of any bird, and you can’t take the eggs or move the nest. You might try contacting a permitted local wildlife rehabilitation center to ask for advice, but wildlife rehabbers cannot possess healthy wildlife or relocate the juvenile ducks or their mother. They can only take the ducklings if they are injured or orphaned, and technically they cannot do anything about the situation you’ve described unless the ducklings become injured or orphaned.

If this happens again, try covering the pool and hazing the ducks away before they build their nest. Once the eggs are laid, a person is “technically” powerless to do anything to the nest or eggs.

For a list of permitted wildlife rehab facilities, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/WIL/rehab/facilities.html.


Are hooks with pinched barbs legal for fishing salmon?
Question: I was told that a barbed hook (circle or otherwise) which has had the barb “pinched down” with pliers is by law considered legal for salmon fishing. True or false? (Rick S.)

Answer: True. As long as it is pinched all the way down so there is no barb. It’s safer to just buy barbless hooks or grind off the barbs. Barbless hooks are defined as, “A fish hook from which the barb or barbs have been removed or completely bent closed, or which is manufactured without barbs” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.19).


Where’s the search authority?
Question: My friend and I disagree about a point of law. If a game warden sees that you are fishing, or have been fishing, or sees your rods and ice chests in the car, can he demand you open the car and open your ice chests? Can he demand you open the trunk also? I think this is fair because we have definitely been fishing and always have less than our limits, but my friend thinks it is an abuse of power to demand we open our trunk or car, which is our private property. If the game warden does have this right, what would happen if we refuse to comply? Thanks! (S. Love, Los Angeles)

Answer: Yes, any wildlife officer can ask for your consent to inspect a vehicle. Whether an officer has the authority to conduct an inspection when consent is not given depends upon the specific circumstances of the contact. Wildlife officers have extensive inspection authorities that are unique to their jobs. For example, it is a crime to refuse to show a wildlife officer “… all licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians taken or otherwise dealt with under this code, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians” (Fish and Game Code, section 2012).

Also, wildlife officers are authorized to inspect all receptacles, except the clothing actually worn by a person at the time of inspection, where birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians may be stored or placed (FGC, section 1006).


Fishing multiple rods from shore outside San Francisco Bay?
Question: I know that you can use as many rods and hooks as you want outside the Golden Gate, but can I use multiple rods to catch striped bass and halibut from the shore? I already know that only one rod can be used for salmon, rockfish and lingcod. I have heard if you have a striped bass or a halibut in possession, then only one rod can be used. Is this true? (Eddie H.)

Answer: No, that’s not correct. Outside of the Golden Gate, if you are fishing from shore for halibut and striped bass, you can use as many rods and hooks as you want. If you were to catch another species like salmon or rockfish, however, you would have to release it, as only one line may be used for these species.

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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 Wild Turkeys Attack

Turkey strut (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Turkey strut (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I have lived in a rural area of Woodside for more than 20 years. Although many different species of wild animals wander through our area searching for food, we have never seen wild turkeys. Never until one day about three years ago when two juvenile turkeys and a male pheasant wandered into our neighborhood scavenging for food.

Well, our neighbors began feeding them, and now there are at least two pairs of wild turkeys and 15 chicks between them. I suspect there are more but these were just on our patio last week. And these turkeys can be mean! Recently, one of our neighbors was putting his garbage can out and was attacked by some large male turkeys! He fell down and broke his wrist trying to get away from them.

What can we do to rid our neighborhood of these pests? Can these turkeys be moved to another area? (Floyd B., Woodside)

Answer: Turkeys are now a part of many suburban neighborhoods in California. During the spring breeding season male turkeys can become aggressive, but this breeding behavior should pass.

Most of the complaints the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) receives regarding turkeys can be traced to someone feeding the birds. The single most important thing people can do to get rid of nuisance wildlife is to remove ALL potential food sources. If possible, discuss the matter with the neighbors who are feeding the birds, too.

Turkeys are habitat generalists and food opportunists, meaning they can thrive in a wide variety of conditions and can eat many types of foods. Adequate food is available to them naturally and so they do not need to be fed. As with many wild animals, people feed them because they like watching them, but this practice puts them at risk. To help persuade the turkeys to move on, you and your neighbors should remove any cat food, dog food and especially spilled birdseed that might be in the area.

CDFW has used turkey relocation as a tool in the past but found the effectiveness limited. It’s very unlikely that all the turkeys in the area will be successfully trapped as turkeys are quite wary, and often there are plenty of other wild turkeys living in close proximity that will move in to fill any void. Once turkeys are trapped, they must be moved to a new location where they may end up just becoming a problem for someone else. These programs also require substantial resources and money for CDFW to maintain.

Generally, CDFW does not move nuisance wildlife for these reasons. As a last resort, you can get a depredation permit for the lethal removal of the birds, though methods may be limited in suburban areas where discharging firearms is prohibited. Many people don’t want to go this route anyway, and so the most important thing to remember when coexisting with turkeys is to not feed them.

For more information, please refer to previous California Outdoors Q&A columns that pertain to and explain the issues surrounding feeding wildlife (http://californiaoutdoorsqas.com/?s=feeding+wildlife) or to CDFW’s Keep Me Wild campaign (https://www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/turkey.html).


Crab season and whale migration do NOT mix
Question: Is there any way to END crab season for the year due to the early migration of the whales? Recently, there were two whales stuck in crab netting in/near Monterey Bay and it seems absolutely asinine to continue crabbing under these conditions. Whales are a protected species, not humans. We can find something else to eat and the crabs can have an early respite from our carnivorous habits. Can’t something be done to end the crab season earlier? (Deb D., Soquel)

Answer: According to CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Pete Kalvass, who is one of the Dungeness crab fishery managers, “We appreciate your concern regarding marine mammal interactions with crab gear. The federal government via NOAA is responsible for protecting marine mammals, including whales, and we work with them in trying to minimize these types of interactions with our state managed crab fisheries.

Unfortunately, there is presently no way to guarantee zero interactions short of eliminating these fisheries. As it is, when you consider that there are approximately 150,000 commercial Dungeness crab pots set during the height of the fishery in November and December each season, entanglements are indeed quite rare. Closing a fishery prematurely as you suggest is not a simple proposition and would either take legislation or an extraordinary finding of harm to the mammals, and public hearings, before our Director could act.”

For further information, I suggest you contact one of the NOAA offices or check their website at http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/.

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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.