Tag Archives: public safety

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.

Deer in the Rut Can Be Dangerous Neighbors

When deer are in the rut they can become aggressive and even dangerous. To avoid a negative encounter, don't approach them or try to alter their behavior. Steer clear! (Photo taken by Hannah Frenchick on the grounds of the Presidio of Monterey )

Question: We have a few residents and a lot of deer here on the Presidio of Monterey. Our problem is the deer have been very aggressive toward some people recently. I want to warn our residents and students to steer clear of them during the rutting/mating season but the message would be best received coming from an expert. Would you have prepared info or be willing to send me something we could quote in an article on staying safe during rutting season? I have included a photo taken by one of our residents. (Dan Carpenter, Chief of Public Affairs, Presidio of Monterey Defense Language Institute)

Answer: According to DFG Deer Program Manager Craig Stowers, this picture is a great example of something I tell people all the time – deer don’t make very good neighbors. In addition to generally being a nuisance by eating, trampling and defecating on landscaping and gardens, deer can also be dangerous to human beings and other domestic animals (particularly dogs). It’s obvious from the photo that these bucks are not “friendly” and should be given a wide berth, but even younger, smaller deer are very strong and unpredictable and should never be approached in any way.

There are a couple of times a year when there is an increased potential for a negative (especially for the human) encounter with a deer. The first is around late March to early June, when does have fawns in hiding or just at heel. The does are particularly protective of the fawns during this time period so do not approach any fawns or allow your dogs to do so. If a fawn is seen without a doe please do not assume the fawn is orphaned and needs rescue. The doe is undoubtedly in the area, most likely feeding or just waiting for you to leave the area so she can check back in on her fawn.

The second time to be aware of is around mid-November to mid-January when bucks are in rut. During this time of the year bucks are continually on the move, fighting other bucks and looking for does to breed. They don’t even take time to eat during the rut – the urge to reproduce is overwhelming and not to be interfered with. The bucks in this photo are large and powerful animals with sharp antlers that can do a lot of damage to the human body. Even if you aren’t the target of the antlers, just getting caught up in a situation like this could be a very bad experience and is something to be avoided at all costs.

Like all wildlife, deer are best observed at a distance. Don’t feed them or try to interfere with their behaviors in any way. The photo represents an aspect of deer behavior that people should be aware of so they can act appropriately and avoid any negative interactions that could result. Although dramatic, I’m sure that most people (myself included) would prefer that the kind of “wildlife experience” shown in the photo not occur in my or my neighbors’ yard.

Legal to keep female Dungeness crabs?
Question: Is it legal to keep female Dungeness crab that meet the minimum size requirements or do they have to be thrown back? I see a lot of people keeping only the males and tossing the females back and so wonder if the regulations require that only the males can be kept? (Josh M., Oakland)

Answer: Sport fisherman may keep the female Dungeness crab – commercial fishermen must throw them back. Since the females are often much smaller and less meaty than the males and lack the large claws, many fishermen toss them back so they can reproduce more young for future generations. The larger females that meet the minimum size requirements also carry the most eggs and produce the most offspring, so it’s beneficial for the population to let the females go. However, there is no law that compels you to do so.

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 maximum and minimum penalties for convictions of California laws are set by the Legislature. The penalties for Fish and Game violations are published in the Fish and Game Code starting with section 12000. The Fish and Game Code is available online at http://dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/.

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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.