Tag Archives: rattlesnakes

Wanted: Rattlesnake Wrangler!

Rattlesnake (DFG photo)

Question: Do you have a phone number for someone from Fish and Game to come get a rattlesnake out of my yard? I don’t want it killed. (Anonymous)

Answer: Sorry, but Department of Fish and Game (DFG) staff will not come out to your house to remove or relocate rattlesnakes residing in your yard. However, if you can muster up the courage to deal with it yourself, you will not need a license to kill or trap it. If not, and you have no neighbors, friends or family members willing to help you move the rattlesnake, your best option will be to contact a professional pest control service to do it.

For the future, here are some helpful hints from DFG Associate Wildlife Biologist Nicole Carion on how to discourage rattlesnakes from taking up residence near your home.

  1. Don’t let feed from bird feeders overflow and build up on the ground to attract rodents.
  2. Don’t allow high rodent populations to occur near your house. Rattle-snakes are great population managers for ground squirrels and other rodents, so try to keep their numbers down.
  3. Always be mindful when working in or around wood or rock piles. Don’t stack these materials near your house.

Also, for the safety of your pets, remember to keep them indoors, especially at night.

Importing excess fish into California
Question: I live on the California/Oregon border as a resident of California. I have both California and Oregon fishing licenses. My primary fishing is in the surf for redtail perch. California’s limit for perch is 10 per day. Oregon’s limit is 15 per day. If I legally take my Oregon limit in the Gold Beach area, is it legal for me to bring them home to California? Can I certify the catch as being caught in Oregon at the agriculture check station upon re-entry into California? (Al T.)

Answer: It is legal to import the redtail surfperch taken in Oregon in excess of California’s limit of 10, but you cannot take any redtail in California until you have fewer than 10 in your possession (that means either consume them or give away the extra). Prior to bringing them into California you will need to fill out a Declaration for Entry form. They are available online at www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/docs/declaration_form.pdf or in the 2011 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet on page 79.

When a nuisance bear threatens public safety
Question: Someone recently asked what can be done with a nuisance bear that has been vandalizing garbage cans, threatening animals and making everyone nervous. You said they could only shoot the bear if the bear hunting season was open and they had a hunting license and bear tag, or if they had already qualified for a Depredation Permit. Well, what about if the bear gets more aggressive and wants more than a garbage can, and it actually breaks into someone’s house? What if it actually goes after their pets or their livestock? What should the owner do, call the DFG or the local Sheriff’s Department for help? (Anonymous)

Answer: The bear problem in the previous Q&A concerned a “nuisance bear” that was essentially looking for an easy meal by raiding unsecured garbage cans for discarded human food. The problem you describe, though, is more serious.

According to DFG Bear Program Manager Marc Kenyon, if the bear is immediately threatening human safety by chasing someone, attacking someone or even entering an occupied dwelling – essentially a “nuisance bear” that has elevated itself to a “public safety animal” – then the bear can be killed immediately without a tag or permit. Also, if a bear is discovered while in the act of injuring, harassing or killing livestock (including honeybees, oddly enough) or a pet, then the owner or tenant of the land or property may legally shoot the bear immediately without a tag or permit (Fish and Game Code, section 4181.1). They will then need to report the killing within 24 hours to DFG.

However, in any situation where you believe a wild animal is threatening human life or safety, immediately call 911 or your local law enforcement agency. They are equipped to respond to such situations and in many instances can provide a much faster response time.

Helicopter fishing
Question: I saw a man fishing with a remote-controlled helicopter and he caught a fish with it. Is this legal or not?

Answer: It is legal as long as the remote-controlled vehicle is used only to move an angler’s line around while the angler maintains control of the line attached to the terminal tackle.

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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.

Some organic fishing methods not legal

Native American fishing along the Trinity River, CA (Original photogravure produced in Cambridge, Mass. by Suffolk Engraving Co., c1923.)

Question: There is an old legend that local Native Americans used to grind up the roots of Yucca Plants and spread them in the water to “stun” fish so they could collect them. Can I use this as a fishing method? (Jeff, Riverside County)

Answer: No. Although that may have been how Native Americans historically fished and a seemingly natural method, today the use of chemicals of any type is not a legal method of take. According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Game Warden Patrick Foy, fish must be taken by angling, which is defined under the California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 1.05 as “to take fish by hook and line with the line held in the hand, or with the line attached to a pole or rod held in the hand or closely attended in such manner that the fish voluntarily takes the bait or lure in its mouth” (exceptions are listed in Section 2 of the fishing regulations, under Fishing Methods and Gear Restrictions).

Adding these ground-up root chemicals to the water would also be unlawful because it is generally illegal to deposit in, permit to pass into, or place where it can pass into the waters of this state any substance or material deleterious to fish, plant life or bird life (Fish and Game Code, section 5650[a][6]). In addition, FGC, section 5650(a)(5) specifically prohibits the use of Cocculus indicus, the plant from which these legends are derived.

Can I use cast nets in lakes or the Delta?
Question: I would like a clarification on the use of cast nets in inland waters. I see people using them both at Clear Lake and in the Delta. As far as I know, it is illegal to use anything larger than a dip net or a trap not more than three feet in greatest dimension. Cast nets are not mentioned in the regulation booklet. (Dave, Clearlake)

Answer: You are correct. It is not legal to use cast nets in inland waters. Cast nets (referred to as “Hawaiian type throw nets” in the CCR Title 14, section 28.80) are allowed only in ocean waters north of Point Conception and only for certain saltwater species. The only nets that may be used in freshwater are dip nets, which are defined as “webbing supported by a frame, and hand held, not more than six feet in greatest dimension, excluding handle” (CCR Title 14, section 1.42). The specific baitfish capture methods for inland waters are outlined in CCR Title 14, section 4.05.

Defending fallen hikers from rattlesnakes?
Question: You mentioned in a recent column that the regulations state you can’t injure or kill a rattlesnake. But what about if someone is hiking in the back country, hears and sees a coiled rattlesnake and then falls while attempting to retreat? Can another member of the hiking team protect the fallen hiker from the snake by throwing a rock at it? It seems to me to be common sense to be able to protect someone from becoming seriously ill, or worse, especially since it could take several hours to obtain medical assistance. I have been hiking for years and close encounters with rattlers is rare, but it does occur. Also, is it lawful to possess the rattles? (William T., West Sacramento)

Answer: The regulation referenced in the March 4, 2010 column (http://californiaoutdoors.wordpress.com) was specific to killing rattlesnakes for commercial sales. This question is regarding a different situation.

According to DFG Game Warden Kyle Chang, regulations allow for the take of up to two native California rattlesnakes per species (genus Crotalus and Sistrurus) by any resident without a fishing license and by any method of take (CCR Title 14, section 5.60[e][2] and FGC, 7149.3). The law was written like this specifically to allow for people to kill rattlesnakes for safety purposes. The rattles may be possessed because rattlesnakes may be legally taken for non-commercial purposes.

Handling rattlesnakes in public areas or crowded campgrounds?
Question: Can rattlesnakes be killed when they are near public areas or crowded campgrounds? If so, what is the correct way to handle a rattlesnake when there are large groups of people and pets nearby? (David H.)

Answer: Rattlesnakes occur naturally in the ecosystem and are important predators that help to effectively contain or reduce excess rodent populations. If a rattlesnake is encountered in a public area or crowded campground, the snake should not be killed unless it poses a direct threat to people and pets. The best course of action is to just warn people to be aware of their surroundings and to restrain their pets. While rattlesnakes may be lawfully taken under Fish and Game laws, killing rattlesnakes in state parks is prohibited under CCR Title 14, section 5.60(a). This section states that no reptiles shall be taken in ecological reserves or state parks or national parks or monuments. Different parks may also have their own additional regulations.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. She cannot personally answer everyone’s questions but will select a few to answer in this column each week. Contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

Baiting crab traps with rockfish carcasses?

Dungeness crabs in a crab trap (DFG photo by Debra Hamilton)

Question: I belong to a popular fishing forum on the Internet, and most of my fellow sport fishermen say that when they bait their crab traps/pots, they can use whatever bait they want. Many people are using the carcasses from regulated game fish, such as rockfish, after the fish have been filleted. During previous salmon seasons, they used salmon carcasses, too. Isn’t there something in the regulations about this subject? If a person saves their fish carcasses in their freezer, for instance, and then goes out and uses those carcasses in their crab traps, isn’t that still considered as “possession”? If I put out crab pots baited with rockfish carcasses, spend the day catching my limit of rockfish and then come back to pull my pots to head back in, I not only have my legal limit of fresh rockfish, but also a bunch of other rockfish carcasses. And what about having those carcasses when a fish isn’t even in season?

I seem to be alone in believing that we need to follow certain rules about using fish as crab bait, and now I am very anxious to clear this up once and for all, with your help. Thank you so much for your time and consideration in this matter. (Cat C., North Fork)

Answer: Generally, portions of the fish that are normally discarded after cleaning do not count toward a possession limit. For example, let’s say you catch 10 rockfish. When you clean them, you end up with 20 fillets and 10 boney carcasses in your possession. Most people would discard the 10 carcasses, minus the fillets, and keep the 20 fillets to eat. The 20 fillets are your possession limit of 10 rockfish. You can keep the 10 carcasses for crab bait and these carcasses would not count as part of your rockfish possession limit.

According to Department of Fish and Game Lieutenant Dennis McKiver, to eliminate any questions or confusion when you go out crabbing and fishing for rockfish, set your crab traps baited with rockfish carcasses first. Then, at the end of the day when you are returning with limits of rockfish, you can pull your crab traps and discard the used rockfish carcasses before returning to port. Otherwise it may look as though you went out and caught a limit of rockfish to use as crab bait and then continued to catch another limit of rockfish to take home. People have been caught and cited for doing this.

Also, make sure that any fish carcasses you use are from legal fish. Many crab fishermen get cited because the carcasses they are using are from undersized salmon, lingcod, cabezon, greenling or other fish with size limits, or from cowcod, canary, yellow-eye or bronze-spotted rockfish or other restricted species. They may tell their friends they got cited by the warden for using a fish carcass as crab bait, but the real story is that they got cited for the illegal take and possession of restricted fish.

Can I collect a deer head with attached antlers from a carcass?
Question: While fishing for steelhead on Carmel River, I came across a 4-point buck that had been dead for at least three months. Given that it was in deep brush, I am guessing a mountain lion had gotten him. Is it legal to take the head with perfect rack and give it to someone as a gift? Not to be sold or re-sold, but as a gift. (Blake, Monterey)

Answer: No, this would not be legal. If the antlers were sheds (naturally detached from the skull), then there would be no problem. However, for any other deer parts, even if this deer was found dead due to predators or natural causes, it is not legal to possess any portions of that animal. Deer may only be possessed if taken by a licensed hunter with a rifle, shotgun, pistol, revolver, muzzleloader or with archery equipment. Otherwise, especially with a deer carcass picked up out of season, It would be impossible for a game warden to know whether this was a deer that had been found dead of natural causes or had been illegally poached.

Can I buy or sell a stuffed rattlesnake or rattlesnake skins?
Question: Is it legal to buy or sell a stuffed rattlesnake or rattlesnake skins in California? (Jody S.)

Answer: No, buying or selling a stuffed rattlesnake or native reptiles of any kind is prohibited. In general, it is also unlawful to capture, collect, intentionally kill or injure, possess, purchase, propagate, sell, transport, import or export any native reptile or amphibian, or part thereof (CCR, Title 14, section 40). In addition, native reptiles may not be sold, possessed, transported, imported, exported or propagated for commercial purposes unless listed under CCR, Section 43(c). Native rattlesnakes are not included among these species and therefore may not be commercialized. The only exception for selling or buying rattlesnakes is if the rattlesnake is albino or albino captive bred (CCR, Title 14, section 43[a][7]) or if collected by a biological supply house authorized to supply research and educational facilities.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. She cannot personally answer everyone’s questions but will select a few to answer in this column each week. Contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.