Tag Archives: reptiles

Relocating Rescued Rattlesnakes

Rattlesnake (CDFW photo)

Rattlesnake (CDFW photo)

Question: I found and took home a dying Northern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus oreganus) after it became a victim of a wildfire. It’s now eating great and able to move fluently which is great and a job well done in my eyes. I’ve had it in captivity close to three weeks now. Is it okay to place it back into the wild (away from humans, of course)? (Daniel G.)

Answer: While we appreciate your desire to help injured wildlife, it is illegal for members of the public to rehabilitate wildlife without possessing a wildlife rehabilitation permit.

If you kept the injured rattlesnake near or with other captive reptiles at your house, the snake should not be re-released back into the wild due to the inherent danger of spreading disease into wild populations of rattlesnakes after release.

Wildlife rehabilitation is regulated in California to ensure animals are cared for and housed properly and that their reintroduction into the wild is done very carefully. Wildlife rehabilitators often give pre-release medical exams or observe wildlife patients for an extended period of time to evaluate the health of an animal prior to release. All rehabilitation facilities have a veterinarian of record who help them with medical issues and can help them assess whether an animal is healthy enough for release. Wildlife rehabilitators must return wildlife within three miles of where the animal originated and often work with the department to find suitable release sites.

We encourage you to find a wildlife rehabilitation facility that is willing to take the rattlesnake and go through the proper channels for its release. For a list of permitted wildlife rehab facilities, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/WIL/rehab/facilities.html .


Can cowcod caught in Mexico be imported to U.S. waters?
Question: If we’re fishing in Mexican waters and catch a cowcod, can we legally bring it back into a California port as long as we have all of the proper licenses and the Declaration for Entry form properly filled out? I’d just like to know for sure as we fish Mexican waters frequently targeting rockfish and I’d like to avoid a citation. (Jeff M., San Diego)

Answer: No. Cowcod may not be imported or even possessed in California regardless of where caught (Fish and Game Code, section 2353(a)(2)). Broomtail groupers and canary, yelloweye and bronzespotted rockfishes are also illegal to be possessed or imported into California under this regulation and under California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.55(b)(1), even if they were taken legally in Mexico.


Hunting deer over water?
Question: I was having a conversation with my uncle the other day and we were discussing whether it would be legal to hunt over a horse or cattle trough. With the recent drought, I’m worried that the deer in our area aren’t getting sufficient watering holes. I have read the section on baiting in the Big Game Digest, but am under the impression that water is not considered bait. So our main question is, is it legal to hunt over a horse/cattle trough or any other type of man-made pool of water if there are no horses or cattle? (Tony S., Davis)

Answer: Although there are some specific exceptions, it is generally legal to hunt near cattle troughs or other sources of water. Keep in mind that many wild animals like deer will water before or after legal hunting hours.

In addition, it is NOT legal to hunt, camp or otherwise occupy for more than 30 minutes within 200 yards of wildlife watering places on public land within the California Desert Conservation Area, within 200 yards of guzzlers or horizontal wells for wildlife on public land, and within one quarter mile of five wells in Lassen County and one well in Modoc County is prohibited (CCR Title 14, section 730). “Wildlife watering places” are defined as waterholes, springs, seeps and man-made watering devices for wildlife such as guzzlers (self-filling, in-the-ground water storage tanks), horizontal wells and small impoundments of less than one surface acre in size.


Abalone dinner donations?
Question: If a non-profit organization puts on a dinner and only requests donations to attend, can a group of divers legally donate abalone to the organization to be used for the dinner? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, but only as long as the dinner is not advertised as being an abalone dinner and as long as paying for the dinner is optional. You may charge for the rental of the facilities, tables, chairs, etc. and charge for the plates, napkins, cups, etc. Abalone (like all sport-caught fish and game) cannot be bought, sold, bartered or traded.

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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.

Can a Pet Store Rescue and Rehome a Garter Snake?

Garter snake (Photo courtesy of CDPW by David Hannigan)

Garter snake (Photo courtesy of CDPW by David Hannigan)

Question: We own a pet store in Northern California and also help to rescue animals and then place them in suitable homes. A client recently asked us to help rescue a 12-year-old garter snake and then adopt it out back to a good home. My questions are, is it even legal for us to possess a garter snake within our shop? Next, if we are able to possess it in our shop, can we charge our standard adoption fees to a new owner for our services in order to help place this snake in a new home? (Anonymous)

Answer: If the garter snake is native to California, then it is not legal to sell or even possess within the pet store. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Wildlife Officer Kyle Chang, it would also not be legal to charge a fee to rehome the garter snake since they are not on the list of snakes that are legal to “sell” in California, and “sell” includes possession for sale, barter, exchange or trade. Pet shops can only sell snakes under certain conditions. It’s also not legal for anyone to release the snake back into the wild. (California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 40(c), 40(e), 43(c), 43(c)(1), 43(f)(2) and Fish and Game Code section 75 all apply to this answer.)

If, however, the garter snake is non-native to California, then CDFW regulations do not apply (except for the illegal release of the garter snake into the wild), but all other state, county and city laws relating to the pet trade may still apply.


Possession limits after multiple days of fishing?
Question: Can you discuss ocean fish possession limits? I often see people coming to our area to fish for several days in a row and they take a limit every day without eating or gifting any of the fish to someone else. On day three, when they depart from the ocean, they have three limits of rockfish in a cooler. It’s not right. Most folks do not know or understand that the daily bag limit is also the possession limit for most fish. Just a thought to help educate. Thanks! (Ryan H., San Luis Obispo)

Answer: You are correct. Regardless of how many days someone ocean fishes, they must abide by both daily bag limits and overall possession limits. In most cases, bag limits and possession limits are the same, so at no time can someone possess more than one daily bag limit. In order to fish again once a daily bag limit is reached, the angler must wait until the next calendar day, and unless a higher possession limit is specifically authorized, the angler must either eat or gift their fish to someone else before taking more. At no time can anyone be in possession of more than one bag/possession limit.


Maximum lobster hoops?
Question: I know the maximum number of hoop nets that can be fished from a boat is 10. We take a couple of multi-day trips every year and invariably lose one or two during the trip. My question is can we carry a couple of spares on the boat to replace any we lose? (Larry H.)

Answer: Unfortunately, you may not. No more than 10 hoop nets may be possessed on a vessel (CCR Title14, section 29.80(b)).


What’s meant by the nearest landmark?
Question: I will be hunting for deer and bear this year and noticed on the tags where it asks for the distance and direction from the nearest landmark. What does that mean by the nearest landmark? I am also unsure as to just what kind of landmark they are asking for. Can you please clarify this for me? (Dan B.)

Answer: Harvest data, including the location where an animal is taken, is an important component of wildlife management. The geographic location helps biologists obtain specific location information so the more accurate you can be with distinguishing landmarks, the more helpful it is to managing our wildlife. There are many acceptable locations found on any map for your planned hunt area. Please just provide distance and direction to the nearest mountain, creek, river, city, town, campground or other landmark.

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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 Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Annual Fishing License Required to Keep Reptiles?

Chuckwalla lizards

Chuckwalla lizards (Photo by Raimond Spekking)

Question: I know a California fishing license allows a person to “take” a certain number of each reptile and amphibian species, which are defined in the Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations. I also understand “take” is defined as “hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill fish, amphibians, reptiles …” or attempting to do so. If I legally take a chuckwalla with a fishing license this year, do I need to have a fishing license for each year after 2013 in order to continue to keep it? (Anonymous)

Answer: No. In order to legally take a non-restricted native reptile from the wild, you will need a valid 2013 Sport Fishing License. In the 2013-2014 California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations, go to page 20 for the list of reptiles and bag limits. As long as the chuckwalla is legally taken with a sport fishing license, you are not required to purchase additional licenses just to keep the reptile.

Regarding the possession of other native reptiles, there are some species that are listed as “Restricted Species”, which means they may not be taken or kept as pets. For the list of Restricted Species Laws and Regulations, go to www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/ and go to the California Code of Regulations Title 14 link and search for Section 671(c)(11).


Definition of Multi-Day Fishing Trip?
Question: My friends and I are planning our annual, multi-day fishing trip off the coast this summer. I have a question related to the regulations that might apply to our trip, so we don’t run into a problem with a game warden.

Under Section 27.15 on page 28 of the 2013/14 Ocean Fishing Booklet, multi-day fishing trips are described as being “continuous and extend(ing) for a period of 12 hours or more on the first and last days of the trip, and no berthing or docking is permitted within five miles of the mainland shore.” Our trip will be for four days, we’ll fish for 12 hours every day, and we will anchor the boat in a protected cove off shore. It is not clear though if we are required to be physically fishing or to actually remain aboard the vessel the whole time. It seems we would meet the definition of a multi-day trip; however, we may wish to camp and sleep ashore overnight. If we fish from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Day #1, then anchor the boat offshore, sleep on land, and resume our fishing from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM the next day, is this still considered “continuous?” Similarly, if we remain aboard, but stop fishing between 6:00 PM and 6:00 AM, is this still considered “continuous?” Could you please describe any definition provided in the regulations for “continuous” that could clarify this question? (Neil P.)

Answer: A Declaration for Multi-Day Fishing Trip requires that the trip is continuous and extends for a period of 12 hours or more on the first and last days of the trip. In addition, no berthing or docking is permitted within five miles of the mainland shore (CCR Title 14, section 27.15).

The multi-day fishing permit is intended to allow persons fishing offshore, on a trip that lasts multiple days, to catch and keep up to three daily limits of finfish, lobster and rock scallops, and up to two limits of abalone. The situation you described could be viewed as a land-based camping trip, using a vessel to get to your destination and fish from.  The warden that observed your activities would have to use discretion to determine if your activities met the conditions of a multi-day fishing trip. While there is no definition of “continuous” provided, if you choose to camp or fish on the mainland coast, it would be a stretch to say that you were still on a fishing trip on your boat.


Selling elk antlers and sheds
Question: I know it’s not legal to sell deer antlers, but what about elk antlers, either sheds or those that include a skull plate? I read your column about selling any animal native to California and wonder if that includes elk antlers, which many use for decorative purposes, knives, etc, as there is a market for such items. (Scott W.)

Answer: It is unlawful to sell or purchase any part of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California. Since elk are found in the wild in California, this applies to elk antlers. However, shed antlers or antlers taken from domestically-reared animals that have been manufactured into products or handcraft items, or that have been cut into blocks or units which are to be handcrafted, may be purchased or sold (see Fish and Game Code, section 3039).

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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 Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Hefty Halibut, Harpoons and Small Boats

(CDFW photo by Dean Troutte)

(CDFW photo by Dean Troutte)

Question: Pacific halibut have become a sought-after sport fish out of Eureka and Trinidad. I have a question about landing large Pacific halibut, particularly in a relatively small boat. Many people use a type of harpoon with a head that comes off and is tethered to the boat. This prevents the fish from heading down while a rope is run through its gills for hauling it aboard. I was told that harpooning them this way was possibly illegal under rules governing harpooning fish. In this case the fish was caught with normal hook and line. The harpoon is used only to land the fish safely, similar to a gaff but more secure. Is this legal? Are there better methods? I have heard many tales of big halibut doing serious damage to fishermen if they are brought aboard too early and without steps taken to control them. All ideas are welcome. (Tom P., Eureka)

Answer: Harpoons cannot be used to “take” halibut, and landing the fish is an integral part of “take.” So just because you get the fish to the surface, it does not mean it has been “taken” until it is landed (secured). Most fish are lost at the surface, so take has not been completed and a harpoon could not be used at this point. Harpoons are only allowed for the actual take of all varieties of skates, rays, and sharks, except white sharks (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.95).

While the use of a harpoon to “take” halibut is not authorized, the use of a “spear” to take halibut is legal, but you have to be “a person floating or swimming in the water” (CCR Title 14, section 28.90). Use of a gaff, including a gaff with a detachable hook, is authorized to land the fish as long as it is legal size. So the best option and the only one that is legal for California is to use a gaff with a detachable hook, sometimes referred to as a flying gaff. The description of a gaff can be found in CCR Title 14 section, 28.65 (d).


Keeping rattlesnakes as pets?
Question: Can rattlesnakes be collected in the wild and kept as pets? I know that no licenses are required to kill them but don’t know if they can be legally kept as pets. (Andrew G., Angels Camp)

Answer: Yes, except for the red diamond rattlesnake where no take is allowed – so be sure you can identify your snakes! Before collecting anything, you should first check with your local animal control agency regarding whether any local laws apply in your area. Under state law, all pit vipers (except for the five other California native rattlesnakes listed in CCR, Title 14 section 671(c)(7)(E)) are restricted species that may not be possessed without a permit. Keeping live, native rattlesnakes (except for the red diamond) is not prohibited by Fish and Game laws. No license is required to take or kill other rattlesnakes in California, but the daily bag and possession limit is two. The take of other species of native reptiles and amphibians requires possession of a sport fishing license. The daily bag and possession limits are provided in CCR, Title 14 section 5.60.


Privately fishing on a commercial charter boat?
Question: My friends and I are having a discussion about crab fishing regulations. If someone operates a crab fishing charter business in the San Francisco Bay area, they are limited to six crabs per person at a minimum size of 6 inches each. Does this mean that any time they fish regardless of whether it is for hire/charter or for personal reasons (family and friends), they can only take six crabs? Or, if they are fishing as a private boater (e.g. not for hire), can they take 10 crab per person instead? (Gerry)

Answer: If they are fishing as a private boater, and not for hire, they are not subject to the restrictions that apply to a charter boat. Since there is always a chance that a warden will check the fishermen on the boat, it is a benefit to everyone if there is a note in your private boat log (if you have one) that reflects that this is not a charter trip, and that the warden is made aware of the circumstances when first contact is made.


Help for new rabbit hunters?
Question: My son and I are new to rabbit hunting. For possession limits, will my 16–year-old son and I each be able to have 10 in possession (20 total) as long as we mark which animals we each harvested? (Dan)

Answer: If hunting for brush, cottontail or pygmy rabbits or varying (snowshoe) hares, bag and possession limits (for each of you) in the aggregate of all species is five per day, 10 in possession. Remember, that’s no more than five for each of you per day and no more than 10 in possession after two days. No need to mark which animals belong to whom as long as you keep each bag separate. However, if you don’t remain together, one person should not be in possession of two limits. If hunting for jack, black-tailed or white-tailed rabbits, the season is open all year and there are no bag or possession limits.

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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 Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Why Do Turtles Sold as Pets Have a Size Limit?

Red-eared Slider - Trachemys scripta (CDFW photo by Dave Feliz)

This is a Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta), a common turtle in the pet trade. They compete in the wild with our native Western Pond Turtle, so they should never be released. (CDFW photo by Dave Feliz)

Question: Is there a size limit on the sale of turtles that are sold as pets? (Robert Bruce, Antioch)

Answer: Yes, federal and state laws require that turtles must have a carapace (shell) length of at least 4 inches to be imported, sold or distributed (California Code of Regulations Title 17, section 2612.1). This restriction was brought into effect under the Public Health Services Act by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1975 to address the problem of Salmonella infections in children. I have heard this size was determined to help prevent children from putting these small reptiles into their mouths. Prior to the ban there were an estimated 250,000 cases of turtle Salmonellosis in children and infants that were associated with pet turtles in the United States (Source: http://exoticpets.about.com/od/reptilesturtles/a/turtlesales.htm.)


Sabiki rig?
Question: I frequently fish at the Point Arena pier but am not clear on a specific rule. I know you may only have two hooks on one fishing line, but is it legal to use a Sabiki rig with multiple small hooks to catch bait fish? (Steve Lum)

Answer: When fishing from Point Arena pier, you can use a fishing rod with multiple hooks as long as you don’t have rockfish, cabezon, greenling or lingcod in your possession. If you happen to catch one of these species while using more than two hooks on your line, you must release the fish.

You are limited to no more than one line and two hooks when fishing for rockfish, cabezon, greenling and lingcod, or if these species are in possession. On a public pier, you can use up to two fishing appliances (rod and reel, hoop net, crab trap, etc.) with no restrictions on the number of hooks (unless you are targeting the species mentioned above or have them in your possession).


How to legally exchange bear skulls and claws?
Question: Are there any regulations prohibiting someone from giving me a bear skull or claws if legally taken either in California or out of state? No money or goods would be exchanged. Would I need to have proof to show where the parts came from or who gave them to me? (Tom H.)

Answer: No. If the skull or claws were taken from a bear in California, and as long as no money or goods were exchanged for the acquisition, you may legally receive and possess these bear parts. If the bear parts are from a bear taken in another state, then you will need to follow the regulations for sale or gifting of bear parts from that state and submit a “Declaration for Entry” form, available online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/.


Why early stop shooting times for turkeys?
Question: I have been turkey hunting in California for several years and always wondered why the shooting times are limited until only 4 pm. I have heard it protects them so they can return to roost in the evening, but this makes no sense since there is an over-abundance of turkeys in California, more than a lot of other states. Many other states allow turkey hunting until sundown, similar to big game. What’s the reason for this early shooting stop time? (Dave Johannes, Modesto)

Answer: Shooting hours for the spring wild turkey season is always one-half hour before sunrise to 4 p.m. The reason for the early stop time in the spring (versus the stop time of sunset in the fall) is because the spring season occurs during turkey breeding season. Only the toms (and bearded hens) may be taken in the spring to allow the hens to nest successfully. The goal is to maximize the opportunities for hunters to take turkeys while protecting nesting hens. Setting this early shooting stop time gives the birds a break from hunting pressure, allows the toms to return to the roost and the hens to get back to their nests.  Historically, the stop time was 1 p.m., but as wild turkey numbers have flourished, the stop hunting time was moved to 4 p.m.

Turkeys typically roost communally and may have only one or no more than a few trees where they roost at night. They become more vulnerable toward the end of the day as they return to their preferred roost. If the turkeys are disturbed along the way by gun shots, they may select unfamiliar roosting areas, thus making themselves more vulnerable to predation.

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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 Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Importing Rattlesnakes to Sell as Exotic Meats?

Western Rattlesnakes cannot be imported or sold in California (photo courtesy of Pete Walker, Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Western Rattlesnakes are native to California and so cannot be sold or imported into the state (photo courtesy of Pete Walker, Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Question: I have a business where I sell different types of exotic meats for human consumption. If legal to do, I would like to offer the meat of the following species of rattlesnakes: eastern, western and prairie rattlesnakes. I know I cannot bring western diamondbacks into the state, but are there any restrictions to selling eastern diamondbacks and prairie rattlesnakes from Montana in California? What about selling rattlesnake sausages and rattlesnake cakes made in Colorado? Can I sell processed food in California or is there a restriction? (Anshu P.)

Answer: There are no restrictions in California Fish and Game laws against importing and selling the meat of any species of reptile or amphibian that is not found in the wild in California, as long as they are not otherwise prohibited by federal law. For a list of species found in the wild in California, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/nongame/list.html.


Lobster hooping?
Question: I understand from the regulations that if hoop netting from a kayak, you need to keep your license and card with you. However, if you are scuba diving, you can keep it in your car 500 yards away. I want to hoop from land, but most likely I will have to swim or get wet at certain areas. Can I also keep my license in my car or do I have to bring it with me? (Ping Lee)

Answer: When a person is diving from a boat, the license may be kept in the boat, or in the case of a person diving from the shore, the license may be kept within 500 yards on the shore (Fish and Game Code, section 7145(a)). Therefore, the Fish and Game law that allows the license to remain in the vehicle is specific to a person who is diving from the shore and within 500 yards of the vehicle. Under all other circumstances, the law requires you to have your license in your immediate possession.


Bluegill for bait?
Question: I have had some discussions with other fisherman over the use of bluegill for bait in the body of water it was caught in. I can’t seem to find anything on the website this year pertaining to using them for bait. Am I looking in the wrong area? Have the regulations changed? Please lend us a hand with some info because we don’t want to fish out of our limits. Thanks a million and tight lines to you. (Randall S.)

Answer: California sportfishing regulations for freshwater generally prohibit using live or dead finfish for bait. Although certain species of finfish may be used in the waters where taken, bluegill may only be used in the Colorado River District (see California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 4.15(a)) and portions of the Valley and South Central Districts (see CCR Title 14, section 4.20(d)). See sections 4.00 – 4.30 in the Freshwater Sportfishing Regulations for a complete listing of fish that may be used for bait, and keep in mind that bluegill are sunfish pursuant to CCR Title 14, section 1.77. The regulations are available online at www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/.


New big game fund-raising random drawing tags?
Question: What’s the latest on the special big game tags this year? Will any new tags be available via the random drawing system? (George S., Modesto)

Answer: Yes! Hunters can apply for four different fund-raising random drawing tags. These tags raise funds needed for vital wildlife conservation programs.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Big Game Program Analyst Lai Saechao, the 2013 fund-raising random drawing tag for bighorn sheep will be valid in two hunt zones. The hunter will have a choice between the Marble/Clipper Mountains or the South Bristol Mountain hunt zones. In addition, Dry Creek Outfitters has offered free guide services to the winner of the Fund-Raising Random Drawing Bighorn Sheep Tag.

Also available, one open zone deer tag which allows the hunter to hunt during the authorized season dates of any deer hunt, using the specific method and meeting any special conditions of the tag for that hunt. There’s also an Owens Valley elk tag which allows the hunter to hunt in any of the Owens Valley zones (Bishop, Independence, Lone Pine, Tinemaha, Tinemaha Mountain and Whitney) with any legal method. Last but not least, a Northeastern California antelope tag will be valid in the Mount Dome, Clear Lake, Likely Tables, Lassen, Big Valley and Surprise Valley zones with any legal method.

Opportunities to apply for these four fund-raising random drawing tags are available to all interested hunters. Hunters can now apply at any CDFW license sales office, through license agents or online at www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/ols/. Hunters may also apply for these fund-raising random drawing tags at the CDFW booth at the Fred Hall Shows in Long Beach and Del Mar next month.

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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 Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Golfing with Rattlesnakes in Lake Tahoe

Rattlesnakes may occur in the Lake Tahoe area. So, when your golf ball strays off the fairway, keep your eyes and ears open when searching through the rough as snakes may be lurking in the surrounding tall grasses and brush (DFG photo).

Question: For years I was always told there are no rattlesnakes in the Lake Tahoe area because the altitude was too high. However, recently I’ve read many articles that say rattlesnakes can live as high as 10,000 feet. I am worried because I play golf and often end up in the rough, which means looking for my golf ball in tall grass and brush. Are there rattlesnakes in the Lake Tahoe basin and surrounding areas that I need to be watching out for? (Nick R.)

Answer: The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) doesn’t track occurrences of common snake species, but according to DFG Statewide Coordinator for Conservation of Amphibians and Reptiles Betsy Bolster, don’t discount the possibility of encountering a rattlesnake in the Lake Tahoe area. The Great Basin rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus lutosus) is widespread and can occur up to the timberline. According to references, the Great Basin Rattlesnake (subspecies, Crotalus oreganus lutosus) is found in California in the far northeastern corner and in a small region east of the Sierra Nevadas near the Mono Lake area. Its range continues outside the state to the north into eastern Oregon, and east to western Utah, southern Idaho, most of Nevada and barely into extreme northwestern Arizona. Its preferred habitat includes rocky hillsides, barren flats, sagebrush, grassy plains and agricultural areas.

You should know though, that rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive, and will usually only strike when threatened or deliberately provoked. Given room they will likely retreat. Most snake bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally touched by someone walking or climbing. The majority of snakebites occur on the hands, feet and ankles.

The California Poison Control Center notes that rattlesnakes account for more than 800 bites each year, and only one to two deaths. About 25 percent of the bites are “dry,” meaning no venom was injected, but the bites still require medical treatment.

Given this, since your golf game, like mine, includes some time spent in the rough, I’d keep my eyes and ears open when searching for a golf ball away from the fairway. It might be worth it to hit the pro shop for some extra golf balls rather than taking chances on whether or not you are in rattlesnake habitat. FORE!

(References: (Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Robert C. Stebbins, 1985). Californiaherps.com. www.californiaherps.com/snakes/pages/c.o.lutosus.html)


Knife rules
Question: I will be going camping next week at a place called Hell Hole Reservoir near Lake Tahoe and I need to know if I may bring a jeep survival knife with me. The knife has a 15-inch blade with a sheath. I know you are not allowed to carry a knife more than three inches long in California, but I need to know if there is an exception for camping. (Mitch L.)

Answer: There is no Fish and Game law regarding your knife and I am not aware of any law regarding knives with blades that are longer than three inches.

According to DFG Capt. Phil Nelms, “Generally, prohibited weapons are listed in California Penal Code, section 16590, and special provisions regarding knives and similar weapons begin at section 20200. You may want to pay special attention to sections 21310 and 16470 regarding concealed dirks and daggers, but knives with fixed blades are generally not prohibited as long as they are carried openly (not concealed).”

To check all the laws regarding knives online, please go to http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html. In addition, you may want to contact your local police or sheriff’s department for more information regarding dangerous weapons.


Tagging abalone with rubber bands?
Question: After reading a recent answer to a diver who asked how to attach his abalone tag to a rare abalone he’d taken that had no siphon holes where he could affix the tag, I have a question. Some members of my dive club and I assisted DFG with the abalone creel survey last year. We noticed that some of the pickers we surveyed used rubber bands to attach the tags to the abalone. They just laid the tag on the shell and put the rubber band all the way around the abalone to hold the tag on. There were no holes in the tags. Is this a legal way to attach the tag? (Curt H.)

Answer: No, this is not legal. The law requires the tag be “… securely fastened to the shell of the abalone. To affix the tag, a “zip tie,” string, line or other suitable material shall be passed through a siphon hole on the abalone shell and through the tag at the location specified on the abalone tag.” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.16 (b)(3)).

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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.