Tag Archives: reptiles

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.