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.

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