When the USDA Checks Wild Waterfowl, is it a Bad Sign for Hunters?

Mallard pairQuestion: On the last day of hunting at Modesto Reservoir we had a lady from the United States Department of Agriculture that swabbed our ducks and geese for parasites, etc. I asked her why she was doing this and she smiled at me. So then I said, “Is it that Foster Farms has been having problems with viruses?” She just smiled again and nodded her head.

I can’t help but wonder what Foster Farms is up to but can bet they are up to no good for hunters. They had problems with their chickens in Livingston and other places so I can’t help but wonder if they are trying to tie this to our waterfowl. I think there is a good story here for somebody who wants to take the time to make the phone calls and dig it out! (Ron W.)

Answer: While this is an interesting question, Ron, there’s no conspiracy going on here against waterfowl hunters. I asked Krysta Rogers, Avian Specialist and Environmental Scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and here’s what she had to say:

“In response to the recent detections of avian influenza in Washington in December 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture and United States Geological Survey, in coordination with state wildlife agencies, initiated active surveillance through swab sampling of hunter-harvested waterfowl in several states, including California. Avian influenza viruses naturally circulate in wild bird populations, primarily in species that are associated with an aquatic habitat. Therefore, monitoring wild waterfowl for avian influenza activity is one of the most efficient surveillance tools for determining what viruses are circulating worldwide. Between 2006 and 2011, CDFW participated in similar surveillance efforts to aid in the detection of avian influenza viruses. As with the previous surveillance, state and federal wildlife agencies do not foresee any impacts to wild waterfowl populations or to hunting.

“Recently, in the western United States, two main viruses have been detected, H5N2 and H5N8. Both viruses have previously been found in other parts of the world. While these viruses are not known to cause significant disease in wild waterfowl, they can cause high mortality in domestic poultry. Surveillance of hunter-harvested waterfowl has resulted in additional detections of these viruses in California, Oregon, Utah and Idaho. The H5N2 virus has been detected in backyard poultry flocks in Washington and Idaho while the H5N8 virus has been detected in a backyard poultry flock in Oregon and a commercial turkey flock in Stanislaus County, California.”


Managing multiple fishing rods on the Sacramento River?
Question: If two anglers are anchored on the Sacramento River bait fishing for sturgeon and both have second rod validations allowing them to fish with four rods collectively, if one person then hooks up, is it legal for the other person to reel in the other three rods while that person is fighting the fish? In other words, is it legal for the person not trying to reel the fish in to clear the other three rods? (Monty R.)

Answer: Yes, provided the anglers are fishing in a location where the second rod validation is operative. Legally, since each fisherman is only authorized to fish with up to two fishing poles, the fisherman trying to bring in the other three poles would have to first secure one of his fishing rods so that it is no longer being used to fish. That would leave two fishing poles to reel in, which would be within the angler’s legal authority to do.


Dead heads
Question: I’ve been up shed hunting and recently have found a couple mountain lion kills. Can I legally take the dead heads? How do I prove it’s a dead head and not a poached deer? (Brice R.)

Answer: You should avoid picking up anything that is fresh but it is not illegal for someone to pick up bleached antlers. In addition, you can sell sheds that you have found but they must have been manufactured into products or handcraft items, or have been cut into blocks or units which are to be handcrafted. You cannot sell whole antlers with heads attached (Fish and Game Code, section 3039(c)).


Selling sea urchin jewelry
Question: Is it legal to use legally harvested/farmed California uni biproducts for jewelry to be sold in retail? I have a local fish market that sells large amounts of the purple urchins they obtain from Catalina Seafood. I obtain the eaten shells and use the spikes for crafts. Is it legal to sell them in California as well as globally? (Alexandra F.)

Answer: Commercially-taken sea urchin spines can be sold in jewelry, but sport-harvested marine resources may not be sold, bartered, traded, etc.

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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.

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