Category Archives: Big Game

California Camp Meat Act?

(Photo from Creative Commons)

Question: I wonder if you could settle the subject of a discussion. Recently, I mentioned in camp that it was legal in California to kill “camp meat” under certain prescribed rules. For instance, if there were 10 men in camp for 11 days or more (perhaps 11 men, 10 days), then they could kill any one deer for “camp meat.” Such meat must be prepared and consumed in camp and no meat could be removed from the camp’s vicinity. All of my friends flatly stated no such law existed, or ever had.

I am almost certain that such a law was in effect up until at least the 1970s, dating back to the late 1800s. Could you tell me the current standing of said act, correct wording, whether or not it is still in effect, or when rescinded, if it ever was? (Tom W., SoCal)

Answer: We checked Fish and Game Code books from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, and they all require a tag when taking deer in California. We couldn’t find any reference to “camp meat” or the ability to kill deer strictly for camp meat purposes. In California, at least, we believe this law never existed.


Lobster limits with a multi-day permit?
Question: What’s the total number of lobsters a recreational fisherman is allowed to possess? A friend contends that with a three-day multi-day permit purchased from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) that the limit is 21 lobsters (three days times seven lobsters). My understanding from reading the regs is that it is never to exceed seven legal-sized lobsters. If so, why do they sell a multi-day permit? (Bill P.)

Answer: Multi-day permits may be issued to fishermen who will be away from the mainland continuously for three or more consecutive days, including a minimum period of 12 hours or more at sea on the first and last days of the trip (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.15). In addition, the permit prohibits berthing or docking within five miles of the mainland shore. The usual lobster bag limit is seven lobsters per person unless the person has secured a multi-day permit prior to their trip. Daily bag limits always apply for these trips. With this permit, if the person is away from the mainland at sea for at least three days, they can take and keep up to three days of lobster bag limits (3 x 7 = 21) like your friend said. The person may then retain those 21 lobsters in their possession but should keep the approved permit with those lobsters until at least two of the bag limits (14) are consumed or gifted.


Why fish Dungeness crabs at 200 feet?
Question: Why in Monterey Bay must we set pots at 200 feet or deeper to catch crab? (Rick B.)

Answer: There are no regulations requiring you to fish your pots at a certain depth, you’ll just need to figure out what that best depth is. Adult, legal-size Dungeness crabs are often found in deeper water. You should check with other crabbers to see what depths they are finding success in. It changes all the time. I just spoke to a commercial crabber this weekend and he’s fishing his traps from 150 to 500 feet.


Live marine rocks for home aquarium?
Question: Is it legal to take any marine life or rocks from the California coastline for use in an in-home aquarium? (James H.)

Answer: Finfish may not be transported alive from the water where taken, except under the authority of a scientific collecting permit or a marine aquaria collector’s permit. The removal of “live rocks” (rocks with living marine organisms attached) is also prohibited in many areas, including federal marine sanctuaries, state marine protected areas and state parks. Also, only the following tidal invertebrates may be taken in any tidepool, where not otherwise prohibited: red abalone, limpets, moon snails, turban snails, chiones, clams, cockles, mussels, rock scallops, native oysters, octopuses, squid, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, sand dollars, sea urchins and worms (except that no worms may be taken in any mussel bed). All legal size limits and possession limits must be followed and a fishing license must be in possession in order to take. All other tidal invertebrates may only be taken outside 1,000 feet seaward from the high tide mark.

Please note that most of the smaller rocks exposed and surrounded by water above mean high tide are within the California Coastal National Monument – where all objects, including rocks, are protected and it is prohibited to collect or remove them or organisms on them.

# # #

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.

Cow Decoy for Big Game and Turkey Hunting?

cow-decoy1

(Photo courtesy of Ultimate Predator Gear)

Question: There is a manufacturer of decoys that attach to the front of a bow gun for hunting big game and turkeys. They are similar to the Montana style decoys but with a frontal profile blocking the hunter’s profile wcow-decoy2hile he aims and shoots through the large center hole. The decoys come in the frontal shape of a bovine cow, a turkey, a cow elk, a mule deer and others. Can I use the bovine cow decoy while bow hunting big game such as deer and wild pigs in California? I have heard of great success with this decoy in other states. Also, can the same decoy be used for turkeys? The cow decoy seems to be a much safer alternative for the hunter to avoid being mistaken for game. (Leo H.)

Answer: There are no regulations regarding the use of decoys for big game hunting. However, it is “unlawful to use any mammal (except a dog) or an imitation of a mammal as a blind in approaching or taking game birds” (Fish and Game Code, section 3502).


Stopping crab trap raiders and thieves?
Question: What, if anything, can a recreational crabber do to detect, prevent and/or suppress others from raiding and stealing their crabs during crab season? Not only have I had crabs and crab nets stolen (Bodega Bay area), but thieves have gone so far as to replace a catch with things like rocks and beer bottles? Realizing some of my traps may be unintentionally (some possibly intentionally) cut by vessels traveling at sea, is there anything else one can do? Even with my GO ID number properly marked, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens are hard-pressed to enforce applicable laws. I’m thinking of developing an alarm of some sort via microchip to detect changes in depth after they’re set. Do you have any other ideas? (Derek B.)

Answer: Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot we can do in this situation. If you are using hoop nets, they must be checked every two hours or less. So crabbing should be a closely monitored activity, which should help alleviate this problem. You may also want to talk with other crabbers and make arrangements to keep an eye on each other’s traps while out on the water. Otherwise, set your traps when you are planning to be on the water and then fish for other species while your traps are soaking.


Is shooting biodegradable clays still littering?
Question: In a recent column you addressed a question of shooting clay birds being thrown into the ocean. Not sure I like that idea, but that isn’t the issue I have. ALL clay birds today are made of non-toxic, biodegradable material. I love shooting clays and get tired of people who don’t shoot assuming I am “littering” the landscape. Can you please let the public know there is nothing to worry about when it comes to clay birds sold in the stores today? (Linda K.)

Answer: Target shooting and shooting clay pigeons are some of my favorite pastimes. While the clays are supposed to be biodegradable, they break down at different rates depending on the brand. I think the issue is more one of people leaving all of the discards in the fields or areas where they have been used. I think the real issue is even though they may break down eventually, they will still litter the landscape and be viewed as litter when left in public areas. If you’re shooting these on your own property or at a designated shooting range, it’s your choice to leave them where they fall. However, for me, we do much of our shooting on my brother’s property, and although the land is not open to the public, we still pick up everything that we can easily find afterward as a common courtesy, especially since they are all easily seen due to their bright white, orange and lime green colors. Same thing goes for spent shotgun shells. Those don’t break down and will be visible for a long time if left behind.


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. Can we carry a couple of spares on the boat to replace any we lose? (Larry H.)

Answer: No, unfortunately, you may not. No more than five hoop nets may be possessed or used by a person, not to exceed a total of 10 hoop nets possessed per vessel (CCR Title14, section 29.80(b)).

# # #

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.

Catching Crabs with a Chicken Leg?

Dungeness crabs (ODFW photo)

Dungeness crabs (ODFW photo)

Question: California regulations stipulate that taking crustaceans by “hook and line” is not a legal method of take. So what about a baited line with no hook (e.g. a chicken leg) with a hand line tied to it? As long as I use my hands to take the crab and not a net, is a baited line allowed to lure the crab within reach? (Patrick M.)

Answer: Ocean sport fishing regulations specify what gear may be used to take saltwater crustaceans, and any “nets, traps or other appliances” not specified in the following section are prohibited methods of take (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(a)(2)). A baited line without a hook is not a legal method of take, but here’s an idea … you could tie a chicken leg to a loop trap, or make the chicken leg into a loop trap by attaching up to six loops (slip knots) to the bait, and snare a crab this way. This method of a line attached to a chicken leg would be legal to use! Loop traps may not be used south of Point Arguello (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(e)).


Looking for sustainable and ethical wild game for restaurant
Question: I am a chef and we will open a new, very small, specialized Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles. I am looking for sustainable and ethical wild game. Could you please help me find a hunter that deals with restaurants like ours? (Ni L.)

Answer: It is illegal for anyone to buy, sell or trade any sport-taken wild game meat in California. There are businesses that import “exotic” meats, and they are inspected and regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). According to the USDA, “Game meats that do not have a mark of inspection cannot be sold. This is the case for game meat harvested by a recreational hunter. The inspection and processing requirements will not be met and thus the meat cannot be sold.”


Lifetime licenses for a 3-year-old
Question: I just purchased a lifetime fishing license for my 3-year-old son and would like to purchase his lifetime hunting license as well. Do I have to wait until he is old enough to take and pass his hunters safety class first? (Anxious dad)

Answer: Great question! You will be able to purchase the lifetime hunting license now to lock in the price but he will not be able to use it until he completes his hunter safety class. Once you buy the license, our License and Revenue Branch will send you confirmation of your purchase. After your son takes the class (usually at nine years or older) and gives us the certificate showing that he has passed his test, like magic, his profile will show that he has an active lifetime hunting license and he will be able to use it.

Likewise, his lifetime fishing license may not show up in his profile until he turns 16 (when he will need to have a fishing license to fish). If you bought one of the add-on packages that include fishing report cards, he will have access to those before his 16th birthday because the report cards are necessary for anglers of all ages.

Good luck and I hope you have many happy years of hunting and fishing with your son!


Catching bait from the piers and bays
Question: What are the legal methods allowed for catching live bait? I have used sabiki type rigs when fishing for mackerels and sardines, but recently I’ve started fishing the bays. Is it legal to use homemade minnow traps in the bays (e.g. Mission Bay and San Diego Bay) to catch smelts to use for bait, or can I only use those bait nets available at local sport fishing retailers for catching bait fish? I am hoping to catch baits south of Point Conception. (Charles P.)

Answer: Baited traps are not authorized for the take of bait fish south of Point Conception. The only authorized methods of take for bait fish are using dip nets, baited hoop nets not greater than 36 inches in diameter, by hook and line or by hand. “Dip nets of any size and baited hoop nets not greater than 36 inches in diameter may be used to take herring, Pacific staghorn sculpin, shiner surfperch, surf smelt, topsmelt, anchovies, shrimp and squid. Hawaiian-type throw nets may be used north of Point Conception to take such species” (CCR Title 14, section 28.80). When taking other species of bait fish, your hand-held dip net must be not more than six feet in greatest diameter, excluding the handle (CCR Title 14, section 1.42).

# # #

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.

When to Use a Crossbow?

Crossbows are normally not considered legal "archery" equipment for taking game birds and game mammals during archery-only season. However, there is an exception for those who hold a Disabled Archer Permit. (Photo courtesy of Parker Bows)

Crossbows are not considered legal “archery” equipment and cannot be used during the archery-only seasons for game birds and mammals unless the hunter possesses a valid disabled archer permit. Crossbows can be used during the open seasons for wild turkey hunting (Photo courtesy of Parker Bows)

Question: With turkey season coming up soon and deer season right around the corner, can you please clarify when crossbows may be used for hunting big game and turkeys in California? As I understand it, you can use a crossbow instead of a rifle during rifle season. Is this correct? Can we use crossbows for taking wild turkeys? (Jesse J.)

Answer: It is important to understand that a crossbow is not considered archery equipment. Crossbows cannot be used during the archery seasons for game mammals or game birds unless the hunter possesses a valid disabled archer permit.

Crossbows may be used during the general seasons for deer, pig and game birds. For big game, hunters must use a broad head which will not pass through a hole seven-eighths of an inch in diameter (California Code of Regulation Title 14, section 354)). For wild turkeys, any arrow or crossbow bolt may be used except as prohibited by CCR Title 14, section 354(d) – which addresses explosive or tranquilizing arrowheads.

For additional information regarding archery equipment and crossbow regulations, please check the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354. Good luck!


Revamping crab traps with five inch minimum openings?
Question: I have a question on the Dungeness crab regulations. There’s a new requirement this season that crab traps must have a destruct device with an unobstructed opening that is at least five inches in diameter. The regulations also describe ways to meet the requirement using cotton twine with rubber straps. I don’t keep my crab traps more than a few hours in the water. My existing crab traps already have two circular openings that are 4.5 inches in diameter.

Can I simply add one more circular metal/plastic ring, with inside diameter more than five inches, on the top of the crab trap and NOT use the cotton twine method? Basically, I will have a five-inch opening at all times, regardless of whether I lose my gear (crab trap) or not. (Chin D.)

Answer: “Starting Aug. 1, 2016, crab traps shall contain at least one destruct device of a single strand of untreated cotton twine size No. 120 or less that creates an unobstructed escape opening in the top or upper half of the trap of at least five inches in diameter when the destruct attachment material corrodes or fails” (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(c)(2)).

An opening over five inches would satisfy this requirement as long as the permanent opening in the trap is in the upper half of the trap and it provides the same or greater escape dimensions that would be created when or if a self-destruct cotton failed. A trap set with the destruct material in the failed state (i.e. with no destruct material), would satisfy this requirement.


Shooting gophers and ground squirrels on private land?
Question: Do I need a hunting license to shoot gophers and ground squirrels on private land? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, if you are taking them for recreational purposes. Gophers and ground squirrels are nongame mammals and may be taken by licensed hunters. However, gophers and ground squirrels that are damaging growing crops or other property may be taken without a hunting license “by the owner or tenant of the premises or employees and agents in immediate possession of written permission from the owner or tenant thereof” (Fish and Game Code, section 4152).


Collecting natural sea water for aquarium?
Question: I have a big saltwater reef aquarium in my home and would like to collect natural sea water for it. What is allowed with regard to collecting natural sea water to use in home aquariums? I live just outside the Sacramento area and am willing to drive north or south but before setting out, I want to know what the rules are or what laws must be followed. Are there any limits on where or how much I can collect? I scuba dive around Monterey a lot and know that most areas are protected and/or are designated reserves, so figured I should ask.

I apologize for the odd question. I’m just hoping to conserve freshwater by using natural saltwater, if it’s possible and makes sense. Initially, I’d like to collect around 300 gallons. Are there are any laws or restrictions that I should be aware of? (Scott F.)

Answer: No, only that collection of seawater is not prohibited as long as you do so outside of marine protected areas. For information and maps of all of the marine protected areas in the state, please check out the CDFW website.

# # #

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.

Scuba Diving through MPAs with Lobsters in Possession

California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: If a scuba diver legally enters an area for lobster, proceeds to catch lobster in that area but then is unable to exit the water safely, could they surface swim through a Marine Protected Area (MPA) zone with their catch and exit legally? (Tom)

Answer: Yes, the diver can swim through but should make sure they are clearly not actively hunting for lobsters. For example, if when kicking in on the surface and are right in close to the rocks, they then stop and shine their lights into holes or reach into holes, they may appear to be hunting for lobsters. If they have lobsters in their possession and a warden determines they are attempting to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill any lobster, they may be issued a citation for fishing in an MPA.

“Spear fishermen with or without catch shall be allowed to transit through MPAs and MMAs. While transiting MPAs and MMAs that prohibit spearfishing or while in possession of species not identified as allowed for take in the MPA or MMA being transited, spearfishing gear shall be in an unloaded condition, not carried in hand, and the diver shall remain at the surface” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 632(a)(8)).


Hunting with an Atlatl (spear thrower)?
Question: Is it legal to use an Atlatl, or spear thrower, to hunt game animals in California? If it is legal, what are the regulations for their use? (Charlie)

Answer: No, a spear thrower is not legal to use. Only methods defined in the 2016-2017 California Mammal Hunting Regulations booklet for the take of small game (CCR Title 14, section 311, on page 26) and for big game (CCR Title 14, section 353, beginning on page 27) may be used.


Personal limits vs boat limits?
Question: When on a boat with a group of fishermen, does the bag limit apply to the boat (as I believe I’ve read in the statutes and have seen on party boats) or does it mean that anyone catching their limit must stop fishing altogether?

I ask because we were ordered off the water when some wardens told us one of our friends could no longer be out there with us since his gear was still in the boat and he was considered to still be fishing. He was the only one with a limit.

Also, since fresh and saltwater regulations are slightly different, where in your regs are the lines of demarcation for San Francisco Bay? (Jerry Z.)

Answer: Boat limits apply to anyone fishing aboard a boat in ocean waters off California or in the San Francisco Bay (CCR Title 14, section 27.60(c)). Boat limits allow fishing by all licensed persons aboard until boat limits of finfish are taken and possessed aboard the vessel. Boat limits do not apply to sturgeon, shellfish or when fishing in inland waters.

“The San Francisco Bay is the waters of San Francisco and San Pablo bays, plus all their tidal bays, sloughs, estuaries and tidal portions of their rivers and streams between the Golden Gate Bridge and the west Carquinez Bridge. For purposes of this section, waters downstream of the Trancas Bridge on the Napa River, downstream of Highway 121 Bridge on Sonoma Creek and downstream of the Payran Street Bridge on the Petaluma River are tidal portions of the Napa River, Sonoma Creek and Petaluma River, respectively” (CCR Title 14, section 27.00).

“Inland waters are all the fresh, brackish and inland saline waters of the state, including lagoons and tidewaters upstream from the mouths of coastal rivers and streams. Inland waters exclude the waters of San Francisco Bay and the waters of Elkhorn Slough, west of Elkhorn Road between Castroville and Watsonville” (CCR Title 14, section 1.53).

When fishing in inland waters, bag limits apply to each individual angler and not to the boat as a whole.


Bear skin rug and Alaskan whale bone carving for sale
Question: I have a bear skin rug, along with the head, that was the property of my mother-in-law. We also have a whale bone carving from an Alaskan artist. These are not things we wish to hold on to. Is there any way to sell these items in another state (outside of California) even though we live in California? What are the other options? (Kathy S.)

Answer: Regarding your bear skin rug, it is “unlawful to sell or purchase, or possess for sale, the meat, skin, hide, teeth, claws or other parts of any bear in this state (Fish and Game Code, section 4758). And as far as the whale bone carving, “it is unlawful to sell or purchase a bird or mammal found in the wild in California” (FGC, section 3039). So, if your carving comes from a whale that occurs in California waters, it may not be sold in the state. While neither of these laws apply to transactions taking place entirely outside of California, you are encouraged to consult the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if any federal laws may apply.

# # #

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.

Bird Feeders May Lure Other Unwanted Wildlife Visitors

than you’d

Wild bird feeders often lure in more than just the intended birds (Creative Commons photo)

Wild bird feeders may be a lure for a lot more unintended wildlife visitors than you’d expect (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

Question: Is it okay in California to put bird feeders out to feed wild birds? Assuming it is, if we observe deer eating the seeds intended for birds, are we obligated to remove the bird seed and stop feeding the birds or can we continue to put out seeds for the birds even if the deer are also coming in to consume it? (Mark M.)

Answer: Wild bird feeders are legal to use, but keep in mind that you don’t want the birds to become completely dependent on this artificial food source. If they do become dependent, then if/when this artificial food source becomes unavailable, the birds may have trouble going back to find a natural food source to sustain them.

Which leads into your second question … if you find that the deer are changing their behavior and coming onto your property in pursuit of any spilled bird seed, you should stop feeding the birds until the deer stop coming in. Pretty soon there won’t be any birds, just deer standing around waiting for their handout. It’s either that or move the feeder to a spot the deer can’t get to. It’s never a good idea to start feeding deer.

Another potential problem is that bird feeders can also be a big attractant for black bears who are trying to consume enough calories to support hibernation during winter months when natural food is scarce. The suet (animal fat) used to hold bird seed together in many products is also a dense calorie source which bears can become dependent upon. Knowingly attracting bears with this food source, which can be considered bait, is a citable offense.

Keep in mind, it’s illegal to feed big game (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251.3) and unlawful to harass wildlife (causing them to alter their normal behavior). Harassment can include feeding (CCR Title 14, section 251), even if it’s via bird feeders.


Spiny lobster hoop net buoy regs
Question: I read where crab traps need the owner’s GO ID number on the buoys this year. Is this required for lobster hoop nets as well? I did not see it but the locker room lawyers I hang with say the requirement applies to both. (Joe H.)

Answer: For this season, that is not the case. Beginning with the 2017 season, however, this will be required unless the hoop net is deployed from shore. You can get a preview of the adopted regulation changes for sport lobster fishing on the California Fish and Game Commission website.

“Beginning on April 1, 2017, hoop nets used south of Point Arguello shall be marked with a surface buoy. The surface buoy shall be legibly marked to identify the operator’s GO ID number as stated on the operator’s sport fishing license or lobster report card. Hoop nets deployed from persons on shore and manmade structures connected to the shore are not required to be marked with a surface buoy.”


Bear tag on my body?
Question: I have a question about bear hunting. This past season while in camp and talking to wildlife officers , a big bear walked by about 100 yards away. I was about to shoot it when I remembered my tag was in my trailer and not on my body. I got the tag first, then contained my dog, but by then the bear was gone. I could have shot him but didn’t have the tag on me. Did I just save myself a ticket for shooting without my tag in possession or did I just miss the bear? It says on the tag that it must be in immediate possession while hunting. (Rick W.)

Answer: Because you were at your camp and not hunting at the time, you are not expected to have your tag/license on you. However, according to Fish and Game Code, section 4753, “The person to whom a bear tag has been issued shall carry the tag while hunting bear.” So, you did the right thing. Once you would have picked up your firearm, you would have been actively hunting, so therefore required to carry your tag. Also keep in mind that if you were in a designated campground area, many campgrounds have safety zones around them where shooting is not allowed.


Trout fishing at night
Question: Can you clarify the exact rules for trout fishing at night? The regulations aren’t very clear to me when I read them. (Brandon C.)

Answer: In most cases, trout and salmon may not be taken at night. However, some exceptions can be found in the 2016-2017 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations handbook on page 16 under CCR Title 14, section 3.00. Night is defined as one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.


Mouth calls for deer
Question: My question goes back to deer season. I am wondering if it is ok to use mouth calls for deer hunting here in California. I have found this legal to do in other states. (Richard T.)

Answer: Yes, you can use mouth calls for deer as long as the sounds are not electronically generated or electronically amplified (FGC, section 3012).

# # #

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.

Importing native snakes to control ground squirrels?

California Ground Squirrel (USFWS photo)

California Ground Squirrel (USFWS photo)

Question: We have a small orange grove in Ventura County that has been overrun by ground squirrels in the past few years. Is there any legal method of “importing” king snakes or gopher snakes onto our property to help control the squirrel population? (Darrell J., Ventura County)

Answer: Unfortunately, we don’t allow the release or relocation of snakes into the wild without specific authorization, and at this time we do not allow it for bio-control such as you are requesting. According to CDFW Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Policy Coordinator Laura Patterson, “We’d have to evaluate what else they may eat that could be sensitive, make sure they’re disease-free and that they are genetically similar to the local snakes.”

If the property where you live is hospitable, we’d assume you have gopher and king snakes there already. However, if they’re not currently there, perhaps the site is just not suitable for them. These snakes naturally occur in most places where the habitat and prey sources can support their survival.

The only circumstances in which we might allow snakes to be relocated would be if there was a development nearby, and the snakes would otherwise be killed by construction. In a case like this, we might allow them to be relocated to another property nearby.


Hunting on property not posted with “No Hunting” signs?
Question: Can I hunt on property that is fenced but not posted with “No Hunting” signs without specific permission from the landowner? (Anonymous)

Answer: No, it is unlawful to trespass onto fenced property for the purpose of discharging any firearm or taking birds or mammals without the written permission of the landowner or other authorized person.

Fish and Game Code regulations specifically state that if property is owned by another person and is either under cultivation or enclosed by a fence, you need written permission (Fish and Game Code, section 2016). This law also applies to land that is not fenced or under cultivation but is posted with no trespassing or no hunting signs. A simple guideline is to respect crops, fences and signs, and in any other circumstance that makes you wonder about hunter access, seek out the landowner and ask for permission. In cases involving publicly owned property (game refuges, state wildlife areas, etc.), specific written permission may or may not be required.


Sea urchin sport harvesting?
Question: I’m looking for confirmation regarding the recreational take of sea urchins. Is it correct that they can be taken with a California sport fishing license as long as they are not taken in marine protected areas? Also, that the daily limit is 35 urchins and size does not matter so I will not be required to carry a measuring gauge like with abalone diving? Is all of this correct? (Dan L.)

Answer: Yes to all above. Sea urchins are legal to take in California with a sport fishing license. The season is open year-round for all species of urchin. The limit is 35 urchins per day/in possession and there is no size limit (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.05). Sea urchins can be taken only on hook and line or with the hands (CCR Title 14, section 29.10). These regulations can be found in the Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, along with the marine protected areas in California that are closed to the take of sea urchins.


Why can’t hunters buy extra preference points?
Question: I’ve noticed in other states that hunters are allowed to buy preference points. Why can’t hunters in California buy extra preference points like elsewhere? (Noel)

Answer: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does allow hunters who do not wish to apply for a premium hunt in a specific year to essentially “buy” a preference point by applying in the drawings for a preference point. These are only for deer, elk, antelope or bighorn sheep. Hunters can only obtain one point per year and cannot obtain points for previous years in which they did not apply.

According to Tony Straw from CDFW’s Automated License Data System Unit, CDFW’s Modified Preference Point System was established to reward persistent, unsuccessful applicants and provide a predictability of when a hunter will be drawn for their premium hunt choice, while still providing some opportunity for new hunters.

If a system of “buying extra preference points” was implemented, it would remove the predictability of winning a premium hunt because the number of hunters at the various point values would be inconsistent each year (it would depend upon the number of hunters purchasing additional points). Additionally, the advantage gained by a hunter who consistently applied without success over the years would be significantly reduced in a single year as other hunters at lesser point values purchased additional points.

# # #

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.