Category Archives: Wildlife Encounters

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).

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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.

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.

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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.

Why So Many Blacktail “Stags”?

Stags are male deer that most notably exhibit antler abnormalities, often due to hormonal changes resulting from testicular damage or caused by a birth defect known as “cryptorchidism.” (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Stags are male deer that most notably exhibit antler abnormalities. Often this is due to hormonal changes resulting from testicular damage or caused by a birth defect known as “cryptorchidism.” (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: While looking through our trail cameras in a particular area this year, we’ve observed that roughly a third of the blacktail bucks are actually stags. I’ve been told that a parasite causes this and so I am curious what the cause might be. I am also concerned with the prevalence of this condition in this herd. Is this something that can take over a herd? Also, are there any exceptions for taking a mature buck that will never grow a fork? (Ian S.)

Answer: By definition, stags are male deer that most notably exhibit antler abnormalities. This is often due to hormonal changes resulting from testicular damage or caused by a birth defect known as “cryptorchidism.” When the normal production of testosterone is altered or diminished, the antler characteristics may morph to look significantly different from those of normal bucks and the animals’ behavior may never change to take them into the seasonal rut. Stags may remain in velvet and not shed their antlers, or the antlers may become misshapen and grow many points. Some stags never grow any points at all.

We are aware of this occurrence and have been taking reports of bucks with underdeveloped or atrophied testicles, primarily from the northwest region of the state. Our wildlife veterinarians are collecting and analyzing samples when they get them, but the cause is still undetermined. We really doubt that it’s due to a parasite but our research continues as a definitive cause has yet to be found.

As far as exceptions for the take of one of these stags without a fork, there are none. Regulations require bucks to have a forked horn or better, and there are no exceptions when filling a buck tag.


Miss Peep is still in my pool and won’t leave
Question: I live in Riverside and rent a house with a pool that a mommy duck and her three ducklings have also been enjoying. I left them alone to do their own thing so that they would hopefully move on when ready. Unfortunately, one disappeared and one drowned even though I put a ramp at the steps of the pool. One duckling (Miss Peep) has survived and grown a lot. Mother duck flew away about two weeks ago but Miss Peep is still hanging out.

My dilemma is the owner of the house is opposed to her staying here and so has instructed the pool guy to “add something” to the water that the pool guy said will make her sink, or possibly drown. I’m very upset by this but am not certain she can fly away yet. She’s about 10-11 weeks old and I’ve never even seen her try. I really want to see her survive and fly away as she is intended. Food is plentiful, with an abundance of crickets in my yard.

Is it illegal to use something in the pool that can harm the duck? We have told the pool guy that she is a protected animal and to not disturb her. Last week my son saw him spraying pool water at her, perhaps as a joke, but it isn’t funny to me. What can I do to protect this little duck and get her off on the right feathered flight? (Dawn F., Riverside)

Answer: The little duck should be nearly ready to fly. The general rule is around 60 days to flight. If the little duck feels safe in your yard with the pool and it has plenty of food, it may not be motivated to fly off right away. Your best course of action would probably be to contact a nearby wildlife rehabilitator near you to ask for assistance.

For a list of approved and licensed rehab facilities, please go to http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/laboratories/wildlife-investigations/rehab/facilities. Good luck with Miss Peep!


Octopus fishing with PVC tubes?
Question: I’m curious about octopus fishing. I know they are considered mollusks without shells and the only permitted methods of take listed are hook and line and by hand. Are there any other more detailed restrictions I should be aware of regarding octopus? Is the use of scuba permitted? I’ve read about setting out sections of PVC tubes in sandy areas between reefs as a sort of trap. Would it be legal to set these out and then either freedive or scuba down and grab the octopus out of them by hand? (Michael S.)

Answer: You may either freedive or use scuba to take octopus by hand. However, don’t set out any PVC tubes. These would be considered a trap and cannot be used to take octopus.

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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.

Kite Fishing

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

(CDFW photo by Sabrina Bell)

Question: Can you tell me the regulations regarding using a fishing kite from shore or a pier to catch fish? We use these specially modified kites to help us get our lines out farther than the distance we could normally cast them. (Jenny C.)

Answer: There are no specific regulations prohibiting the use of a kite or other windborne device (a helium-filled balloon, for example) to help you get your line out to where the fish are. However, please be mindful of the environment and remember that any items or materials discarded or abandoned could be considered litter. If, for instance, an angler used a balloon to catch a fish and then released the balloon when the fish was hooked — or when the line reached the desired distance from shore — the angler could be subject to citation.

Also, there may be city or county ordinances that pertain to this, so please check with local authorities.


What to do about raccoons visiting my backyard
Question: I live in a residential area and raccoons have begun visiting my backyard at night. They are using my yard as a rest stop in their nightly urban foraging. Our backyard is landscaped including a grass lawn. I am looking for anything short of cages to discourage them. Is there any non-toxic substance I can spread near their entrance/exit point to discourage their visits? They do not appear to be eating or digging up anywhere in the yard, but they’ve adopted my yard as their restroom. I would appreciate any insight or suggestions you may have. (John W., Elk Grove)

Answer: We see an upsurge in raccoon sightings and reports this time of year because youngsters born in the spring are now independent of their moms and the adults are building up their fat reserves for the winter.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Wildlife Biologist Jeff Cann, you should first remove all attractants from your yard such as pet food, dropped fruit, old garden vegetables, and securely close all garbage cans and compost heap containers. Even water can be an attractant this time of year, so if you have a fountain or fish pond, try to make it off limits (e.g. electric fence or dry it out). If the raccoons are coming in through holes in the fence, block those entry points with wire, wood or some other barrier.

Keep in mind that raccoons are excellent climbers and are capable of gaining access to yards by climbing fences or using overhanging limbs to bypass fences altogether. Cutting overhanging limbs may help to keep them from dropping in. If the raccoons are climbing over your fence, one deterrent could be to line the top with spikes or sharp tack strips. An easy way to do this is via carpet tack strips which are essentially a lot of little nails anchored in wood that carpet installers use to stretch carpet over. If you completely line the top of the fence with these then the raccoons will not use the top board as a transit way either. A “hot wire” from an electric fence charger at the top of the fence will greatly increase the effectiveness of a fence for excluding raccoons but you’ll need to find a way to properly ground it.

While these may all seem like extreme measures, the point here is to make your yard less hospitable than your neighbors so the pesky critters will move on.

If you’re looking for chemical detractors, one option you could try is Capsaicin (a chile pepper extract). It’s registered as a repellent for raccoons and may be useful in deterring trash-raiding raccoons.

A great place for more information on all of this is the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program page on raccoons. Good luck!


Is licorice legal bait?
Question: My brother and I have two burning questions we have been wondering about. Is it legal to use licorice to fish with as bait? Also, we observed a man with a syringe injecting air into his bait worms so they would float off the bottom. Is this legal? (Marcus O.)

Answer: Processed food, such as licorice, are legal under bait regulations for inland waters where bait is legal (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 4.00). It is also legal to inject air into a fishing worm and many such kits are found at sporting goods outlets. This method can be a very effective way to keep a worm off the bottom of lakes with heavy bottom vegetation.


Can you lure a lobster with a sardine?
Question: Are you allowed to lure lobsters out of a hole with a piece of sardine in your hand? (David C.)

Answer: Sure, you can give it a try, but I don’t know how successful you’ll be. The law says that skin and SCUBA divers may take crustaceans by the use of the hands only and may not possess any hooked device while diving or attempting to dive for them (CCR Title 14, section 29.80). There is no prohibition against waving snacks in front of them.

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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.

Carrie is on vacation. This column was originally published Nov. 20, 2008.

Wild Pig Keeps Wrecking Our Landscaping

Wild pigs can cause significant damage to residential lawns and landscaping with their aggressive rooting behavior while in their quest for grubs, subterranean insects and their larvae, as well as the succulent roots of the grass they are uprooting (Creative Commons photo)

Wild pigs can cause significant damage to residential lawns and landscaping with their aggressive rooting behavior while in their quest for grubs, subterranean insects and their larvae, as well as the succulent roots of the grass they are uprooting (Creative Commons photo)

Question: We live in a residential subdivision in Gualala in Sonoma County and there is a wild male pig rooting around the homes. This pig is making himself at home and rooting up the unfenced ground around our home. Most everyone who lives around here has had this guy at their home. This is a 2- to 5-acre residential zoning so we cannot shoot him, not that we want to. He follows the same evening route just before sunset. I have no objection to Fish and Wildlife setting a trap box here. We don’t venture around our place after sunset. This pig has been sighted in the past two weeks by about six people. We have weekly garbage service which no doubt is an attraction and our homeowners association has notified its membership. What can be done to stop this marauding pig that’s wrecking all of our landscaping? (Jeff W., Gualala)

Answer: First of all I suggest you make sure no garbage or artificial food attractants are being left out to draw the animal into your neighborhood. Talk to your neighbors about this and make sure your homeowners association spreads the word, too.

Homeowners associations differ from place to place, but most are within a designated city limit and most cities impose firearm discharge restrictions for the general populous. Thus, this would make shooting the pig unlawful in most situations. As such, hunting and immediate take are not options. Landowners or your housing association can apply to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) for a depredation permit and then contact a local pig removal company or a federal trapper through USDA Wildlife Services (who operate in select California Counties) http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/ to trap and remove the pig.


How many rounds of ammo are allowed for an AR-type gun?
Question: When reading CDFW regulations, I find a shotgun is limited to three rounds of ammo, but I cannot find anywhere how many rounds of ammo a rifle or AR is limited to. I’d like to know as I want no trouble when I go squirrel hunting with my AR-type gun. (Robert K.)

Answer: There are no restrictions in the Fish and Game Code on the number of rounds a rifle can hold while hunting. Rifles sold in California for the past several years are restricted to a 10-round capacity. This is due to other firearms laws in the Penal Code.


Range finding scopes on compound and crossbows?
Question: There are scopes with range-finding capabilities for compound and crossbows available on the market. Is it legal to have one of these scopes mounted on a bow or crossbow in areas where I am legally allowed to hunt in California? (Tim)

Answer: Scopes with laser rangefinders are not prohibited. Just be sure the device does not project any visible light or electronically intensify light for the purpose of either visibly enhancing an animal or providing a visible point of aim on an animal (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 353(i)). These devices may be used only for the take of nongame and furbearing mammals as provided in the Mammal Hunting Regulations (CCR Title 14, section 264.5).


How to become a licensed federal trapper?
Question: I have a friend who lost some livestock to either coyotes or a mountain lion. He wants to protect the rest of his animals and was advised to contact the local government trapper. How can a person become a licensed trapper authorized to track down and remove these problem predatory animals? (Anonymous)

Answer: Contact the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The mission of this agency is to provide federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist. For more information, please go to http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/.


Can wildlife officers check my fishing license by my CDL?
Question: While buying my license recently, I was told by the vendor that we no longer need to carry our fishing licenses with us. He said wildlife officers can now scan people’s California driver licenses (CDL) to verify the purchase. Is this true? (Rick B.)

Answer: No, you are still required to have your actual sport fishing license in possession while fishing (CCR Title 14, section 700) and to present your actual license upon request to any wildlife officer who asks (FGC, section 2012). CDFW wildlife officers do not carry CDL scanners.

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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.

Hunting Big Game using Cell Phones and Radios?

Hunting while using the assistance of cell phones and radios is legal in California but many don't consider it ethical (USFWS photo)

Hunting while using the assistance of cell phones and radios is legal in California but many don’t consider it ethical (USFWS photo)

Question: Is it legal while hunting big game to have a spotter guide a hunter to the animals using cell phones or radios? (Frank H.)

Answer: While it’s illegal in some states, it’s not in California. In states where it is banned, it is because they believe using radios and/or cell phones while big game hunting is not an ethical method of stalking and hunting wildlife. Currently, California has no such law and so radios and cell phones are legal.


Black Cod – Sable
Question: We occasionally venture offshore for albacore later in the season and are wondering if it is legal to sportfish for black cod or sablefish in deep water. We are talking about 800 feet or deeper waters using deep drop gear. We see commercial fisherman out there long lining for these fish. (Peter C.)

Answer: What you describe is not legal. There are six Recreational Groundfish Management Areas along the coast of California (see page 9 of the 2015-2016 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet). Depending on the management area, the depths range from approximately 120 feet to 300 feet. The only allowance for a recreational boat to possess groundfish, including sablefish/black cod, in areas deeper than allowed or closed to the take of groundfish, is when that boat is in transit with no fishing gear in the water (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.20(b)). There are a few species exceptions, like Pacific sanddabs, which is why the angler must carefully read the section pertaining to the management area where he/she will be fishing.


Slingbow modification
Question: I have a few questions regarding using slingbows in my area and possible changes to my method. I want to get into slingbow fishing since spearfishing in freshwater is illegal in my area (San Luis Obispo County). Is it legal here in this county? And if so, is it restricted to above the water’s surface or can I shoot fish underwater using snorkel and mask?

Second question … If it is legal to use a crossbow underwater, instead of using arrows, would it be legal to shoot carp with a Hawaiian sling shaft from a slingbow if it’s attached to a line or reel? If not, is it restricted to arrow use only? (Anonymous)

Answer: Using a slingbow or crossbow underwater would constitute spearfishing and would not be legal as spearfishing is defined as “the taking of fish by spear or hand by persons who are in the water and may be using underwater goggles, face plates, breathing tubes, SCUBA or other artificial underwater breathing device” (CCR Title 14, section 1.76).

A slingbow would only be legal as bow and arrow fishing tackle if the arrow is attached to the slingbow by a line or attached fishing reel (CCR Title 14, section 1.23). But, in San Luis Obispo County, all public lakes have ordinances prohibiting possession of bow and arrow fishing tackle on or along these water bodies. So a slingbow with attached line/fishing reel could only be used on private ponds or lakes and only for fish species listed under section 2.25 on page 15 of the current Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.


How to stop neighbors from leaving food and water for wildlife?
Question: What can be done legally to stop my neighbors from leaving food and water outside for animals? Raccoons and rats have invaded our homes and yards and are leaving unhealthy feces behind, tearing the fabric on our patio furniture and causing other problems. How can we get them to stop? (Sally S.)

Answer: Many people think they are helping wild animals when they provide food and water for them. However, all they are doing is luring the animals into conflicts with people living in the area. CDFW provides information about the inadvertent negative results on our website (search for “feeding wildlife”). You could start by educating your neighbor about the harm they are doing by providing them some of the information, and then hope that their heart is in the right place and they will stop. If the actions continue, some cities have passed local ordinances that make it illegal to feed wildlife, and CCR Title 14, section 251.1 makes it unlawful to harass wildlife (causing them to alter their normal behavior), which can include feeding them. Hopefully, educating your neighbors will preclude having to get law enforcement personnel involved.

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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.

Sea Lions Are Eating All My Bait!

The increased abundance of pinnipeds has also resulted in a growing number of negative interactions with humans and incidents of property damage (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

California sea lions and Pacific harbor seals have been federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act since 1972. The increased abundance of pinnipeds has also resulted in a growing number of negative interactions with humans and incidents of property damage (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: Is there anything I can do to deter or discourage sea lions from eating all my crabbing bait? I know that seals and sea lions are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act but I’ve heard there are exceptions for recreational fishermen to deter them to prevent damage to private property, including gear and catch. What can I legally do to chase off these seals/sea lions or at least prevent them from chewing up my bait cages and hoop nets? Is it legal to shoot them with paintball guns? (Sam L.)

Answer: California sea lions and Pacific harbor seals have been federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act since 1972, and thus harassing, capturing, killing or attempting to do so is prohibited and carries a hefty fine. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in recent years the populations of these animals have increased dramatically and are now considered healthy and robust.

Unfortunately, with the good often comes the bad – the increased abundance of animals has also resulted in a growing number of negative interactions with humans and incidents of property damage. People seeking legal methods for deterring marine mammals in order to protect their property, fishing gear and catch from damage by sea lions and seals can find recommendations and approved methods on NOAA’s website, http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/protected_species/marine_mammals/deterring_qa.html.


Shooting wrong deer
Question: If you are out hunting and shoot a spike by mistake, what should a person do? What kind of trouble could a hunter get into for that if reported to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW)? (Steve C.)

Answer: If you shoot a spike deer by mistake, you should immediately contact your local CDFW office and/or your local wildlife officer to report it and explain what the situation was that caused the mistake. You may still be cited for wrongly harvesting an animal that you are not authorized to take, and if convicted you could lose your deer hunting privileges for the following year in all wildlife violator compact states. If you try to conceal the animal, don’t tag it, take it home or leave it in the field without field dressing it, you may be cited for additional violations that entail higher fines and penalties. And these actions could lead to an extended revocation of your deer hunting privileges in all Wildlife Violator compact states, or may lead to the revocation of all hunting privileges in California and all wildlife violator compact states.


Archery for quail
Question: I am planning on archery hunting for quail this year. Do the same laws from shotgun apply to archery? Does the quail have to be flying before shooting at it? Or if archery hunting, can the quail be standing on the ground or sitting in the trees? (John V.)

Answer: The early archery-only season for quail ended on Sept. 4, but using archery equipment generally allows you to hunt both during the archery-only season (listed under California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 300) and during the general season. Otherwise, the bag and possession limits are the same.

Whether to shoot the birds when flying vs. when they are standing on the ground or roosting in trees is not a legal question but rather an ethical decision that you must make. Under the widely accepted “fair chase” principles that most hunters abide by, shooting upland game birds or waterfowl under conditions other than when they are flying would violate this principal and be considered unethical.


Six months residency requirement
Question: If a taxpayer is considered a California resident for tax purposes and pays about $6000 a year in California income tax, plus California sales tax, but has lived overseas for part of the year, why can’t they purchase a resident fishing license until after they have physically resided in California for six months? Under fishing regs it would be legal to purchase a license in January, leave the country and return in 11 months and the California license is still valid within the same year. What is the point of this rule? (Bob R.)

Answer: While there are many ways the legislature could have defined residency, for purposes of purchasing hunting and fishing licenses, Fish and Game Code section 70 defines a resident as “any person who has resided continuously in the State of California for six months or more immediately prior…” to the date of application for a license or permit. The law also includes specific provisions regarding persons on active duty in the military and persons enrolled in the federal Job Corps. The purpose of this law is to provide criteria to establish residency for the purpose of purchasing hunting and fishing licenses.

According to CDFW License Program Analyst Glenn Underwood, the law does not say that you cannot leave California while you are a resident. However, if you live outside of California, your identification is based outside of California, or you buy resident licenses in another state or country, then you will not be able to purchase a resident California license. Many people attempt to purchase resident licenses in more than one state.

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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.