Category Archives: Wildlife Management

Hoop Netting for Crabs off California Piers

Dungeness crab (DFG photo)

Dungeness crab (DFG photo)

Question: Is it legal to use hoop nets to catch crab off piers in California this time of the year? I thought that I read crab season runs through June. However, the hoop net is a net that people use for catching California spiny lobster too, so do I need the California Spiny Lobster Report Card even though I’m not fishing for lobster? I ask this because someone might think that I intend to fish for lobster if I am operating a hoop net.

Also, I have a fishing license I recently purchased for this year, but in general, does one need a license to operate a crab trap during crab season on a pier in California? (Trevor W.)

Answer: Dungeness are the only crabs with a closed season, and they are found mostly along the northern half of California’s coast. Dungeness crab season varies depending on location, so you should check the regulations once you know where you will be crabbing (see section 29.85 on page 51 of the 2016-2017 Ocean Sportfishing Regulations booklet).

The other crabs belonging to the Cancer genus (yellow crab, rock crab, red crab and slender crab) are found statewide and may be taken year round. You need a sport fishing license to take crab generally, but whenever you are fishing from a public fishing pier, a sport fishing license is not needed. You are limited to two fishing appliances on a public fishing pier, though (two nets, rods, lines, etc.).

As long as you immediately release any lobster that may wander into your net, you do not need a Spiny Lobster Report Card. This means you cannot keep them for any length of time. If you pull one up, it must go right back into the water.

Before taking crab, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) encourages you to check for any health advisories related to domoic acid by calling the California Department of Public Health at 1-800-553-4133.


Using artificial scents as fish attractants?
Question: Are you allowed to use artificial scents applied to lures such as fish oil-based products to attract fish in freshwater lakes of California? What’s the difference between bait and using scents that do not contain food to attract fish? (Dean H.)

Answer: Artificial scents may be applied to lures or baits except in areas with specific artificial lure restrictions. An artificial lure “does not include scented or flavored artificial baits” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.11). This means attractants may not be applied to the lure while fishing in waters restricted for artificial lure use only. It is very common to use fish oil products and or scents in many areas of the state.


Does a loaded Bandolier make an unloaded gun loaded?
Question: If a gun is unloaded but has a Bandolier attached to the stock containing loaded bullets/shells, is it actually considered to be a loaded gun? (Anonymous)

Answer: No. Loaded gun laws that apply to vehicles on roads open to the public have changed over the years, and there are differences between the Fish and Game Code and the Penal Code. Long guns are considered to be loaded pursuant to Fish and Game Code, section 2006 “when there is an unexpended cartridge or shell in the firing chamber but not when the only cartridges or shells are in the magazine.” Under the Penal Code, a firearm is also considered to be loaded if there is a round in the magazine that can be loaded into the firing chamber with the firearm’s action. A firearm with rounds in a holder attached to the stock would not be considered loaded under these standards.


Hunting small game with a .22 air rifle?
Question: What are the laws on hunting small game (doves, quail, etc.)? Do I need a hunting license to hunt small game? I live in the Bakersfield area and am wondering if I can hunt doves and quail with a .22 air rifle? (Arnold C.)

Answer: You will need a hunting license to hunt big and small game mammals as well as game birds. If you don’t yet have your license, you will need to take and successfully pass a Hunter Education course. You can find information about the courses, dates and locations of upcoming classes, and you may sign up for a class on our Hunter Education website.

Methods of take for resident small game include “air rifles powered by compressed air or gas and used with any caliber of pellet, except that wild turkey may only be taken with a pellet that is at least 0.177 caliber” (CCR Title 14, section 311(f)). Different methods of take are specified for migratory birds, such as doves. Air rifles or all other rifles are prohibited for the take of migratory birds (CCR Title 14, section 507).

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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 Not a Split Season for California Waterfowl?

Mallard drake (USFWS photo)

Mallard drake (USFWS photo)

Question: Global warming and climate change seem to have seriously affected waterfowl migration patterns. Last year we saw the effects exacerbated as birds delayed migrations from summer nesting grounds until late into the year. So, why do we ignore this change in California and persist in starting our waterfowl season so early in the year? My native state of Texas pushed its waterfowl season opener back into early November. Baja Mexico, just a stone’s throw south of us, has a waterfowl season that runs later and doesn’t close until the end of February. And further south in the Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa, the seasons run as late as March.

How about considering a split season? One option our extremely elongated state could employ would be to open waterfowl season in the northern part of the state a month before the southern part of the state. Another option could be to have an early season for a couple of weeks, separated by a two to three week break, and then a late season that runs to the end of February. Other states have split seasons, just like we do for doves in California. This last season’s start and finish dates did not track our modern day weather patterns or the flights of birds. It is time to change the hunting season to match the change in our climate. What will it take to implement such a change? (James P. Hill, San Diego)

Answer: It is difficult to determine the exact cause of delayed migrations for some species or populations. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Senior Waterfowl Program Manager Melanie Weaver, California historically has started waterfowl seasons in October to accommodate the early arrival of some duck species, like pintail, that arrive in late August. The peak concentrations do occur from mid-December to January or so, much of that having to do with stormy weather pushing birds further south. Additionally, habitat conditions tend to be more favorable and abundant in northern California, so there is incentive to stay put.

As far as season timing, federal regulations do not allow hunting of most migratory game birds past the last Sunday in January. Currently, we are in what is called the liberal regulations package for all four flyways. This allows California (Pacific Flyway) 107 days while Texas (Central Flyway) is allowed 74 days. California is allowed a longer season and higher bag limits because we have far fewer hunters than the other flyways (this equates to less harvest). CDFW could recommend that the season open in November or later but that would reduce the season length. CDFW has overwhelmingly heard that hunters value a longer season as that allows the greatest opportunity to get out. To be able to hunt past the last Sunday in January would require a change in the federal regulations.


Fishing for cuttlefish?
Question: Can you please tell me if recreational cuttlefish fishing is allowed in Los Angeles County? I am interested specifically in Santa Monica Bay from Playa Vista all the way down to Redondo Beach? (Karim B.)

Answer: Cuttlefish (a cephalopod closely related to squid and octopus) are seldom seen in cool California waters, so it’s unlikely you will encounter them here, thus we have no fishing regulations for them.


Possession of lead shotshell when hunting predators?
Question: Because I am near the state line and often hunt out-of-state, I keep lead ammo in my truck. Is this breaking the law? I understand that it’s against California law to have lead in the field. (Anonymous)

Answer: “It is unlawful to possess any projectile containing lead in excess of the amount allowed … and a firearm capable of firing the projectile while taking or attempting to take wildlife” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 250.1). If you are hunting from your vehicle in an area or for a species that requires the use of nonlead ammunition, leave your lead ammunition at home.


Lobster fishing in Santa Monica Bay
Question: Is there a restricted season for taking lobster in Santa Monica Bay? Appreciate any information and rules or regulations you can supply, if there are any. (Danny B.)

Answer: Yes, there is a restricted recreational lobster season in Southern California, not just in Santa Monica Bay. Lobster season is underway now — it always begins the Saturday preceding the first Wednesday in October and ends the first Wednesday after the 15th of March. But commercial take of lobster is always unlawful in Santa Monica Bay.

Some marine protected areas (MPAs) do not permit the take of lobster. There are no MPAs within Santa Monica Bay, but there are some immediately to the north and south of the Bay. You can find MPA regulation information in the regulations booklet, and in greater depth at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/regulations/fishing-map/southern.

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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.

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.

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.

What Information Can Be Collected from Banded Birds?

USFWS Bird Bands (Credit: Matt Ewalt, Creative Commons)

USFWS Bird Bands (Credit: Matt Ewalt, Creative Commons)

Question: While hunting ducks a few months ago at my hunt club, my son shot a double banded wood duck. It had the normal metal band on one leg and on the other leg it had a pink plastic band with the number 9 on it. The club next to us raises wood ducks and we were wondering if it may have come from there? How can I best describe to my kids why some ducks are banded? (Mike O.)

Answer: Bird banding is one of the most useful tools in the modern study of wild birds. Banding birds with uniquely numbered leg rings is meant to reference where and when each bird is banded, its age, sex, and any other information the bander thinks crucial to report to scientists. Information from bands subsequently found and reported provides data on the range, distribution and migration habits, their relative numbers, annual production, life span, and causes of death of countless species of birds. Having this information increases scientists’ ability to understand bird habitat and behavior and assists them in their management and conservation efforts (source: USFWS website).

As far as the bands you found, it depends on what kind of metal band the bird had. If the band was issued from the USFWS, then you can go to their website www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl and easily find out where it came from. If it is not a USFWS issued band, that likely means an organization may be providing nesting habitat via wood duck nest boxes, and then banding them as part of a federally-permitted study. Between the two bands, hopefully you can track some information down.


Animal cruelty
Question: My daughter and I were going to the store on Saturday when we noticed a possum that had just crossed the road and was near the gutter on the other side of the road. The car in front of us veered to the other side of the road and ran over the possum on purpose!! I have been told that possums are a protected animal. Who do I contact to report this? I was shocked and very angry that someone would do this on purpose! I have pictures of the car, the license plate and of the possum. I would appreciate any help in this matter. There is no excuse for this kind of cruelty. (Kathi V., Orange County)

Answer: Although opossums are not native to California, they are classified as nongame animals pursuant to Fish and Game Code section 4150, and they may not be taken in the manner you have described (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 472). However, these kinds of violations can be difficult to prove and prosecute because the drivers will likely claim it was unintentional and that they were distracted and swerving because of other issues inside the car such as a coffee spill, dropped cell phone, etc. The driver might also claim he was attempting to avoid the animal but the animal got confused and ran back in the direction the car was veering, which does happen sometimes. Despite these possible scenarios however, what you described could be investigated as an illegal method of take. Hopefully, this was something you will not come across again. But if you do, you can call the 24-hour CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or report by text message via “tip411 (numerically, 847411).


What are the rules for mounting trail cameras?
Question: What are the rules or requirements regarding putting a trail camera in a public park? We’re trying to find a friend’s lost dog and have gotten tips that she’s in a local public park. No one can ever find her during the day though so we want to put up a trail camera at night to try to confirm if she is there. If it makes any difference, one of the parks where we think she might be is next to an elementary school. I just want to know if it’s legal, and if so, if there’s anything special that needs to be done to put up the trail camera. (Kevin H.)

Answer: This is not under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). This decision will need to be made by the manager or the agency that manages the park as to whether they have any policies that permit or disallow this practice.


Fishing access to the California Aqueduct?
Question: I see many videos on YouTube regarding fishing along the California Aqueduct. As a main water supply line for California, I would think most areas would restrict access. Is there any information I can look up to find where the access areas are? I think most areas on the videos are in Southern California. I am looking for access to the California aqueduct around Central California. (Daniel S.)

Answer: There are many fishing access points along the aqueduct, and many have signs posted as well. To find some of these places, please check out our online fishing guide at www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/guide or our mobile fishing guide at www.dfg.ca.gov/mobile.

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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.

Although They Sell Deer Chow, Don’t Be Deceived

Even if you find deer chow for sale in your local feed store, it is not legal to use to feed deer or any big game in California. (Photo of a white-tailed deer courtesy of USFWS)

Even if you find deer chow for sale in your local feed store, it is not legal to use to feed deer or any big game in California. (Photo of a white-tailed deer courtesy of USFWS)

Question: I was at my local feed store today and was astounded to find bags of Purina Deer Chow for sale, and another feed for wild pigs. I know it is illegal in California to feed big game animals, including deer, bear, elk, wild pigs and pronghorn. So why is it okay to sell deer food? I asked the proprietor and they said that it was not illegal to sell the food and that their customers wanted the product. Isn’t this a little bit like saying it is okay to sell drugs, even if it is illegal to use them? What is the rationale for allowing the sale of a product when its use is banned? (Roy “Confused in Caspar” Falk)

Answer: Although feeding deer or any big game species is prohibited in California, deer are allowed to be fed in other states. Hunters are even allowed to bait them in some states, probably even with this feed. The deer picture that they show on the package is of a white-tail deer which we don’t have here in California. Feeding deer unnaturally concentrates the animals in a very confined location and increases the potential spread of disease. It also makes them more vulnerable to predation by mountain lions and coyotes who quickly figure out where to find concentrated numbers of deer. CDFW has investigated many cases of deer feeding that inadvertently attracted mountain lions which killed the deer the people were trying to feed.

You’re right to feel confused and I’ve asked the same question. It doesn’t seem right since it sends the wrong message to the customers, but the Fish and Game Code generally doesn’t regulate the products that feed stores and pet stores may carry. Many also sell ferret food, and those animals are illegal to possess in California.


Why do fishing and hunting license fees increase every year?
Question: Why do fishing and hunting license fees and various cards and tags increase in price every year? This concerns my friends and me as we are of the older population of California and are on fixed incomes. Hunting and fishing are some of the only pleasures we have to enjoy in our old age, but it is becoming so costly we won’t be able to afford it if you keep raising prices. (Bill D.)

Answer: California law establishes fishing and hunting license fees each year, not the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The base fee for sport fishing licenses is established in Fish and Game Code, section 7149 and the fees for stamps and most report cards are established in other sections of the Fish and Game Code or California Code of Regulations, Title 14.

According to CDFW License Program Analyst Glenn Underwood, the Fish and Game Code, section 713 requires license fees to be adjusted in response to increases (or decreases) in costs of goods and services using an index called the “Implicit Price Deflator.” This index is a gauge of the change in the cost of goods and services from year to year.

For example, as hatchery, law enforcement and wildlife management costs have increased, license fees needed to increase to keep pace with these rising costs. Essentially, license fees are adjusted to compensate for inflation. If license fees were not adjusted for inflation, then funding for fish and wildlife management and protection would actually decrease because the “buying power” of a dollar has declined over the years.

License fee increases over the past five years have ranged from a low of 1.2 percent in 2013 to a high of 2.8 percent in 2011. The average index over the past five years has been 1.91 percent. For 2014, the cost of goods and services increased by 1.3 percent and 2015 license fees increased accordingly. If the cost of goods and services were to decrease, then license fees would actually decrease the same percentage. However, when is the last time the cost of living actually decreased?

Although fishing and hunting license fees have increased throughout the years, the increase ensures that the CDFW has adequate funding to manage California’s diverse fish and wildlife resources and provide the public with enjoyable fishing and hunting experiences.


Hunting by javelin?
Question: I just tried javelin throwing for the first time and it sparked an idea that I could hunt with this for big game mammals. But I can’t find it specified anywhere in the mammal hunting regulations booklet. Does this mean that since it isn’t mentioned it’s illegal to use to take down an animal? (Brent L.)

Answer: Yes, you are correct. Hunting by spear or javelin is not a legal method of take for big game.

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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 Don’t Some Deer Shed Their Antlers?

Stag1

Deer that don’t shed their antlers are commonly called “stags”. This is usually the result of some kind of injury (or maybe deformity) of the testicles. Weird looking antlers can also result from injury to the antlers while in velvet. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I recently heard about a few Southern California bucks that seem to carry their antlers year round. One person I heard from insisted they were mountain biking and repeatedly saw the same deer in January and in May with a 4×3 rack. While I disagreed with the person telling me this, I admitted I am no biologist and didn’t know what they were seeing. Do some deer out here not shed their antlers? I was under the impression that even though nutrition, water and climate might affect when they shed, that deer always shed their antlers. Can you share some info or point us in the right direction to learn more about the antler shedding process here in SoCal? (Al Q.)

Answer: Deer that don’t shed their antlers are commonly called “stags”. This is usually the result of some kind of injury (or maybe deformity) of the testicles. Testosterone plays a role in both antler development and shedding, so injuries can really affect the types of antlers they have. Weird looking antlers can also result from injury to the antlers while in velvet … but those kind usually fall off normally and are replaced the next year with “normal” antlers.

So, this proves there are indeed exceptions to every rule — even biological ones!


Incidental take while spear fishing?
Question: What happens if a spearfishing diver spots a large fish and shoots and spears it without realizing until too late that it’s a giant (black) sea bass or another prohibited species? Then after the fish is speared and brought to the surface, the spearfisher identifies they have a fish they can’t take or possess and promptly returns it to the ocean. Has the spearfisher violated any laws?

A fisherman (angler) who catches a prohibited species while fishing for other species can argue that the take was unintentional/incidental. Could the spearfisher successfully make a similar argument? (Steve H.)

Answer: Spear fishermen are responsible for identifying their targets before they pull the trigger and can be held accountable for shooting a prohibited species. They are also responsible for ensuring that any fish they shoot meets the minimum size limit requirements for that species, again, before they pull the trigger.

A short lingcod or illegal giant sea bass, for example, is unlikely to survive after being shot by a spear fisherman who has the ability to select his target carefully; a short or illegal fish is much more likely to survive being hooked and released by an angler fishing from a boat, who cannot selectively target which individual fish he wishes to catch.

If a diver is unsure about the size or identity of the fish he/she’s aiming at, he/she should choose a different target. Shooting a fish that you’re unsure of could be illegal, and we believe that many spear fishermen would consider it unethical, as well.

All of these same principles also apply to hunters. No one with a rifle, shotgun, spear gun or even bow should pull the trigger unless absolutely 100 percent sure that their intended target is of legal size, species, gender, etc. An accurate (or even lucky) shot made, but with an error in judgment, isn’t worth the repercussions of breaking the very laws enacted to protect the state’s fish and game.


Why the health warnings for brown trout?
Question: In the fishing regulations there are safe eating guidelines for Donner Lake. I am trying to figure out why there are different recommendations for brown trout compared to rainbow trout. The guidelines suggest people eat only one serving of browns vs. seven servings of rainbows. Why? (Tim Worley)

Answer: The recommendations in our regulation booklet are from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). The recommendations are probably from actual studies done by OEHHA of mercury levels in edible flesh from these two species from Donner Lake.

According to Dr. William Cox, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Program Manager of Fish Production and Distribution, we do not plant brown trout in Donner and so those fish are essentially wild and older in the system. Therefore, they have been on natural diets and accumulating mercury from the naturally occurring insects and aquatic life that comprises their food chain.

CDFW does plant rainbow trout in Donner as part of what we call a “put-and- take” fishery. For most of their lives those fish are not eating natural feeds, and are generally not piscivorous like the brown trout, so they accumulate much less mercury. Humans, especially children and women of child bearing ages, need to limit their intake of mercury because it can have serious health effects, including death.

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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.