Tag Archives: invertebrates

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.

Cooking Crabs Aboard my Boat

Dungeness crab (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Dungeness crab (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I occasionally spend three days (and two nights) aboard my boat (fully self-contained) on Tomales Bay. Is it legal to cook all or part of your day’s limit of crabs or fish while on board as long as you keep the top shells or full-length filleted fish carcasses as proof of size and limits? I’ve never cooked fish or crab aboard my boat but I’ve always wondered if it was legal. (Dennis G., Placerville)

Answer: Yes, this is permissible. Basically, each licensed person on your boat may only be in possession of one limit of crabs or fish at any time. And while in possession, the fish or crabs must be in a state where the species and size can be readily determined. Once they have been prepared for immediate consumption, carcasses and carapaces may be discarded. But a person who chooses to consume any portion of their legal limit of crabs or fish taken on that day may not take additional crabs or fish until the next day. Taking additional crabs or fish on the same day would result in an overlimit.


Can medical marijuana card holders hold a hunting license?
Question: Is a person who possesses a medical marijuana card legally prohibited from having a hunting license? If so, are there different hunting licenses required by those who archery hunt vs those who hunt with a firearm? (Mario R.)

Answer: According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Captain Patrick Foy, fish and wildlife laws don’t prohibit a person with a medical marijuana card from obtaining a hunting license. However, the Fish and Game Code (FGC) and common sense prohibit a person from hunting while under the influence (see FGC, section 3001.) There are also regulations relating to use and possession of marijuana on CDFW lands, including those who are in possession for medicinal purposes (see California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 550(x)(2)).

A California hunting license authorizes a person to hunt with any legal method of take. There are a few specific hunts and tags that require a person to use only archery, but the same hunting license is used. All archery hunters are encouraged to take an archery education class in addition to regular hunter education, but it is not required.


How many lobster hoop nets?
Question: How many hoop nets can a person use at one time? On piers and jetties the rule is one hoop net and one fishing pole or two hoop nets, right? I want to be sure I am complying with California laws. (Anonymous)

Answer: On designated public piers and jetties, you’re allowed to use no more than two appliances at a time. That means: 1) one rod and one hoop net, 2) two fishing rods, or 3) two hoop nets at a time (see CCR Title 14, section 1.88 at page 25 in the 2016-2017 Ocean Sportfishing Regulations booklet for the definition of “public pier”).

When it comes to hoop nets fished from a nonpublic jetty or boat, “Between Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County and the United States-Mexico border, not more than five hoop nets … shall be possessed by a person when taking spiny lobster or crab, not to exceed a total of 10 hoop nets possessed when taking spiny lobster or crab, per vessel. The owner of the hoop net or person who placed the hoop net into the water shall raise the hoop net to the surface and inspect the contents of the hoop net at intervals not to exceed two hours” (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(b)).


Gun concealed in glove box while archery hunting?
Question: As a concealed carry permit holder, is it legal to have my gun stored in my vehicle (glove box) while archery hunting? (Birgit G.)

Answer: The answer to your question depends upon what you are hunting and whether you are hunting from your vehicle. The general rule is that “archers may not possess a firearm while hunting in the field during any archery season, or while hunting during a general season under the provisions of an archery only tag” (CCR Title 14, section 354(h)). Similarly, during archery season a deer hunter cannot legally “carry, nor have under his or her immediate control, any firearm of any kind” (FGC, section 4370). These provisions would allow you to leave your handgun in your vehicle as long as you are not hunting from your vehicle.

As of Nov. 11, 2016, a different rule went into effect when taking resident small game. Regulations now authorize the “lawful possession of a concealed firearm pursuant to a concealed carry permit” when hunting resident small game during any archery season (CCR Title 14, section 311). (187)

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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

Baiting or Habitat Enhancement?

Mule deer on scenic hillside (USFWS photo)

Mule deer on scenic hillside (USFWS photo)

Question: I am an avid outdoorsman here in Southern California. I noticed on a recent scouting trip that someone left a bucket in one of my upland game hunting locations. It had some water in it and it looked like it was placed there to act as a person’s DIY waterhole. I’m not sure if they left it by accident or if they placed it there in the hopes of attracting deer and game birds. Does this count as feeding? I’m fully aware there are prohibitions on feeding and baiting big game, and I am aware there are restrictions on baiting small game like quail, but does leaving your own water count as feeding or baiting? I looked at the regs and I didn’t find a definition of what feeding is, at least in regard to this situation. NGOs build these types of devices all the time as habitat enhancement in areas where big game need access to water. I’d imagine it is done with proper permission and permits, yet I did not want to leave a CalTIP report about a poacher if this was not illegal. (Robert T.)

Answer: As long as the person placing the watering device has permission from the land owner or controlling agency to place it on the property, there should be no issue. However, regulations may prohibit hunting near the watering device if it is on public land (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 730). This code section prohibits hunting for more than 30 minutes within 200 yards of wildlife watering places on public land within the boundary of the California Desert Conservation Area, or within ¼ mile of six specified wildlife watering places in Lassen and Modoc Counties. The definition of “watering place” includes man-made watering devices for wildlife.


Fishing outside restricted depths?
Question: A while back I read some fishing reports from some partyboats out of Sonoma County who were reporting they had picked up limits of rockfish and lings and were then running out to 220 feet of water to fish trolling gear for salmon. Isn’t this illegal? How do these commercial sportfishing boats get away with it? (Dan F.)

Answer: Yes, that practice would be illegal. Partyboats must abide by the depth restrictions for the groundfish management area where they are fishing. For the area you describe it would be 180 feet, and if groundfish are on the boat, no fishing may occur in deeper water. A partyboat could have gone salmon fishing in 220 feet and then moved to legal depths to catch rockfish inside 180 feet, but not in the manner you describe. If groundfish were caught while fishing the deeper water for salmon, they would have had to be released.


Fishing by Delta farmer’s pumps
Question: I was fishing in a boat on the California Delta yesterday. A farmer’s pump was pumping and the farmer stopped his truck on the levee to tell me that it’s against the law to fish within 100 yards of a running pump. I’ve never heard of that, and I was wondering if the farmer was just blowing smoke. What do you think? (Ken A.)

Answer: The farmer was mistaken, but CCR Title 14, section 2.35 does prohibit taking fish within 250 feet of any fishway; egg-taking station; dam, weir or rack that has a fishway or an egg-taking station; and the upstream side of any fish screen.


Sport fishing on a commercial crab boat?
Question: Can commercial boats sport fish for Dungeness crab during the sport season when the commercial season is closed?

Answer: Yes, if the commercial vessel is not engaged in any commercial activity (Fish and Game Code, section 7856(f)), the commercial vessel does not hold a Dungeness crab vessel permit (CCR Title 14, section 132.1(a)), and everyone taking crab or fishing onboard has a sport fishing license and is following sport fishing regulations.


Bear spray for personal protection?
Question: Is bear spray legal for personal protection while deer or pig hunting in California? (Tony B.)

Answer: Yes. And not only is it legal, many people also recommend it!

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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.

New Dungeness Crab Trap Regulations in Place

Dungeness crabs from the San Francisco Bay Area (photo by Carrie Wilson)

Dungeness crabs from the San Francisco Bay Area (photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: Are there new regulations for Dungeness crab traps? I heard traps must be marked with the “GO ID” number. Is this something I need to get to put on my traps? When does the season open and are there any other new regulations? (Peter G., Bodega Bay)

Answer: The recreational Dungeness crab season will open statewide on Sat., Nov. 5. However, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has issued a warning to recreational anglers not to consume the viscera (internal organs) of Dungeness crab caught in coastal waters north of Point Reyes due to the sporadic detection of elevated levels of domoic acid in the viscera of Dungeness crabs caught off the northern California coast. Recreational crabbers should consult the CDPH biotoxin information line at (800) 553-4133 or CDPH’s Domoic Acid health information webpage for more information.

Several new regulations became effective on Aug. 1, 2016 and are available beginning on page 50 in the Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations book. Some of these include:

Crab trap buoys must display the “GO ID” number of the operator of the trap.

This is the unique 10-digit identifier assigned by the Automated License Data System to your profile. It will appear on your fishing license and all documents purchased through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Crab traps must possess a buoy and each buoy must be legibly marked with the trap operator’s GO ID number as stated on his or her sport fishing license. This regulation will help to ensure that crab traps are being used by the designated operator of the trap in order to prevent others from unlawfully disturbing or removing crab from crab traps. This regulation does not apply to traps deployed from commercial passenger fishing vessels (i.e. charter and party boats) or hoop nets.

Crab traps must contain at least one destruct device made from a single strand of untreated cotton twine size No. 120 or less that creates an unobstructed opening anywhere in the top or upper half of the trap that is at least five inches in diameter when this material corrodes or fails.

Destruct devices prevent “ghost fishing” (the continuous trapping of organisms in lost or abandoned trap gear). The cotton twine must be a single strand and untreated in order for the material to corrode relatively quickly on lost or abandoned gear, and to keep the twine from snagging on itself once it comes apart. The smaller the size of cotton twine used, the faster the material will corrode in lost or abandoned trap gear. The opening must be located in the top or upper half of the trap in case the trap becomes silted in over time. Try using untreated cotton twine attached between the metal or plastic hook and the rubber strap that keeps the top of the trap lid (or trap side) closed. The cotton twine should be attached with a single loop to aid the destruct process (see illustrations).

Crab traps must not be deployed or fished less than seven days prior to the opening of the Dungeness crab season.

New this season, crab traps used to take either Dungeness crab or rock crab can’t be used or deployed in state waters from Oct. 29 until the Dungeness crab fishery opens at 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 5. Any crab traps found in ocean waters prior to this seven-day period should be removed from the water by Oct. 28. This is to prevent the unlawful take of Dungeness crab before the season starts. “Take” is defined as hunting, catching, capturing or killing of fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans or invertebrates, or attempting to do so.

New this year: In an effort to help recreational crabbers when deploying crab trap gear to reduce surface lines and entanglements with animals (especially marine mammals and sea turtles) and other vessels, CDFW created the Best Practices Guide available online. Please check it out. And although there is no time limit for the checking of crab trap gear (as there is for hoop nets), frequent visits will ensure that traps are in good working condition and that crab captured in the trap are not held for too long.

Regulations remaining in place include: Every crab trap must be outfitted with two rigid circular escape openings that are a minimum of 4¼ inches in diameter and located so that the lowest portion is, at the most, five inches from the top of the trap. This is to allow small crabs to easily escape from the trap. Crab traps can only be used in state waters north of Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County. There is no limit to the number of crab traps that can be used by recreational crabbers, except the limit is 60 when operating under authority of a commercial passenger fishing vessel license. The daily bag and possession limit for Dungeness crab remains the same at 10 crabs per day with the minimum size limit 5¾ inches (measured by the shortest distance through the body from the edges of the shell directly in front of and excluding the points/lateral spines).

Dungeness crab can be taken in all ocean waters of the state where they occur, excluding San Francisco and San Pablo bays. They can be taken using hoop nets, crab traps and/or crab loop traps, also known as crab snares, or skin and scuba divers may take them by hand. Dungeness crab can be taken in freshwater areas of the state between Del Norte and Sonoma counties only by hand or hoop net during the open season, and the same daily bag and size limits apply.

For the latest crab fishing information, please visit the CDFW website.

Examples of 5-inch diameter destruct devices using single strand No. 120 untreated cotton twine.

d-crab-trap-1

Box trap with single strand No. 120 untreated cotton twine attached to 4 1/4-inch escape ring. (CDFW photo by J. Langell and J. Hendricks)

Escape ring removed. Corners of attachment points to the escape ring are bent down to achieve 5-inch diameter destruct device. photo by J. Langell and J. Hendricks

Escape ring removed. Corners of attachment points to the escape ring are bent down to achieve 5-inch diameter destruct device. (Photo by J. Langell and J. Hendricks)

d-crab-trap-3

Box trap using rubber strap, single strand No. 120 untreated cotton twine, and hook to secure side of trap. (CDFW photo by J. Langell and J. Hendricks)

d-crab-trap-4

When No. 120 untreated cotton twine deteriorates on the box trap, the open side of the trap meets the minimum 5-inch diameter destruct device requirement. (CDFW photo by J. Langell and J. Hendricks)

d-crab-trap-5

Round trap (or “pot”) using rubber strap, single strand No. 120 untreated cotton twine and hook to secure lid of the trap. When No. 120 untreated cotton twine deteriorates, the lid of the trap opens and meets the minimum 5-inch diameter destruct device requirement.

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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.

Can a Turkey’s Age be Determined by Beard and Spur?



Monterey Rio Turkeys_186_8661

Rio Grande turkeys from Monterey (photo by Carrie Wilson)

Turkey identification
Question: I am fairly new to turkey hunting and hear everyone always referring to their birds by their beards and spurs. Can wild turkeys be aged based on these trophy characteristics? (Jim C., Modesto)

Answer: Yes and no. There is no absolute standard for identifying a wild turkey’s age, but there are some general guidelines that can be used to provide fairly reliable estimates.

While precisely determining a turkey’s age in years may be difficult, there is a surefire method for distinguishing between adults and juveniles using the last two primary flight feathers. In juvenile birds the feathers will be sharp at the ends. By the time the bird reaches maturity at one year of age, it will molt and the two sharp feathers will be replaced by more rounded ones.

Beyond this, beard and spur length can be used to estimate a bird’s age, but unfortunately, it’s not an exact method. Variables such as subspecies, environmental conditions, and possibly nutrition can alter the length of both the beard and the spur, resulting in a misrepresentation of the bird’s age.

In terms of beards, the general rule of thumb is the longer the beard, the older the bird. But, while a jake (juvenile) will not have a 10-inch beard, a four-year-old turkey may have a short beard due to any number of conditions. If the turkey is in “rough” vegetation, the beard may wear away on the ground more easily when it grows long. If a turkey has long legs, the beard will be able to grow longer before it reaches the ground, where it will naturally face wear and tear. The fact that the beard may have been altered at any time by environmental or circumstantial conditions prevents biologists from using this method as an accurate way of measuring a turkey’s age.

Spur length can also be used to estimate a bird’s age although, like beards, spurs can also wear down. Spur length does tend to be slightly more reliable than beard length, however, because they do not wear as easily.

While both of these methods are not entirely precise, they can provide an approximate age range. These estimates are not reliable for turkeys older than about three or four years though.


Freediving for horseneck (gaper) clams?
Question: I’m an avid free diver and spear fisherman, as well as a frequent clammer. While diving for crabs recently, I noticed a number of enormous clam siphons in the silty mud bottom in 4-8 feet of water. Having previously dug for horseneck clams (Tresus capax) on a number of occasions, it was clear to me that these were horseneck siphons, or “shows”. These clams are all well below the low tide line and would thus be impossible to dig in the traditional way. Would it be legal for me to harvest these clams using a homemade PVC “clam gun” to excavate the mud in which they are encased? Looking at the regulations pertaining to horseneck clams, underwater harvest is neither specifically permitted nor forbidden. (Carter J.)

Answer: Yes, you can take clams underwater using a “clam gun” as long as you are free diving. The use of SCUBA is prohibited for the take of clams north of Yankee Point in Monterey County. SCUBA can be used south of Yankee Point. You don’t say where you plan to dive for clams, but you may like to know that there are gaper clams south of Yankee Point.

Here’s what the regulations say:

Invertebrates
29.05. GENERAL.
(d) In all ocean waters skin and Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) divers may take invertebrates as provided in this article except that in all ocean waters north of Yankee Point (Monterey Co.), SCUBA may be used only to take sea urchins, rock scallops and crabs of the genus Cancer. For the purpose of this section, breathing tubes (snorkels) are not SCUBA.

29.20. CLAMS GENERAL.
(a) Except as provided in this article, there are no closed seasons, bag limits or size limits on saltwater clams.
(b) Fishing hours: One-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
(c) Special gear provisions: Spades, shovels, hoes, rakes or other appliances operated by hand, except spears or gaff hooks, may be used to take clams. No instrument capable of being used to dig clams may be possessed between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise, on any beach of this state, except tools and implements used in the work of cleaning, repairing or maintaining such beach when possessed by a person authorized by appropriate authority to perform such work.


Motorized decoys for doves and upland game
Question: Can motorized decoys, such as Mojo be used on doves or other upland game birds?

Answer: Yes.


Catching live shad for bait using a cast net?
Question: I live in San Joaquin County and have two fishing questions. First, is it legal to fish with live shad? Second, is it legal to use a cast net/bait net to catch shad and minnows? (Justin)

Answer: A casting net or throw net is unlawful to use or possess in inland waters, but dip nets are authorized for taking certain species of fin fish that can be used as bait (see California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 4.00 – 4.30 in the Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations available online or wherever licenses are sold). Live shad may be used in the Valley and South Central Districts (CCR Title 14, section 4.10) in waters where taken, but they must be taken with a legal dip net under certain provisions.


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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 Aug. 9, 2012.