Tag Archives: turkey hunting

Mentoring New Generations of Hunters

Family waterfowl hunting at the Yolo Wildlife Area Basin

Family waterfowl hunting at the Yolo Wildlife Area Basin

Question: I just took my first Hunter Education Class last week at the age of almost 60. I am interested to put my training into practice and bring my kids and grandkids into it as well. What is a good plan to begin hunting that can include all of us, since I have never had anyone to teach me how to start? (Ken B., Palo Alto)

Answer: First of all, welcome to the exciting comradery of California hunters. We can recommend several options. First, put your new Hunter Education Certificate to use right away by purchasing your hunting license and tags/tag applications. The Big Game Drawing online application deadline for elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, and premium deer tags is midnight June 2, 2016.

We encourage you to go through the application process together. It will introduce all of you to navigating the online system and may also prompt an interest in other big game hunting opportunities, such as apprentice hunts. If your grandkids are junior hunters, ages 12-17 years old on July 1 of the license year, these apprentice hunts are an excellent option for most big game.

Every hunter who annually applies for draw hunts anxiously awaits the results from the draw. Then, if successful, they can enjoy the experience of spending scout time leading up to the hunt planning for their adventure. The planning stage is an important part of the hunt you can all do together. Don’t forget, an integral part of the hunt is sighting in your firearm or bow at the range, another activity you can do together.

Draw hunts are not your only options — wild pig tags and some deer tags are simply available for purchase. Wild pig hunting is a good introduction to big game hunting and require a tag to hunt them. However, the season is open year-round and there is no daily bag limit.

Consider hiring a licensed hunting guide. It may cost you some extra money, but guided hunts frequently give you access to private properties with higher density game populations. Guides should have expertise for the species and the area you are hunting. Soak up everything the guide is willing to teach you. If you or your kids are successful, most guides will offer to field dress the animal for you. We strongly recommend having your guide teach you how to field dress the animal and do it yourself.

CDFW also offers Advanced Hunting Clinics that focus on the “how-tos” of hunting, including how to hunt turkey, upland game, waterfowl and big game. Each clinic covers types of firearms, ammunition, importance of sighting in the firearm, gauging distance, scouting, tracking, field dressing, shoot-don’t shoot scenarios, hunter ethics, landowner-hunter relationships, conservation, and safety. The goal of this series is to develop ethical, conservation-minded, successful hunters through education … taking the hunter a step beyond the basic hunter education course.

Throughout the year, CDFW Special Hunts are also offered and designed especially for new hunters, youth hunters, women hunters, mobility-impaired hunters and people with limited experience or opportunity to hunt on their own. Depending on the time of year, hunts for upland game birds (pheasant, quail, chuckar and turkey) and, upon occasion, waterfowl, deer or wild pig may be offered.


What info must be on a sports crab pot buoy?
Question: What information is required to be displayed on sports crab pot buoys? I have placed my CF numbers from my boat on mine but have read that I must also place my GO ID numbers on the buoys. Can you please let me know what’s required for my buoys? Also, what are all of the necessary requirements for my crab pots to make them legal? (Ken H.)

Answer: No identification is currently required to be placed on the buoys of sport crab traps. However, beginning Aug. 1, 2016, a crab trap buoy must be legally marked with the operator’s GO ID number as stated on his/her sport fishing license.

Keep in mind that crab traps are only allowed in waters north of Point Arguello (Santa Barbara County), and are required to have at least two rigid circular openings of not less than four and one-quarter inches inside diameter, constructed so that the lowest portion of each opening is no lower than five inches from the top of the trap. Starting Aug. 1, 2016, crab traps must contain at least one destruct device of a single strand of untreated cotton twine size No. 120 or less that creates an unobstructed escape opening in the top or upper half of the trap of at least five inches in diameter when the destruct attachment material corrodes or fails (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(C)(1-3)).


Compound bow for protection?
Question: This question goes back to the special junior turkey archery hunts available prior to the start of the regular spring turkey season. I accompanied my son on one of those hunts. I was concerned about our safety because there are bears and mountain lions where we would be hunting, as well as mountain lions basically everywhere in California. If I had had my hunting license, could I have had my compound bow on me for safety? I ask because I know you cannot have a firearm on you during archery-only seasons (I don’t have a firearm anyway), so could I have had my bow on me during the junior-only hunt? (David R., Sunnyvale)

Answer: You could have possessed a compound bow in this circumstance as long as you had a valid hunting license and tag for game that could be lawfully taken with a compound bow (such as wild pigs if they are present in the area) and you do not hunt turkey.

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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.

Falconry Road Hunting from a Moving Vehicle?

Harris Hawk_0916_Carrie Wilson

Harris Hawks are commonly used for falconry hunting (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: Is it legal or illegal to release a hawk or falcon (pursuant to a falconry license) from a moving vehicle to take game or non-game species? I am wondering if falconry road hunting would fall under the same illegal pursuit law that applies to hunting with firearms and archery under section 251. (Harris H., Modesto)

Answer: Yes, your assumption is correct. It would be illegal for a licensed falconer to release hawks or falcons from a moving vehicle because the law states, “No person shall pursue, drive, herd or take any bird or mammal from any type of motor-driven air or land vehicles, motorboat, airboat, sailboat or snowmobile” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251.)


When can Dungeness crabs be cleaned?
Question: I know abalone and lobster have restrictions on retaining whole animals until consumption, but I can’t find any restriction in the regulations on cleaning Dungeness crab. I know many boil and serve Dungeness crab whole. However, I find it easier to “back” the crab by cracking the shell into two pieces and removing the organs. Then I boil only the meat parts. When can I legally clean the crab? On the boat, back at the dock at a fish cleaning station, when I am home or after boiling? Thanks. (Dave C. )

Answer: Like with other finfish and shellfish with minimum size requirements, you must maintain the crab in a condition to where it can be identified and measured to ensure it meets any minimum size limit. Crabs possessed on a boat must be kept in such condition that the size and species may be determined (Fish and Game Code, sections 5508-5509). There is no requirement once ashore. Remember, the definition of “Fish” includes wild fish, mollusk, crustacean (crabs), invertebrate, amphibian, or part, spawn or ovum of any of those animals (FGC section 45). Therefore, while on a boat, you can clean the crab by removing the viscera whenever you like but must maintain the crab in a condition where it can be identified and measured across the back to ensure compliance with the size limit.


Where are all of the nesting turkeys?
Question: I know this is the courtship and nesting season for turkeys and that they roost in trees at night, but where do they nest and for how long? I’m seeing lots of toms right now but not many hens and have not found any sitting on nests. How soon before the newly hatched chicks will be out and on their own? Thanks for any insight. (Dwayne J.)

Answer: In most areas, nests can be found in a shallow dirt depression surrounded by moderately woody vegetation that conceals the nest. Hens look for locations close to food and water and with ample cover to safely conceal the hen and her poults (chicks) once hatched. Hens are very leery of predators, such as coyotes and fox, but do leave the nest unattended for brief periods to feed and drink.

Hens will lay a clutch of 10 to 12 eggs during a two-week period, usually laying one egg per day. She will incubate her eggs for about 28 days, occasionally turning and rearranging them, until they are ready to hatch.

A newly hatched flock must be ready to leave the nest to feed within 12 to 24 hours. Poults eat insects, berries and seeds while adults will eat anything from acorns and berries to insects and small reptiles. Turkeys usually feed in early morning and in the afternoon.

For more information on wild turkeys, please check the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hunting website at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting and the National Wild Turkey Federation website at http://www.nwtf.org.


Can barnacles be harvested?
Question: I live in San Luis Obispo County and read the fishing regulations where it says barnacles cannot be harvested in the intertidal area. What about other non-intertidal areas, such as piers, jetties, etc.? I thought I read somewhere that the limit was five pounds. (Michael H.)

Answer: The applicable regulation (CCR Title 14, section 29.05) does not allow collection of barnacles “in any tidepool or other areas between the high tide mark (defined as Mean Higher High Tide) and 1,000 feet seaward and lateral to the low tide mark (defined as Mean Lower Low Water).” If you can find barnacles offshore more than 1,000 ft. beyond the low tide mark, by law you may take them. If you found barnacles more than 1,000 ft. beyond the low tide mark and wanted to take them, you would be limited to 35 barnacles per day/in possession, again per section 29.05. There is no five pound limit for barnacles (you may be thinking of the 10 pound limit for mussels).

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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.

How to Find Legal Target Shooting Areas?

Target shooting improves one’s shooting skills and accuracy. It is also a great way to introduce someone new to safe gun handling practices and the shooting sports. In this photo, Harry Morse practices his skills at the “Birds Landing Hunting Preserve and Sporting Clays Course” near Fairfield. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Target shooting improves one’s shooting skills and accuracy. It is also a great way to introduce someone new to safe gun handling practices and the shooting sports. In this photo, Harry Morse practices his skills at the “Birds Landing Hunting Preserve and Sporting Clays Course” near Fairfield. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: A friend used to own property just outside the city limits and we were able to legally shoot our rifles on his property. Times have changed though and we now need a new place where we can we still legally shoot our rifles and shotguns for sport. We’re not hunters; we just practice target shooting. How do we go about finding places where we can legally shoot? (Gracie R., Carlsbad)

Answer: Your best bet is to contact the closest Sheriff’s Office that patrols the area where you want to target shoot. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does not regulate target shooting nor keep track of all the potential target shooting areas available to the public. This issue basically comes down to county shooting ordinances and landowner permission. I think you will find most cities do not allow discharge of firearms within their city limits, so contact the local Sheriff’s Office to see what county areas may be open.

For public areas like U.S. Forest Service (USFS) or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property, contact the applicable regional station or headquarters that oversees the area. Some USFS or BLM lands may have designated target shooting or plinking areas. They may also have other areas on their properties where target shooting is allowed, but it’s always a good idea to check ahead of time to be sure it is legal with the applicable county as well.

Otherwise, for public and private gun clubs or shooting ranges in your area, you might try http://www.wheretoshoot.org from the National Shooting Sports Foundation website. I’ve used this site often and they make it easy to find a safe and licensed range in your local area to target shoot or to introduce someone new to the shooting sports.


How to prove the sex of a turkey?
Question: Since only tom turkeys are legal to take during the spring season, how do I prove the sex to an inquiring game warden? Must a wing be left on? A beard left on? Both left on? One or the other left on? (G.B.G.)

Answer: The regulations are intended to require that only tom turkeys may be taken during the spring season, but the law specifically states that the turkey must be “bearded” (a bearded turkey is one having a beard visible through the breast feathers). In most cases a beard will distinguish the animal as male, but in some rare incidents hens may also have them.

Keep the beard attached to the carcass until you return to your residence. You may pluck the bird in the field, but remember to keep the beard connected to the body.

Toms and hens can be easily determined by their significant head and wing color differences. If by chance you run across a rare bearded hen, even though the provisions of the law may allow you to take it, we strongly discourage it. Spring is the turkeys’ primary mating and nesting period so hens may not be harvested in order to protect their production


Catching fish with baited fish traps?
Question: Is it legal to use baited fish traps in Southern California? I see in the regulations where it refers to the use of baited traps to catch a variety of fish species in the San Francisco area (California Code of Regulations, section 28.75). Is this the only place where this method of take is allowed? (Corey)

Answer: Baited traps may not be used to take fish in ocean waters off Southern California. This is legal only in San Francisco and San Pablo bays, their tributaries, etc., and in the ocean and bays off of Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino counties for a few specified species of ocean fish. Only hook-and-line or hand may be used to take finfish (per Section 28.65) unless other, specific permissions are provided in regulations listed in the Gear Restrictions section (which begins on pg. 45 of the current California Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet).


Spearfishing without a license?
Question: I know it’s legal to fish without a license off public piers, but is there anywhere to go spearfishing without a license? (Keith H., Santa Barbara)

Answer: No, there is usually no place you can spearfish without a license, but there are two free fishing days per year, usually around the Independence Day and Labor Day holidays. On those two days, spearfishing without a license is allowed (bag limits and other regulations still apply).

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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.

Bow Hunting for Spring Turkeys?

Spring tom turkeys in Northern California (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Spring tom turkeys in Northern California (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I am interested in bow hunting for turkeys this year but have some questions. Last week I saw a flock of hens and jakes on the side of a highway and I got to wondering if it’s legal to hunt off the side of a highway. I know we can’t shoot across a highway, but exactly how many yards or feet away does a bow hunter have to be? (Rafael O.)

Answer: It is unlawful to discharge a firearm or release an arrow or crossbow bolt over or across any public road or other established way open to the public in an unsafe and reckless manner (Fish and Game Code, section 3004(b)). Definitions for road and roadway can be found in the California Vehicle Code, sections 527 and 530. In addition, most counties have ordinances setting the distance from a public roadway that one must be to lawfully discharge a firearm. Many counties require 150 feet, but this distance varies and you will have to check with the appropriate county’s sheriff’s department to determine the legal distance. It is always unlawful to negligently discharge a firearm, and the discharge of a firearm from or upon a public road or highway is prohibited (California Penal Code, section 374c).


Bringing a speargun into California
Question: I am coming to California from Australia for a diving holiday and wish to bring my own gear, including a spear gun. Do you know what the rules are about bringing one through U.S. customs? (Edward C.)

Answer: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does not regulate the importation of dive gear, including spear guns. You should check with the Transportation Security Administration (www.tsa.gov) and U.S. Customs (www.cpb.gov) to see if they have any special provisions you must follow.


Live rodents as fishing bait?
Question: I have seen several videos about using live “feeder” mice and rats for bass and trout fishing and was wondering whether they are legal to fish with here in California. I wasn’t able to find any regulations talking about using live mice or rats. If not acceptable to use as a live bait, can they be used if dead/frozen? (Anonymous, Sacramento)

Answer: No. The freshwater fishing regulations do not list mammals as acceptable bait options, so rodents may not be used (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 4.00.)


Hunting Sandhill cranes?
Question: Does California have any type of hunting opportunities for Sandhill cranes? I have seen a couple of videos in which the hunters state that the meat is great and some say it tastes like steak. I tried to research any regulations for them but wasn’t able to come up with anything. Can you please let me know if they can be hunted here? (Jose G.)

Answer: While some states do authorize the take of Sandhill cranes during waterfowl season, there are currently no hunting opportunities for Sandhill cranes in California.


Kangaroo product ban?
Question: I am the owner of a store that sells kangaroo hide boots and other products made of kangaroo leather. I read in the news that California recently re-instated a ban on the import and sale of kangaroo products. Is this true and if so, what should retailers like me know about the ban? (Anonymous)

Answer: You are correct. The ban on kangaroo products went back into effect Jan. 1, 2016. California Penal Code section 653o prohibits the importation, possession with intent to sell, and sale of any parts of specified animals, including kangaroos. Some common retail products made from kangaroo leather are boots, belts, wallets and soccer cleats.

As you know, California retailers are responsible for knowing the laws and regulations of the state of California and must take the necessary efforts to ensure they do not possess kangaroo products with the intent to sell.

Penal Code section 653o may be enforced by any peace officer in the state, including police officers, sheriff deputies, and wildlife officers. A person who violates section 653o is guilty of a misdemeanor and is subject to a fine between $1,000 and $5,000 and up to six months in jail for each violation.

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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.

Fishing or Foul Hooking?

The Northern or Florida strain of largemouth bass (LMB) are the best species for stocking in small private ponds. (DFG staff photo of Amanda Menefee by Ken Oda)

Angling is defined to only include the fish voluntarily taking the bait or lure in its mouth. Snagging the fish outside of its mouth is illegal and considered foul hooking (CDFW staff photo of Amanda Menefee by Ken Oda)

Question: When sport fishing for black bass, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) regulations say the fish must willingly take the bait in its mouth. However, it doesn’t say if the hook has to be inside the mouth or not. For example, when fishing a multi-hook bait, can the hook go from the outside to the inside of the mouth? As bass often hit these baits while attempting to eat it, the rule seems a little vague. (Randy R.)

Answer: No, this would be considered foul hooking and not legal since the fish is essentially snagged rather than voluntarily trying to eat the lure. Angling is defined in the regulations to only include “such manner that the fish voluntarily takes the bait or lure in its mouth.” The outside of its mouth is not in its mouth (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.05).


Hunting pigs and turkey simultaneously?
Question: There is a bit of a debate going on the Nor-Cal Wild Pig Hunters Facebook group regarding the legality of hunting pigs and turkey simultaneously during turkey season. Is it legal to carry No. 6 shot shells (for turkey) and rifled slugs (for pigs) at the same time while out hunting turkey in an area that holds pigs? Many say it is common practice, others say it is illegal to carry slugs (or any shell holding larger than No. 2 shot) while pursuing turkey. Who’s right? (Mark, San Bruno)

Answer: It would be legal to hunt pigs and turkeys simultaneously because a slug is not shot. A hunter who possesses shot size larger than No. 2 could be cited while turkey hunting, but the regulation limiting shot size that may be possessed when taking turkey does not address slugs.

Methods authorized for taking big game (wild pig) include shotgun slugs, rifle bullets, pistol and revolver bullets, bow and arrow and crossbow (2014-2015 Mammal Hunting Regulation booklet, page 24, section 353).

Methods of take for resident small game (wild turkey) are shotguns 10 gauge or smaller. Shotgun shells may not be used or possessed that contain shot size larger than No. BB, except that shot size larger than No. 2 may not be used or possessed when taking wild turkey (CCR Title 14, section 311(b)).


How can I prove my innocence regarding a fishing citation?
Question: If I am cited by a wildlife officer for a short fish or an overlimit of crustaceans but believe I am innocent, how can I prove it? Do I have to go to court at my own expense to prove my innocence? (Dustan B.)

Answer: If you believe that you are innocent of the violation(s) you were charged with, then yes, you need to appear in court on the date listed on the citation. You will then have the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty, no contest or not guilty. If you enter a plea of not guilty, you will have your opportunity to explain your side of the story to the judge.


Fishing with mosquito fish/guppies for bait?
Question: I live in the Central Valley, Fresno to be exact. In inland waters where mosquito fish are resident, is a person legally able to use “mosquito fishes” as bait (similar to using minnows as bait)? I would already presume transferring them from one body of water to another is prohibited, but what if the body of water is already inhabited by mosquito fish? (John T., Fresno)

Answer: Mosquito fish are not native to California waters but were introduced into California around 1922 to consume and suppress mosquitos and their larvae. Allowable live baits that may be used in the Central District, which includes the Fresno area, can be found in section 4.20 of the 2014-2015 California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet (page 17). Legally acquired mosquitofish can be legally used in any body of water for bait except those listed under 4.20(f).

Use and transportation of bait fish is strictly regulated in the Freshwater Fishing Regulations booklet (CCR Title 14, section 4.00) to prevent the inadvertent transfer of a baitfish species from one body of water to another. It’s a good idea to double-check this section of the regulations booklet whenever you are transporting baitfish to your favorite fishing spot.

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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.

 

Harvest of Road-Killed Wild Game Meat?

(Photo by Carrie Wilson)

(Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I have a screwy immune system with 3-4 different diagnoses (depending on the doctor) as to what the problem may be. Going vegetarian makes it worse. I must have flesh food, but again, because of the immune issues, it has to be grassfed/pastured or wild game. Whatever farmers do to crowded animals turns my body into a torture chamber.

I understand from my Canadian contacts with similar issues that Canadian provinces can create a list of people who have a medical need for this kind of protein, and freshly taken road-killed deer, elk, moose (not many of those!) and the like are made available to those people at low cost. The people take on the risk themselves, of course, and have the right to refuse if it doesn’t smell or look right to them. Do you know if there is any such system in the works, or being discussed at all, in this country or state? It does seem to be simultaneously wise, rational and kind. (Isabel)

Answer: I’m sorry to hear about your immune system issues, but in California we have no road kill harvest program available and are not considering such a program. This type of program would create many biological and law enforcement issues, as well as expose the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to liability.

If you feel consumption of wild game may be your best solution, you should consider harvesting your own game and then you will ensure your meat will be fresh, contain no introduced chemicals and will be some of the freshest and healthiest meat available. To get started, consider taking one of our hunter education courses (www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered/) and then buy a hunting license. It is legal for a hunter to give you game meat he or she harvested too, but it is not legal to buy, barter, trade, etc. for it.

There are also commercial sources of game meat available, such as from farm-raised deer and elk from Australia and New Zealand, and there may be others that offer farm-raised fallow deer from California.

If hunting and harvesting your own protein is not for you, another option might be to consider shopping in local co-op stores and invest in free range, organic, grass fed beef if commercial meat is a health issue for you.


Turkey decoy
Question: Can you please tell me if it legal to use a turkey decoy with a motorized base in California? They sell them at Bass Pro Shops. (Mike R.)

Answer: Yes, this decoy would be legal to use.


Black perch inquiry
Question: I’ve been hearing reports of surf and jetty anglers catching good numbers of “black perch”, however, I’ve never heard of a black perch. Do you think they are actually catching black rockfish instead? If so, I worry these anglers may be thinking of these rockfish as perch and are therefore applying perch regulations rather than rockfish regulations. Now that the bag limit of black rockfish is lower, people may break the law without knowing it. Can you please find out if black perch are really black rockfish? (Capt. David B., Santa Barbara)

Answer: Thank you for your concern regarding potential impacts to black rockfish by shore anglers. Black perch, Embiotica jacksoni, is a member of the surfperch family and are definitely not black rockfish, Sebastes melanops.

According to CDFW Environmental Scientist Ken Oda, black perch are commonly caught by anglers on jetties, piers and rocky shorelines. They are also taken occasionally by spear fishermen diving in and around kelp. Other species of surfperch often caught with black perch are striped seaperch, rubberlip seaperch and pile perch. San Francisco Bay area fishermen often refer to black perch as “pogies” and in other areas of the state, anglers call them “buttermouths” because their lips are often yellowish in color.

In most areas, anglers may take up to 10 black surfperch as part of a surfperch aggregate limit of 20. But in San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay, up to five black surfperch may be taken as part of the aggregate limit of five surfperch (CCR Title 14, section 28.59(c)(1). When it comes to black rockfish, anglers may take no more than five as part of the daily bag and possession limit of 10 fish in combination of all species within the RCG Complex (rockfish, cabezon and greenlings) (CCR Title 14, section 28.55(b)).

For a color photo identification guide of common surfperch that also contains diagnostic features of the black perch, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/fishid.asp. Another source of interesting information about black perch can be found on the Aquarium of the Pacific website at: www.aquariumofpacific.org/onlinelearningcenter/species/black_perch.

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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.

 

Cameras Capturing Resident Neighborhood Mountain Lions

Mountain Lion (CDFW photo)

Mountain lions are now secretly living in and around many California neighborhoods where residents’ security cameras and trail cams frequently capture their images (CDFW photo of California mountain lion).

Question: I live in Kern County and last December caught a mountain lion on our security camera. Then, last night about 6:45 pm I saw it walking on the road in front of my home with a cat in its mouth. This is a new experience for me and my research indicates that there is no reason for concern, except to notify neighbors with pets. Can you please give me some guidance on whether I should do anything with this information? (Steve D.)

Answer: These security cameras that people and businesses are installing as well as trail cams are creating quite a buzz about lions. People are now getting the opportunity to realize what lion researchers have recently come to understand, which is that lions live around people more than we think.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Senior Environmental Scientist and mountain lion expert Marc Kenyon, we once thought that mountain lions resided solely in the mountains (hence their moniker), but it turns out they have been living all around us. With that in mind, we’ve also come to realize that mountain lions don’t present quite the level of danger that we used to think.

And you’re absolutely correct. Probably the best way to manage this situation is to simply warn neighbors about the presence of a lion. And if you visit our Keep Me Wild web page (www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/lion.html) you can learn how to live and recreate safely among these magnificent creatures.

However, there is always a chance that these animals, like all wild animals, could pose a threat to public safety. Although the risk is extremely small, it still exists and we don’t take it lightly. In addition to following the advice on the Keep Me Wild web page, please be sure to call 911 or your local police if you or your neighbors witness a lion exhibiting any threatening behavior. The local police can typically respond much faster than we can, however they will be in direct contact with us until we can arrive if our presence is necessary.

Such potentially threatening behaviors include:

  • Following people closely and secretively
  • Intently watching children
  • Twitching tail
  • Stomping front or hind feet
  • Approaching people with ears pinned back and hissing
  • On the ground and refusing to flee when you are shouting at them aggressively and/or blowing a whistle

Also, a mountain lion in a tree or crouching in some vegetation near a trail or a residence doesn’t always reflect a dangerous situation unless some of the behaviors listed above are also noted. More often than not, that mountain lion is simply trying to hide until people pass, and it may even feel threatened by the people who are watching it.


Alternate length measurements
Question: For kelp bass, barred sand bass and spotted sand bass, the marine sport fishing regulations state that the size limit is 14 inches total length or ten inches alternate length. What is the difference between total and alternate length? (Tom R.)

Answer: Total length is the longest straight-line measurement from the tip of the head to the end of the longest lobe of the tail. Tip of the head shall be the most anterior point on the fish with the mouth closed and the fish lying flat on its side. Alternate length is the straight-line distance from the base of the foremost spine of the first dorsal fin to the end of the longest lobe of the tail (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 1.62).


Verifying it’s a tom turkey
Question: I know that only tom turkeys may be legally harvested during the spring turkey season, so how do I prove this if questioned? Should I leave a wing or the beard or both on the bird? Please clarify. (Anonymous)

Answer: The regulations are intended to require that only tom turkeys may be taken during the spring season, but the law specifically states that the turkey must be “bearded” (a bearded turkey is one having a beard visible through the breast feathers). In most cases a beard will distinguish the animal as male, but in some rare incidents hens may also have them.

Keep the beard attached to the carcass until you return to your residence. You may pluck the bird in the field, but remember to keep the beard connected to the body.

Toms and hens can be easily determined by their significant head and wing color differences. If by chance you run across a rare bearded hen, even though the provisions of the law may allow you to take it, we strongly discourage it. Spring is the turkeys’ primary mating and nesting period so hens may not be harvested in order to protect their production.

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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.