Tag Archives: Wildlife rehabilitation

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.

Relocating Rescued Rattlesnakes

Rattlesnake (CDFW photo)

Rattlesnake (CDFW photo)

Question: I found and took home a dying Northern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus oreganus) after it became a victim of a wildfire. It’s now eating great and able to move fluently which is great and a job well done in my eyes. I’ve had it in captivity close to three weeks now. Is it okay to place it back into the wild (away from humans, of course)? (Daniel G.)

Answer: While we appreciate your desire to help injured wildlife, it is illegal for members of the public to rehabilitate wildlife without possessing a wildlife rehabilitation permit.

If you kept the injured rattlesnake near or with other captive reptiles at your house, the snake should not be re-released back into the wild due to the inherent danger of spreading disease into wild populations of rattlesnakes after release.

Wildlife rehabilitation is regulated in California to ensure animals are cared for and housed properly and that their reintroduction into the wild is done very carefully. Wildlife rehabilitators often give pre-release medical exams or observe wildlife patients for an extended period of time to evaluate the health of an animal prior to release. All rehabilitation facilities have a veterinarian of record who help them with medical issues and can help them assess whether an animal is healthy enough for release. Wildlife rehabilitators must return wildlife within three miles of where the animal originated and often work with the department to find suitable release sites.

We encourage you to find a wildlife rehabilitation facility that is willing to take the rattlesnake and go through the proper channels for its release. For a list of permitted wildlife rehab facilities, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/WIL/rehab/facilities.html .


Can cowcod caught in Mexico be imported to U.S. waters?
Question: If we’re fishing in Mexican waters and catch a cowcod, can we legally bring it back into a California port as long as we have all of the proper licenses and the Declaration for Entry form properly filled out? I’d just like to know for sure as we fish Mexican waters frequently targeting rockfish and I’d like to avoid a citation. (Jeff M., San Diego)

Answer: No. Cowcod may not be imported or even possessed in California regardless of where caught (Fish and Game Code, section 2353(a)(2)). Broomtail groupers and canary, yelloweye and bronzespotted rockfishes are also illegal to be possessed or imported into California under this regulation and under California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.55(b)(1), even if they were taken legally in Mexico.


Hunting deer over water?
Question: I was having a conversation with my uncle the other day and we were discussing whether it would be legal to hunt over a horse or cattle trough. With the recent drought, I’m worried that the deer in our area aren’t getting sufficient watering holes. I have read the section on baiting in the Big Game Digest, but am under the impression that water is not considered bait. So our main question is, is it legal to hunt over a horse/cattle trough or any other type of man-made pool of water if there are no horses or cattle? (Tony S., Davis)

Answer: Although there are some specific exceptions, it is generally legal to hunt near cattle troughs or other sources of water. Keep in mind that many wild animals like deer will water before or after legal hunting hours.

In addition, it is NOT legal to hunt, camp or otherwise occupy for more than 30 minutes within 200 yards of wildlife watering places on public land within the California Desert Conservation Area, within 200 yards of guzzlers or horizontal wells for wildlife on public land, and within one quarter mile of five wells in Lassen County and one well in Modoc County is prohibited (CCR Title 14, section 730). “Wildlife watering places” are defined as waterholes, springs, seeps and man-made watering devices for wildlife such as guzzlers (self-filling, in-the-ground water storage tanks), horizontal wells and small impoundments of less than one surface acre in size.


Abalone dinner donations?
Question: If a non-profit organization puts on a dinner and only requests donations to attend, can a group of divers legally donate abalone to the organization to be used for the dinner? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, but only as long as the dinner is not advertised as being an abalone dinner and as long as paying for the dinner is optional. You may charge for the rental of the facilities, tables, chairs, etc. and charge for the plates, napkins, cups, etc. Abalone (like all sport-caught fish and game) cannot be bought, sold, bartered or traded.

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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.