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Fish and Game Q&A: Are broken antlers a sign of nutrient deficiencies?

February 3, 2011 |  1:21 pm

Sparring mule deer bucks.

In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: I recently had a wonderful opportunity to accompany a friend to the 2010 Goodale Buck Hunt (G3) in the Owens Valley. It was great to see so many mature bucks in California! However, we noticed many large four-point bucks had broken antlers. Some actually had one complete side broken or partially broken. It appeared that the small tines on the four-point bucks had the most damage. I have never seen this many damaged horns in any other zone or any other state. Is this caused by a deficiency in nutrients? (Bob Pihera)

Answer: It may be that a mineral deficiency is playing a role, but we can’t say for sure. According to Department of Fish and Game deer program manager Craig Stowers, we have documented this deficiency regarding Tule elk in the area but don’t have any data specifically related to deer. Additionally, that particular hunt is held late (in December), pretty much in the middle of the rut. By that time those antlers have endured a lot of stress from animals fighting with each other for dominance. Given this, it wouldn’t be too unusual for these animals’ antlers to reflect a lot of wear and damage from the rutting season.

Q: We are Buddhists. For expressing mercy we used to buy captive fishes and set them free in rivers. However, we could not buy live-bred fishes and free them here because the salesperson in the supermarket said it violates California laws. I could not find any information in the regulations you issued. Please tell us which codes apply. (James W.)

A: Many California fish and game laws state that it is illegal for anyone without official stocking permits to release any fish into any waters of the state. This includes both freshwater and saltwater. The code sections that apply are: Fish and Game Code, sections 2116-2302, 6300-6403 (especially 6400) and 15200-15202, and the California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 1.63, 238-238.5 and 671-671.6.

Q: My son and husband have been sport crab fishing for years. They always release the females but have noticed that the male-to-female ratio in their pots is much higher for males compared to females. I tell them that the females are smarter and stay out of the traps, but I’m sure there is a scientific reason for the difference. They rarely find a female in their pots, and when they do it is late in the season. Any idea why? (Cathi D.)

A: While I’m sure your theory of the females just being smarter is probably true (wink), the real reason is more likely because the females are much smaller and the escape ports allow the smaller females to escape more readily from the traps before they are pulled to the surface.

Q: While cleaning out a relative’s attic recently, I came across some Native American jewelry. I showed it to a few people and they said that some of the pieces have bear claws and even lion claws on them. They also have some bird feathers. I have no need for the jewelry and was thinking of selling them, but someone told me that bear parts are illegal to sell in California. Is this true? What about the other things? Where can I find a list of what can and cannot be sold? (Melanie)

A: The basic law prohibiting the sale of any bird or mammal found in the wild in California is Fish and Game Code section 3039. But there are numerous exceptions scattered throughout the code and Commission regulations and there is no one document that clearly explains what is legal to sell. Here are some helpful tips from DFG retired Capt. Phil Nelms:

1) Selling bear parts in California, even as part of jewelry or art, is illegal.

2) If by "lion" you mean mountain lion, then that is illegal. The sale of African lion parts is also illegal under the California Penal Code, section 653(o).

3) To provide a useful answer regarding the feathers, we will need to know what bird species the feathers were from and how they were originally acquired. If they are species found in the wild in California and/or were taken by sport hunting, there is little chance you could legally sell them in California.

4) For more information, both the Fish and Game Code and the California Code of Regulations are available online at www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/.

If you have a question you would like to see answered in this column, e-mail it to CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

Photo: Sparring mule deer bucks. Credit: Brent Stettler / Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

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