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CDFW mailbag: Removing 'No hunting' sign is not just petty theft

California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Q: I own 80 acres in Mendocino County. My wife and I love to watch wildlife, especially the turkeys and deer, and occasional wild pigs.

We don’t hunt, and I’ve posted “No hunting” and “No trespassing” signs in a dozen locations around my property. Last month I noticed one of the signs was gone. I replaced the sign, and now it’s gone again, which makes me think someone may have taken it intentionally.

It’s only a sign, but this would be theft, right? 

— Anonymous

A: There’s a law in the California Fish and Game Code (FGC) that applies more to this situation than petty theft. The FGC states, among other things, that it is unlawful for any person to maliciously tear down, mutilate or destroy any sign, signboard or other notice forbidding hunting or trespass on land.

Hopefully your situation doesn’t involve a malicious act. However, whether or not you are confident it’s malicious, you may want to think about hiding a trail camera that is pointed at the sign to see if you can catch the perpetrator. If you find suspicious activity, contact your local law enforcement agency. 

Pismo clams

Q: What is the correct method for reburying Pismo clams that are not of legal size?

— Anonymous

A: Pismo clams are an iconic species that have recently become more prevalent on beaches from Santa Cruz to San Diego due to several years of good recruitment.

Because they bury in shallow sand, usually 2 to 8 inches, they are frequently encountered by people walking along beaches or digging in the sand.

Although it’s currently legal to harvest Pismo clams recreationally, legal-sized clams are not common. Pismo clams must be 4.5 inches wide south of the Monterey/San Luis Obispo county line, and five inches wide north of this line, according to the California Code of Regulations (CCR). Any clams which have a size limit and are not retained must be immediately reburied where they were found.

It may take some time for clams to rebury themselves, leaving them vulnerable to the elements and predators such as birds. The proper way to rebury a Pismo clam is to place the clam with the hinge ligament — the dark bump where the two shells connect — upward and towards the ocean in a hole that is at least two inches deep, and then cover the clam with sand. Reburying undersized clams will increase survival and help the population expand. 

While they can be a nuisance if humans don't take certain precautions, coyotes like this one help control rodent populations in California.

Q: I’m interested in hunting coyote but can’t find the regulations on coyote hunting. Can you point me in the right direction?

— Brandon

A: Coyote are listed among the nongame animals that may be taken year-round and in any number, according to the CCR.

Coyote may be taken at any time with a few restrictions. They may only be taken between one-half hour before sunrise and one-half hour after sunset in certain geographic locations, as listed in CCR.

Coyote may be taken in any manner except by poison, use of bait and with certain trap restrictions. Coyote may be taken with the use and aid of electronic calls and with directional lights.

A valid hunting license and non-lead ammunition is required to take coyote. 

Information about hunting nongame animals with traps can be found in the CCR and the FGC.

Q: I was fishing in Turlock Lake and watched two ducks paddle by my line. Before I could do anything, one of the ducks dipped underwater, found my baited hook and tried to take the bait. It hooked itself on accident. I reeled it in, and it took three of us to carefully remove the hook from its bill. I let it go, and it looked fine.

I have a hunting license, my federal and state stamps, and we’re in duck season. Could I have kept the duck?

— Jeremy

A: We’re glad you released the duck. Even though it was an accident, taking a duck by hooking it is not an authorized method of take, and keeping it would have been illegal.

Accidentally catching waterfowl by hook and line happens on occasion, although usually in parks with waterfowl that have developed more domesticated behavior characteristics. If that happens, the person should remove the hook and release the duck immediately.

However, sometimes the duck may take the hook in a manner that makes it too risky for an untrained person to remove without potentially causing further injury. In that case, you may want to notify the nearest wildlife rehabilitation facility. They are more likely to have the proper tools and training to help. 

Email CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov with questions for the CDFW.

Outdoor schedule: Season openings

  • Spring Wild Turkey: Open March 27 to May 2
  • General Trout Season: Opens April 24

NOTE: The statewide ban on lead ammunition went into effect July 1, 2019.

Go to www.wildlife.ca.gov for more information.