Saturday, 08 August 2020

California Outdoors: The story of California's lone wolverine

Image of a wolverine caught on a California Department of Fish and Wildlife game camera in 2010. CDFW file photo.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Question: Wolverines are thought to be extinct in California, is that correct? When I was younger my oldest brother and dad told me they spotted a wolverine at our cabin in the Sierra but that was over 10 years ago. I have also heard of sightings from neighbors. Is it possible there are wolverines still thriving in the Sierra? (Ryder)

Answer: Scientists documented a single wolverine in California from 2008 to 2018. That wolverine was first discovered in February 2008 in the Truckee region of the Tahoe National Forest by a student who baited remote camera stations to monitor Pacific marten, another member of the weasel family.

Genetic research indicated the wolverine was male and came from a population in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. Scientists aren't sure how the wolverine got here – but there have been other documented cases of wolverines traveling long distances.

The wolverine was monitored in the Truckee region using remote cameras and through collection of genetic samples. He was last detected in January 2018. We're not sure what happened to the wolverine, but a 10-year-old wolverine in the wild would be considered fairly old, so it's possible he lived out his life.

If your family's cabin was in the Truckee region (north of Highway 80 and west of Highway 89), they may have seen the wolverine that scientists were documenting. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Environmental Scientist Chris Stermer, who helped monitor the wolverine, recalls that several locals reported seeing it at the time.

In the past decade, multiple researchers have been surveying for other high alpine carnivores using baited camera stations. This additional camera work was largely due to the need to monitor the very small population of Sierra Nevada red fox in the Cascades and southern Sierra Nevada. These regions would be prime wolverine habitat, and scientists probably would have discovered a population if they were living there.

"I am fairly confident we will not find a breeding population of wolverines in California, but it is possible an occasional young male wolverine in search of a territory could make its way to California," said Stermer. "Fortunately, there is habitat for them to persist. Unfortunately, females do not travel as far, which limits their ability to mate."

Crayfish snares

Question: Would snares for crayfish similar to small crab snares be legal? Would the rules be the same? (Cal)

Answer: The rules for taking crayfish for sport are outlined in California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 14, section 5.35. For the most part, you can take crayfish any time of year and there's no bag limit. There are restrictions on some bodies of water in Shasta County. These restrictions, outlined in CCR Title 14, section 5.35(d), were enacted to protect the endangered Shasta crayfish.

In bodies of water that aren't restricted, you can take crayfish by hand, hook and line, dip net or with traps not over three feet in length. There are differences between crayfish traps and crab snares which are relevant to your question. A crayfish trap is an elongated wire mesh trap with two open ends.

The crayfish is attracted to the bait and is then trapped by the cone-shaped opening. A crab snare is a loop snare that slips around the crab's leg and tightens when drawn up by the angler. CCR Title 14, section 5.35(d) does not provide for the take of crayfish by snare traps.

To lawfully take crayfish, you would have to catch them by hand, hook and line, dip net or trap less than three feet in length.

The taking of crayfish is legal in waters closed to trout and salmon fishing so long as you are using any of the above methods except hook and line.

How do wild turkey season limits work?

Question: I was hoping you could clear up some confusion regarding California's turkey hunting regulations. The regulations for the fall season state that I'm allowed one bird (either sex) per day and two per season. The regulations for the spring season state that I'm allowed one bearded bird per day and three per season, combined. I interpret this to mean that I can shoot up to two birds during the fall season and up to three during the spring season (which consists of the general, archery only and junior seasons combined) for a total of up to five birds per year. I have heard others interpret it to mean that I can shoot up to two birds in the fall and up to three in the spring but I can only shoot a combined total of up to three birds per year. Any clarification would be appreciated. (Tim)

Answer: Your initial interpretation of the regulations is correct. The fall and spring wild turkey seasons are completely separate seasons – and the season limits for each are treated separately as well. That means you can take up to two birds of either sex in the fall season. And it means you can take a combined total of three bearded birds over the course of the spring season, which includes the general season and the additional youth and archery only opportunities.

The confusion is related to possession limit. Since the seasons are separate seasons, the possession limits are separate too. Remember that you may not take more than one turkey per day during either season.

If you have a question for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . While they cannot answer every question, they will answer a few in each column.

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