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Q: I live near a park that is frequented by quail and I love watching them on my morning walks. What plants can I put in my own yard to encourage quail to visit my property?

A: Quail certainly are charismatic birds – we understand why you’d want to see them near your home. California is home to three species of quail: mountain, California and Gambel’s quail. To encourage quail to visit your property, we suggest planting brush species that provide cover and perches, and forb species that provide food. For mountain quail, this would include shrubs like manzanita and buckbrush, and native oak trees. California quail also gravitate toward brittlebush, deerweed, redberry and Pacific blackberry. Gambel’s quail have evolved with the dry dusty desert areas. They like acacia, brittlebush, mesquite, cacti and yucca. All three species of quail prefer seeds in the pea family: lotus, lupine and clover. Filaree and chickweed are other good forb options. Oak trees are a good option because they can provide perches for birds and California quail will eat the oak galls. Finally, consider the species of trees and shrubs that you see quail use on your walks in natural areas. Take time to observe how quail use native vegetation for food and shelter in those areas, and then simulate that in your own yard.

Bait regulations

Q: Is it legal to catch sunfish and use them as live bait for bigger fish? What kind of live bait can you use in freshwater?

A: These are seemingly simple questions, but the answers are a bit complex because they depend on several factors including the California sport fishing district where you will be fishing, the body of water where you plan to fish and the species of live bait you intend to use. The applicable regulations can be found in California Code of Regulations, Title 14, sections 4.10-4.30. You can find these in the California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, which is available for download. On the last page of the booklet there’s a map of the seven California sport fishing districts. Each sport fishing district will have its own additional regulations on what kind of live bait is allowed, along with water-specific, area-specific and bait-specific regulations. There are variables between districts to authorize or prohibit movement of live fish from the location where captured. For example, in the Valley Sport Fishing District, which covers all or parts of 25 counties in the middle part of the state, live or dead fin fish (which includes sunfish) generally cannot be used as bait (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 4.20). However, there are exceptions to the general prohibition and certain waters where live fin fish are lawfully caught can be used for live bait in the waters where they were caught (CCR Title 14, section 4.20(a)-(f)). By contrast, in the Southern Sport Fishing District, which covers all or part of seven Southern California counties, sunfish may never be used as live bait, though some other fish species may be used (CCR Title 14, section 4.10). The bottom line: It’s imperative to check the bait fish use regulations in the sport fishing district where you plan to fish before using any live bait.

Bears

Q: I live in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and a neighbor of mine said she’s seen a grizzly bear in the wild. Is that possible?

A: Black bears are the only wild bears in California. However, they do come in many different colors, from solid black to shades of brown and tan. Some have different patches of color, such as a white blaze on the chest or lighter colored muzzles. Many people will claim to have seen a “brown bear.” Generally, the term “brown bear” refers to Ursus arctos, the grizzly bear. California grizzly bears became extinct by the 1920s and only the one on our state flag remains. There are two subspecies of black bears recognized in California: The northwestern or Olympic black bear (Ursus americana altifrontalis) in the northwest corner of California, and the California black bear (Ursus americana californiensis) throughout the rest of California. They are thought to be geographically distinguished from each other by the crest of the Klamath Mountains. California’s black bear population is robust and has increased over the past 25 years. Since the extinction of the California grizzly, black bears have been able to expand throughout much of the state as they no longer face direct competition from the larger bear species.

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