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California Outdoors 2.19.20
Is a Tape Measure Good Enough?
This gauge shows that a rock crab is undersize. It was immediately returned to the water. CDFW File Photo

Question: I’ve heard folks say you need a crab gauge to measure crab. Would a tape measure be sufficient? (Benson)

Answer: Although not prohibited by law, a tape measure is not recommended. The minimum legal size of crab is five and three-quarters inches for a Dungeness crab measured by the shortest distance through the body from edge of shell to edge of shell directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines), as per California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 14, section 29.85.

There is simply too much room for human error in using a tape measure compared to a crab gauge. For instance, the natural swell in the crab’s body could lead one to believe a crab is of legal size if a tape measure is extended directly over the body when, in fact, the crab is undersized. Crab gauges are inexpensive and readily available at bait and tackle shops in areas where crabbing is popular. There’s no reason to risk a citation by using a tape measure.

And since we’re on the subject, one of the more common violations our wildlife officers encounter in the field is the take of undersized Dungeness crabs by new recreational crabbers who measure their crabs incorrectly. The regulations cited above state the measurement cannot include the lateral spines or points that extend from the crab’s body. Many inexperienced crabbers, however, incorrectly include the spines in measuring their crabs, leading to the illegal take of undersized crabs.


Wild pigs at Grizzly Island?

Question: A couple of years ago, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife started running draw hunts to help depredate destructive wild pigs at Grizzly Island Wildlife Area. I put in last year and didn’t get drawn, but I’m curious as to whether the pigs are still a problem, and whether other opportunities to hunt pigs there might come up in the future. (Alex)

Answer: Yes, Grizzly Island has been sponsoring the annual wild pig hunts since 1998 and will be doing them again in March and April. The origin story of the wild pigs at Joice Island is a bit of a mystery, but they were likely originally escapees from a rancher or brought in by locals for hunting purposes long ago. Neighbors recall the pigs being a nuisance since about the mid-1960s. Today, a couple hundred pigs live in the Suisun Marsh. The pigs can cause damage to habitat through rooting, which can create conditions allowing non-native invasive plants to outcompete with native plants for resources. The pigs could also potentially create erosion problems if the herd were to get too large.

The hunts have proven to be very popular. Passes are issued to 32 hunters, and in total hunters typically take eight to 12 animals per year. While this doesn’t go far toward managing the population (60-70 percent of the population would need to be removed in order to make an impact), it’s still a great opportunity to try hunting for wild pigs.


Aren’t cats detrimental to wildlife?

Question: Many pet animals common in other states, such as ferrets and hedgehogs, are banned here because they pose a risk to native wildlife. Why are domestic cats not on that list as well? Many studies have concluded they are detrimental to local wildlife populations and can quickly breed in large numbers. What is the difference between them and, say, ferrets, that makes one illegal and the other perfectly fine? (Tom)

Answer: California law differentiates between animals that are normally domesticated in the state and those that aren’t. The animals you mentioned – ferrets and hedgehogs – are wild animals that aren’t normally domesticated in California. These animals are sometimes referred to as “exotic.” In CCR Title 14, section 671, ferrets and hedgehogs, along with many other animals, are identified as a detrimental species and placed on the restricted list for the following reasons: 1) their status as exotic wild animals; and 2) the negative impacts they can have on native wildlife, agricultural interests and/or public health.

Among members of the cat family (Felidae), only domestic cats and some hybrids are considered domesticated and distinct from wild cats. All of family Felidae – except domestic cats and some hybrids – are prohibited from importation, transportation or possession in California without a restricted species permit. Domestic cats have been domesticated in California for hundreds of years and are not considered wild or exotic. They do not meet the criteria for a detrimental species under state law.

That’s not to say that domestic animals, such as free-roaming cats, can’t have negative impacts on wildlife and the environment. Local jurisdictions are usually tasked with managing feral cat colony populations. For example, many local government agencies implement or support “trap, neuter and release” programs to address overpopulation, animal welfare and disease concerns. However, neutering feral cats obviously doesn’t prevent them from killing birds, rodents and other wildlife.


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