California Outdoors for the week of 12/21/2011

Feather Publishing

Tejon Ranch elk

Question: I live in Stallion Springs, a rural community about 15 miles west of Tehachapi, and we have bands of elk that roam in the neighborhood. They move freely between the adjoining huge Tejon Ranch and the neighboring Bear Valley Springs community.

I have been told by a born-and-raised Tehachapi native that the elk escaped in the early 1970s from a high fence operation located in the nearby Cummings Valley.

Are they Rocky Mountain elk or the Roosevelt subspecies? How does the Tejon Ranch conduct hunts for these elk when we never see anything in the hunting regulations about this?

And, since their rutting season usually runs from late October into November in other areas, why do these animals go into the rut from the end of August to the very beginning of October? Furthermore, deer hunt zone D10 is all on private land and that zone is open to draw. Thanks for any light you can shed on these questions.

—Ron A.

Stallion Springs

Answer: In 1966, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) issued a permit for the release of 300 Rocky Mountain elk imported from Yellowstone National Park into a fenced compound on a game farm ranch in southern Kern County. By 1967, 290 elk had been shipped from Yellowstone, but due to the stress of transport and possibly other causes, only 277 survived to be released inside the ranch enclosure. Many elk died within the enclosure from several diseases brought on by stress induced by confinement, as well as a new and different diet. Later that year elk began escaping because of the lack of fence maintenance. It is not known exactly how many animals escaped to the wild (California Fish and Game, 61(4):239-241. 1975).

According to DFG’s elk and pronghorn coordinator, Joe Hobbs, approximately 200 animals currently reside in this area in and around the Tejon Ranch. Elk game farming is no longer allowed in California. The Tejon Ranch runs their elk hunting through the DFG’s Private Lands Management (PLM) program. In exchange for conducting habitat improvement projects on their land that benefit wildlife, landowners can receive special PLM elk tags each year. The numbers and types of tags correspond to the population level of elk and the current conditions on the ranch. Elk in this area may have an earlier rutting season due to the warmer weather in Southern California.


Crabs with black spots

Question: I just bought two crabs and found one with black spots on the outside shell. I’ve seen these before and usually avoid them, but this time the seller sneaked it into my package. When I called him about it, he said he didn’t know what it is, but it doesn’t permeate the shell. This isn’t true — I’ve seen this stuff on the flesh at the joints. It looks like oil. Can you enlighten me? Besides being ugly, is it unsafe?

—Mari V.


Answer: According to our senior fish pathologist Jim Moore, black spots on the shells of crustaceans are typically composed of melanin, which is the end product of a series of immunological reactions. This means the crab was likely responding to some shell damage that could be caused by physical trauma or a disease agent. In this case, the black spotted crab is probably safe if cooked correctly. However, if the discolored shellfish tissue has an unpleasant taste or texture, or looks or smells unusual, we always recommend not eating it.


Concealed weapons

Question: I have a question about carrying a concealed weapon (pistol/revolver) while engaged in hunting/fishing in California without a CCW permit. My understanding of Penal Code 12027 is that if I’m engaged in hunting/fishing, I can carry a loaded concealed weapon, but when en route to and from, I need to unload the firearm but it may be concealed.

—David F.

Lake Almanor

Answer: This is correct. Licensed hunters or fishermen can carry loaded and concealed pistols, revolvers or other firearms capable of being concealed upon their person while engaged in hunting or fishing. When going to or returning from the hunting or fishing expedition, or when transporting those firearms, they must be unloaded (PC, section 12027(g)).


Unwanted shotgun shells

Question: Where can I dispose of old unwanted shotgun shells and rusted bullets?

—Frank G.

Answer: Check with your local police or sheriff's department. DFG has no laws or regulations regarding disposal of unwanted ammunition.


Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. Contact her at

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