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Outdoors Q&A: Are Bobcats Breeding With Feral House Cats?

From retrieving game on private property to hunting sites for the disabled, read on for answers to questions about state regulations on hunting and fishing.

By Carrie Wilson |

Question: About 15 years ago, I read about bobcats mating with feral house cats, producing hybrid offspring. The concern at the time was that too much of it could threaten the bobcat population with extinction as a distinct life form. In a 2006 Science article, studies of DNA showed eight lineages of Felidae. Modern-day cats, Felis cattus, are considered the most recent to split off from the ancestral line. Lynx rufus, the bobcat, is shown as three lineages earlier. Could such distantly related species breed successfully? Are scientists concerned for the future of the species? (Julie V., Gualala)

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Carrie Wilson
Answer: The concept you’re referring to is “outbreeding depression.” Breeding with closely related subspecies can dilute the genotype and cause a loss of the pure characteristics. Behaviors of bobcats are different from feral cats to the degree that they don’t recognize each other as a breeding partner. Because of this, outbreeding depression is not an issue with bobcats.

According to senior wildlife biologist Doug Updike, sometimes it is intentionally done with endangered species to bolster the genetic fitness of endangered species with low genetic heterogeneity. It was done with the Florida panther as its population numbers were on the brink of extinction, and the breeding success was very poor because of genetic-linked anomalies. Breeding them with closely related cougars from Texas caused the detrimental recessive traits to go away and the populations are rebounding.

Bobcats are widely distributed in North America. They are abundant, and they interact with feral cats in only limited locations.

Question: I have two questions. Where can I find the regulations on retrieving game that has moved onto another’s property after being shot? I believe it is legal, but I can’t find the regulations. Secondly, I know there are quite a few types of ducks not listed in the waterfowl regulations (e.g. teal, mergansers, etc.). If a species is not specifically mentioned, does it mean that it can be hunted? (Joe D.)

Answer: There are no regulations that allow you to recover game that ends up on private property. You are expected to retrieve all game you harvest and not to cause wanton waste by failing to recover something you’ve shot, but you must get permission from the landowner to legally enter his or her property. If you’re not able to reach the landowner for permission, you can contact the local game warden or sheriff and request assistance.

The waterfowl regulations apply to all species of geese, ducks and mergansers. Coots have different regulations. As long as the waterfowl species you take doesn’t have more specific regulations than the general bag limits, that nonspecified waterfowl species can be included in your general bag.

Question: I have always enjoyed duck hunting, but now after several orthopedic surgeries on my hips and knees, I have considerable difficulty in walking. In the outdoors, I must use a staff and can go about 100 yards on a level surface before resting. I am not confined to the use of a walker, crutches or a wheelchair; however, in light of my walking disability, am I eligible to apply for a disabled access hunting site? I have a permanent disabled parking card, and I hold a lifetime license. (Vivian N., Marysville)

Answer: Yes, you qualify. The criteria for hunting at the disabled accessible hunting sites require that you have a permanent disabled parking placard and the paperwork from the Department of Motor Vehicles showing that the placard was issued to you. Applications are available on our Web site (click here).

You also might be interested in the special hunts for disabled people conducted through the Department of Fish & Game‘s Game Bird Heritage Program. Click here for information about these hunts.

Question: If I found an abalone shell in Southern California, could I bring it home without fear of getting into trouble with Fish & Game? Yes, it would be a shell without a living ab in it. (Shark dude)

Answer: Yes, even though abalone may no longer be harvested in waters south of the Golden Gate Bridge, empty shells may be picked up and brought home if found cast on the beach or in the water. That is legal. However, game wardens inspecting the empty shells will expect the shells to show some weathering on the otherwise shiny colorful inside portion because of exposure to the salty water and ocean elements. That evidence will show that the shell had been empty and did not contain an abalone at the time of collection.

Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. Her DFG-related question-and-answer column appears weekly at www.dfg.ca.gov/QandA/. She can be reached at [email protected]




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