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Outdoors Q&A: If a Bear and a Kid Meet in the Woods ...

Common sense and adult supervision are wise methods of dealing with children and bears

Q: I have a question about bears and kids. We live on 10 acres where we have a large garden, fruit trees, berry bushes and two horses. We definitely have bears that come around as our fruit trees (and those of our surrounding neighbors) have claw marks on them as evidence. My concern is for my 6-year-old-son who enjoys playing outside. Although I keep an eye on him, there are times when he plays unsupervised.

Carrie Wilson
Carrie Wilson

My question is: If children encounter bears, should they follow the same advice as adults — stand still, face the animal but don’t stare, make noise and try to appear as large as possible? I understand to teach him not to run, but if a bear comes up close he would be so much smaller than the bear and so vulnerable. There is no way he could make himself bigger than the bear or have a loud and deep enough voice to scare it off. Shouldn’t I also teach him to back away slowly and get inside? Is standing there looking at the bear and calling for me the best thing to teach him? I need some advice on how to teach my child exactly what he should do. Thank you. (Kelly, Crescent City)

A: I certainly understand your concern. According to state Department of Fish & Game senior wildlife biologist and bear expert Doug Updike, children should follow the same procedures as those given for adults, which you mentioned. Bears are more attracted to fruit, food and garbage than to people, but the very best situation is that your children not find themselves in a vulnerable or unsupervised position in the event of a surprise visit.

If you have wild animals in your area, you need to closely supervise your children. Mountain lions and coyotes pose a much greater threat than a bear. Still, the likelihood of having your child attacked by a bear, mountain lion or coyote is extremely low as wild animal attacks, while tragic, are not common.

Black bears are generally more interested in fruit, food and garbage than in interacting with humans, but you can never be too careful as the bears may not be reading this.
Black bears are generally more interested in fruit, food and garbage than in interacting with humans, but you can never be too careful as the bears may not be reading this. (Carrie Wilson photo)

Click here for more on living safely with bears, lions and coyotes.

Q: We do a lot of ocean fishing and spear fishing and we have a question: Do anglers or spear fishers have to stop fishing once they reach their bag limit even if they are with another licensed angler or spear fisher without their limit? For example, if I am on my boat rock fishing with a friend and I catch my limit but my licensed friend is having a slow day, can I legally gift him some of my limit and continue fishing? The same with spear fishing? I know in years past I have been on boats where fishing was not stopped until the boat had limits for everyone fishing. This seems like a gray area to me and I just want to make sure I am following legal and ethical methods while diving and fishing. Thank you. (Charlie C.)

A: You can help your friends who are having a slow fishing day only if you are fishing from a boat on the ocean. “Boat limits” are allowed only for ocean anglers fishing for finfish while aboard a boat. This does not apply for divers or for people fishing for invertebrates (e.g. lobsters and crab). Boat limits mean all licensed anglers (and anglers under 16) may keep fishing until enough fish have been caught to fill all the anglers’ collective bag limits. It doesn’t matter who caught the fish as long as nobody is over-limit when they depart the boat. This provision is allowed only in this situation for saltwater anglers fishing with hook and line. It does not extend to divers or to shore fishermen or to people fishing in inland waters (FGC Section 27.60[c]).

Q: If I’m on a trip for a few days and shoot a couple of turkeys but am not going home for a while, what do I need to keep for identification purposes to legally possess and transport them? I plan on dressing the birds and keeping them under refrigeration until getting them home. Also, what is the total possession limit allowed? (John K., Redding)

A: Spring turkeys must have a visible beard, so you will need to retain that part of the skin or carcass that contains the beard. The spring season daily bag limit is one bird per day and three birds per season, thus three birds would also be your possession limit (after the third day of the season.) As long as you are a licensed hunter and are transporting a legal possession limit of your birds only, no special identification or transportation tags are necessary.

— 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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