California Outdoors Q&A

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  • June 18, 2021
black bear


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.


Q: Earlier this year I read about the salmonellosis outbreak causing songbird deaths in several areas throughout the state. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) asked the public to remove birdfeeders to reduce disease transmission. What’s the status of the outbreak? Can we use our birdfeeders again?

A: The good news is that the salmonellosis outbreak appears to have subsided and it’s probably safe to resume feeding if residents choose to do so. However, CDFW would like residents to continue keeping an eye on feeders because there have been reports of a bacterial infection in house finches. The infection, Avian Mycoplasmosis, causes swollen eyes and an upper respiratory infection. Sick birds may act similar to those infected with salmonellosis. Mycoplasmosis spreads readily at bird feeders, especially tube feeders that require birds to reach their head into the hole to grab seeds. Because of these new reports, CDFW is asking residents to remain vigilant in monitoring feeders and bird baths. If sick or dead birds are seen at the feeders or bird baths, they should be removed for at least three to four weeks. This will hopefully encourage the birds to feed on more natural foods and slow the spread of any infections. Also, it’s generally recommended that bird feeders and bird baths are thoroughly cleaned outdoors at least once a week, and more often if there is heavy use by birds.


Q: If I draw a SHARE program elk tag, does the landowner also charge a fee?

A: No. CDFW’s SHARE program provides public access to land for hunting and fishing. Since it is a public access program, what you’re drawing for is essentially an access permit. Landowners utilizing the program are in contract with CDFW. Therefore, hunters who draw a tag do not pay fees for accessing the land. This fall, SHARE is offering 92 elk tags during 60 hunts on 40 properties, including on five new properties. If drawn for an elk hunt, your expenses would be the tag and a non-refundable application fee. You can apply for a SHARE elk hunt from June 16 through July 24. For detailed information on available hunts visit


Q: I know ferrets are usually illegal to own as pets, but can I get a permit to have one as an emotional support animal?

A: No. Ferrets (Family Mustelidae) are classified as a restricted species in the state of California, pursuant to California Code of Regulations (CCR), title 14, section 671. For this reason, it is unlawful to import, transport or possess ferrets (or any other restricted species) in California, except under a permit issued by CDFW.

Permit conditions and requirements are established in California restricted species regulation (CCR, title 14, section 671.1). There are no provisions in this section that would authorize CDFW to issue a permit for the purpose of importing, transporting or possessing a ferret or other restricted species animals for emotional support purposes. Therefore, ferrets cannot be possessed as emotional support animals in California. For more information about restricted species laws and regulations in California, please visit

Categories: General