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California fish and game (Volume 1954-1956) online

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prevalent in the Sacramento \'allev, and here hunter
success fell below the previous year.


There are 19 waterfowl management areas totaling
202,017 acres, located throughout the State. Of these,
10 areas totaling 52,027 acres are state-owned or
leased and nine areas, totaling 149,130 acres, are na-
tional wildlife refuges. Of the nine federal areas, four
are managed for public hunting b\' the department
under commission regulations.

All of these areas provide feed, resting and nesting
for upland game as well as for waterfowl. During the
period of this report waterfowl depredations have
been at an all-time low, evidence that these areas pla\'
a major part in the control of crop damage.

During the biennium the Wildlife Conservation
Board purchased additional land (4,194 acres) for the
e.xpansion of Gray Lodge and also acquired the Men-
dota Waterfowl Management area of 8,536 acres.
.Another 5,523 acres in the Wister area was added to
state property in Imperial \'alle}'.

Waterfowl public shooting was conducted on all
state areas and on those federal areas purchased with
Lea Act funds. A fee of |2 per da\' was charged to
all hunters using the area in order to defray the ex-
pense of operating public shooting.

Pheasant hunting was also conducted on waterfowl
areas. During the 1955 season these areas issued per-
mits to 9,302 hunters who bagged 5,351 birds, for an
average of 0.57 birds per hunter.


The v.aterfowl section gathers information used by
the Fish and Game Commission, the Pacific Flyway
Council and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in
formulating policies and establishing regulations.
There are five main activities of the section which are
financed partially b\' Federal Pittman-Robertson
funds. The\- are listed below.

Winter hivevtory. Inventories of waterfowl are
made annually to determine the numbers of water-
fowl w intering in California, the most important win-
tering area on the Pacific Fhway. Populations are de-
termined through aerial photographs of concentra-
tions and aerial estimates that are made of scattered
flocks. Five airplanes and a U. S. Coast Guard heli-
copter are used to conduct the inventory. Results are
indicative of the numbers of birds that will return to

Harry Sfouffer (left) of Montrose and James Jones of La Canada smile

over limits taken on the department's co-op pheasant bunting area near

Lancaster, Los Angeles County.

(Fish and Game Photo)

the breeding grounds. In January, 1956, over 5,000,000
ducks were tallied, the highest number recorded in
recent years.

Brcedhig Gromids Survey. The major waterfowl
breeding grounds within the State are surveyed each
spring to determine the local production of ducks and
geese. Mallards and Canada geese are the important
species breeding in California. The U. S. Fish and
Wildlife Service uses this information, along with
that obtained from surveys made in other states, Can-
ada and Alaska, to determine the hunting regulations
each year.

In 1954 the survey revealed a total of 339,750 young
and old ducks and 21,070 geese. These figures slipped
to 289,120 ducks and 14,810 geese in 1955.

September hiventory . Each year during mid-Sep-
tember an aerial inventory is made of the central val-
ley. The number of birds and areas where they are
concentrated is determined during the time of crop
depredations. In 1954 the inventory showed 541,000
ducks and in 1955 it showed 724,000.

Waterfowl Kill. Information is gathered annually
concerning the hunting season kill by mail question-
naire, by hunter checks on public shooting areas and
by kill records from representative duck clubs. Total
waterfowl kill, areas where the kill is made, and the
species predominating in the kill is then determined.
In 1954 hunters shot 3,461,600 ducks and in 1955 thev
bagged 3,312,700.

Banding Operatiojis. The waterfowl banding pro-
gram is conducted on a state-wide basis from Tule-
lake to Imperial Valley. Information obtained from
this study is used to determine mortality rates, popu-
lation turnover, and the migration patterns of the
various species. During the past two years 67,496
ducks, 12,038 geese and 6,940 coots were banded. As
an aid to the migration studies some of the geese were


Introduction of a game bird new to California
hunters, the chukar partridge, liberalization of pheasant
hunting regulations, a change in game bird club regu-
lations, and near-record bags of nearly all upland
game species resulted in two banner years for hunters.


During 1955, pheasant hunting regulations were
liberalized, extending the season from 10 to 16 days,
and allowing one hen in the seasonal bag limit.

This liberalization in pheasant hunting regulations
resulted in increasing the total bag of pheasants by
20 to 25 percent.

Indications during the spring of 1955 led to the
conclusion that the regulated take of hens left an ade-
quate breeding stock and predictions for another good
year in 1956 were in prospect.


Hunter Merv McClure brings down a pheasant in the Nafomas district
of Sacramento County.

(Fish and Game Photo)

During the biennium the department's game farms
released 92,584 ringnecked pheasants. These birds
were generally held to maturity and released just
prior to or during the pheasant season, in accordance
with policy. Working in cooperation with the depart-
ment's game farms were sportsmen's pens which
reared and released 62,303 ringnecked pheasants
throughout the State. In addition 4,948 chukar par-
tridges v\ere reared and liberated by the department.

Results of studies of major pheasant management
problems led to legislative changes in the licensed
game bird club program in 1955.

Changes Enacted

Changes included zoning of the State into natural
pheasant habitat areas (Zone A) and nonhabitat areas
(Zone B). Clubs operating in Zone A were under
much the same restrictions as in effect formerly,
whereas clubs operating in Zone B had the benefit of
lesser restrictions.

Fees for "commercial" clubs (open to the public
on a daily fee basis) were increased from |50 to |100
annually. Fees on "private" (open to members only)
clubs were hiked from |50 to $100 for those over
500 acres and from |25 to |75 for those under 500

There was also an increase in the price of depart-
ment meat seals for each bird from 3 cents to 5 cents.
A department inspection fee of 5 cents a bird was
added during the biennium.

The 75-day season in existence throughout the State
remained the same for Zone A, but a six-month season
(September 1st to February 28th) was set for Zone B.

Percentage of liberated birds allowed for each club
in Zone A was reduced from 70 percent to 65 percent,

State Trapper Ed Saytes takes chukar from trap and places it in carrying
box for transplanting to new areas.

(Fish and Game Photo)

with no birds being released prior to August 1st in
Zone A for the current season. Clubs in Zone B were
permitted to take 100 percent of the birds liberated.

For the past two years there has been a steady in-
crease in the use of the department's cooperative
pheasant hunting areas.

In 1954 the department operated 22 cooperative
areas, with a total of 189,885 acres open to hunting,
accommodating 92,237 hunters, who by actual count
bagged 34,480 birds, for an average of 0.37 birds per

Community Areas

During 1955, 18 areas were operated with 161,417
acres open to hunting; 97,158 hunters used the areas,
taking 34,990 birds, for an average of 0.36 birds per

There has been a steady increase over the past two
years in the number and acreage of so-called com-
munity areas. These are operated by members of local
communities on land donated by local landowners.
A dail\- fee or seasonal fee is charged. The net profit
is then turned over to community service projects.

Indications at the end of the biennium were that
expansion of licensed game bird clubs and community
areas would materially reduce the prime pheasant
hunting acreage in the co-op areas for the 1956
hunting season.

(?^ci4a^u "Ptcutted


No. of birds



Peso Creek, Kern County


Callente, Kern County. _


Lower Kern River Canyon, Kern County





Panoche Hills, Fresno County

Griswold Hills, San Benito Co

Mercy Hot Springs, Merced Co.






Weather conditions were near normal in 1954 and
1955, except for the record precipitation in December
of 1955. This was reflected in a quail take slightly
above normal in 1954 and slightly below normal in
1955. The lower take in 1955 probably was a result
of bad weather keeping hunters indoors, and scatter-
ing the birds, rather than a decrease in quail populations.

Wherever habitat development for quail has been
carried on, consisting mostly of guzzler construction
and spring development, they have responded well and
good populations are found in all these areas.

Twenty-one new guzzlers were installed throughout
the State and another six enlarged. Routine mainte-
nance checks were made on another 2,604 guzzlers.

The department located and developed 188 new
springs during the period.

Doves take a morning nip at a quail guzzler.

(Fish and Game Photo by Wally McGregor)

' ^rma ; »«; .a^.iSi 'm


The burglar

sfealing these eggs during a nesting study of Sacramenfo Valley ducks is a spotted skunk, one of a number of predators who annually

take a large toil of eggs.

(Fish and Game Photo by Wm. Anderson)


Chukar partridges, introduced in California in 1928,
became well enough established in some of the arid
regions of the State at the beginning of the biennium
to permit the first open season in the fall of 1954.

Results of hunter questionnaires in 1954 and 1955
revealed approximately 2,100 of the birds were taken
in the first season and almost double that figure (4,000)
in 1955. The birds provide excellent sport to those
hunters hardy enough to pursue them.

The rearing of chukars on game farms has been dis-
continued, as it is far more economical to trap the
necessary birds for brood stock from wild populations.
During the period of this report, 1,369 chukars were
trapped in Inyo County and transplanted in suitable
habitat in Kern, Fresno and San Benito Counties.

A chukar investigation was completed in 1956. This
study was undertaken to determine the areas in which
this recently, introduced game species had become es-
tablished, to obtain information for management, and
to learn whether a hunting season was advisable.

There have been two brief hunting seasons to date
and the 1956 season was set to be the same length as
the quail season in the same areas.

In cooperation with regional management personnel,
1,369 chukars were trapped on the Naval Ordnance
Testing Station land in the Coso and Argus Moun-
tains of Inyo County and transplanted into apparent
chukar habitat where no chukars were known to exist.
Reproduction has been successful at or near all of
these areas.


Doves continued to be a highly rated hunter target
during the biennium, with both 1954 and 1955 pro-
ducing near record bags. The second in importance
among all game birds, doves were topped only by the
combined take of all species of ducks.

In spite of the seemingly heavy pressure, band re-
turns provide a solid indication that hunters are not
the dove's worst enemy. Bands indicate that hunters
take only a token harvest. Department records show
a return by hunters of only 3 percent of the bands
placed on birds, compared to a state-wide average of
18 to 20 percent for waterfowl tags.

The department undertook a study of doves in 1955
to determine the extent of California's dove range,
production and survival of voung, migration and
hunters' bag. This data is important in formulating
management practices on any species.

In 1955 over 1,600 nidurning dove nests were under
observation b\' project personnel. In 1956 a total of
1,030 mourning dove nests was under observation as
the biennium closed.

Dove wing examinations during 1954 and 1955 hunt-
ing seasons showed that, on a state- wide basis, 64 per-
cent of the 3,506 wings checked in 1954 were from
young birds of the year and 62 percent of the 3,858
wings checked in 1955 were from young birds of the

This indicated the State's dove population to be in a
verv healthy condition.


The pigeon take was below normal in 1954 and 1955.
This was due to the distribution of the birds during the
hunting season, rather than any decrease in the pigeon
populations. In 1955 many birds from northern sec-
tions of the flyway did not move into the State until
after the hunting seasons were over.

Information obtained bv trapping indicated that
there was better than normal reproduction in 1955.
Large populations of pigeons were present in agricul-
tural areas from Januar\' through March of 1956, and
pigeon depredation complaints increased during this

A band-tailed pigeon investigation was completed
in 1955. It was undertaken to determine the status of
this game species by obtaining data on reproduction,
range, migration, and hunters' bag, upon which the
recommendations for management could be based.

A total of 26 nests was under observation. It was
found that the nesting season extended from early
February to the middle of October. It was also deter-
mined that in at least one case three nestings in the
same nest, by color-marked adults, were successful
out of four attempts in one year.

Over 2,000 band-tailed pigeons were banded by
project personnel in order to determine the extent and
routes of migration. Pigeons banded in California were
taken from British Columbia to the Mexican border.

Of the 4,660 pigeons banded in the west within the
last 20 years, 313 bands have been returned, 139 of
w hich were from birds banded in California. The find-
ings of the stud>- have been published in part.


During the biennium 1,316 licensed trappers took
199,990 pelts with an estimated value of |244,768 at
the raw fur price.

The 1955-56 trapping season showed a decrease of
28 percent in reported catch. This decrease was at-
tributable to the heaviest rainfall in the history of the
State occurring during the height of the muskrat trap-
ping in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys. The
buyer demand has remained for the short-haired
species, muskrat, mink, otter and beaver.

Oscar Brunef/J, Gome Management Lab Chief, conducts an investigation,

(Fish and Game Photo)


During the biennium, 3,171 coyotes, 1,592 bobcats
and 7,849 lesser predators (skunks, coons, possums,
etc.) for a total of 12,612 were taken by department
predator control men.

The department's policy is to trap predators, when-
ever such trapping will benefit management of game.
As a consequence particular effort is exerted on preda-
tor control on deer faw ning areas, antelope kidding
grounds, waterfowl and upland game nesting areas
and areas where public access to hunting is allowed.

Although there is no direct evidence to support the
contention, the excellent hatch in upland game in the
Marvsville area this year can be attributed in some
measure to the late 1955 floods which wiped out
countless thousands of small predators which might
have pre\ed on eggs or chicks.


During the biennium 344 mountain lions were
bountied, 75 by state lion hunters, 268 by private indi-
viduals. Of this total 183 were taken in 1954 and 160
in 1955. The bounty is |50 per male lion and $60 per
female. There were three department lion hunters
during the biennium.


During the biennium, investigations continued on
wildlife diseases, wildlife food habits and nutritional
requirements so that epidemics might be anticipated
and effective control measures applied, and knowledge
of food habits and nutrition might be effectively used
as management tools.


There were on!>' a few scattered and minor out-
breaks of botulism during the biennium, with losses
of insignificant proportions.



Laboratory and field studies on the disease indicated
the importance of aquatic insect life and the role of
fly larvae in the epidemiology of the disease. It was
found that a single fly maggot could contain enough
botulinus toxin to cause illness in a pheasant, and three
to cause death quickly.

That ducks do consume maggots has been shown
by examination of the gizzard contents of ducks sick
or dead from the disease. A high percentage of shore
birds found infected have fly larvae in their gizzards.
This indicates that the carcasses left in a botulism area
are a factor in the continuation and spread of the dis-
ease. One of the vital procedures followed in botulism
control is the removal of these carcasses from the area.
This is particularly important in outbreaks among
game farm pheasants.

Fowl Cholera

There were three minor outbreaks of fowl cholera
during the biennium. In the delta area, 406 swans by
actual count were victims of the disease. Just outside
Gray Lodge Refuge about 1,000 birds, primarily coot,
succumbed. On the Colusa Federal Wildlife Refuge an-
other 2,000 birds, of which 1,800 were coot and 200
were widgeon, pintail and mallard, were lost.

Control measures consisted principally of removal
of carcasses. It was found that infected gulls, swans
and geese were instrumental in spreading the disease
to other areas because of natural resistance which
enabled them to survive long enough to fly consider-
able distances.

Department personnel could not have created a bet-
ter clinical laboratory test of this than one they ob-
served in the field. As they watched a flight of snow
geese, one set its wings and glided to earth at Honey
Lake, Lassen County. The bird was penned and died
in about four hours. Game laboratory diagnosis tabbed
the cause of death as pasteurellosis— fowl cholera. It
\\ as the first case ever found at Honey Lake, an area
not considered endemic to fowl cholera, indicating the
bird came from an infected area, possibly from the
delta which experienced an outbreak at that time.


The largest outbreak of aspergillosis, a disease in-
volving pneumonia-like symptoms, was discovered
near Woodland where 400 ducks were victims.

The department laboratory traced the outbreak to
a rice hull dump where the ducks had fed on moldy
rice remaining in hulls. The dump owner agreed to
burn his hulls continuously as he dumped them. After
the burning there \\ as no repetition of the disease.


During the biennium outbreaks of trichomoniasis
in doves were investigated in the vicinity of San
Diego, centered in the metropolitan area. Incidence of
infection was as high as 10 percent of the population.
The infection appears in the spring and dies out bv
fall. Prophylactic medication with the drug enheptin
was applied in the late spring of 1956 in dove concen-
tration areas.

Economic Poisons

During the biennium investigations were begun on
the problems of economic poisons on wildlife. These
studies v\'ere mainly field investigations on incidence
of losses. Contact was made with agencies employing
poisons and sprays, and attempts were made to cor-
relate losses with the use of these agricultural sprays
and poisons. With the increased use of these insecti-
cides and poisons, problems continue to arise in re-
gard to their effects on wildlife.

Nutritional Studies

During the biennium comparisons were made of
the relative eflfects of net digestible protein and
digestible carbohydrates and fats and their impor-
tance in deer survival. An expanding program is being
undertaken to study the effects of environment on
deer. These studies include the effects of weather and
climate on the deer and their movements, as well as
the effects of these and other stresses on the well-being
of the herds, and the interrelation of all of these fac-
tors, including nutrition, on the problem of deer losses
during the w inter.

Food Habits of Wildlife

Continuing studies were made of the food habits of
game and predators. This knowledge of the food
preferences of the game species becomes a valuable
management tool in assessing range conditions.

In addition, food habits determinations were made
for the game departments of several western states.
This service has been paid for by these states on a
cost basis.


A gome warden looks over a pori'ion oi the terrain he must patrol.

(Fish and Game Photo)

Continuing efforts of the department to provide
optimum hunting and fishing success for California's
sportsmen have directly affected work performed b>'
members of the WildHfe Protection Branch. Steadily
rising prices for goods and services made it mandatory
that the department critically examine its functions
and strive for greater efficiencv of operation in those
areas where increased economy could be realized.

Harvesting surpluses of wildlife without damaging
breeding stocks is the fundamental concept of \\ise
management upon which the entire program of the
department is based. Basic to this concept is the neces-
sity to safeguard these breeding stocks. To this end
wardens fulfilled their primary function of protecting
fish and game from being taken during closed seasons,
in excess of prescribed bag limits or by means which

afford little or no chance for the species sought to

Despite a steady growth in the number of California
residents, with a proportionate increase in hunting and
fishing license bu\'ers, there was no commensurate ad-
dition of badly needed wardens.

In Jul\-, 1954, the department, cognizant of the need
for a basis upon which to judge the effectiveness of
the Wildlife Protection Branch, as well as to deter-
mine current and future staffing requirements, re-
quested that the Alanagcment Analysis Section of the
Department of Finance conduct an administrative sur-
ve\' of the branch. The survey was completed in late
November, 1954, and a report was transmitted to the
Division of Budgets and Accounts, Department of





Type of violation

Number arrests











Waterfowl _ __

Dove and pigeon

Inland fish - -.-.-.

Ocean shellfish

Commercial fish. . , __ _

Loaded gun in car . _ _

Co-op trespass: - - _..__ .

Angling, no license .

Hunting, no license, . _




'pctieA cutd Settte4€CCA




Jail terms (days) , ,-



Certain key recommendations were included in tlie
report whicii suggested that:

"1. Positions of Fish and Game Warden be budg-
eted on the basis of one such position for each 7,500
angling and hunting licenses sold, this ratio to be exclu-
sive of supervision.

"2. Positions of Patrol Captain be budgeted on the
basis of one such position for each nine warden posi-

"3. The use of warden personnel to staff certain
types of nonenforcement activities be critically re-
viewed by the Department of Fish and Game.

"4. A training program be established for wardens,
both at the time of entering the service and on a
refresher basis.

"5. The Department of Fish and Game develop and
install a method of time and activit\' reporting which
will reflect the time devoted to the major phases of the
enforcement program."

In accordance with these recommendations, the de-
partment asked the 1955 Legislature for an additional
75 wardens and 10 patrol captains. Operating capital
for the positions \\ould have derived from the State's
share of pari-mutual horse racing monev. While agree-
ing that an increase in personnel was justified, the
Legislature considered it unwise to commit monev
from the horse racing fund to other than capital out-
lay items, therefore turned down the request.

Meanwhile, the steady growth of California's hunt-
ing and fishing public had resulted in constanth-

greater demands on the wardens' time. By 1955 each
warden was committed to the recreational pursuits of
10,392 license bu\'crs.

\Nardens Added

A request was made in the 1956-57 Fiscal Year
budget for 25 fish and game wardens and five patrol

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