Goldfish ponds can attract bears

September 3, 2013 

Question: I have a question regarding a fish pond at the house we recently purchased in Tahoe. We aren't up there all the time so I was thinking about tossing in a time-release fish feeder but do not want to attract bears. It would basically be the flake stuff in a compressed block form. The four goldfish occupying the pond seem to do fine for long periods without food and even survived for several months before we bought the house. They must have been eating bugs, algae or whatever.

I'd hate for them to have struggled to survive all that time, and then I come along and think I'm doing a good thing by feeding them, and end up attracting bears.

The house is definitely in bear territory and only a block away from forest. The fish are in a pond in the front yard. My question is whether or not a bear is able to smell a time-release Tetramin fish feeder. Is this something to worry about?

Liz C., Lake Tahoe

Answer: Marc Kenyon, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife black bear program coordinator, says bears can smell fish food and are attracted to it. Worse, if they are attracted to the pond by the smell of the feed, then they might decide to snack on your fish in addition to the fish food.

Kenyon recommends feeding your fish with time-release pellets (feeding blocks). He has done this with his aquarium fish while away on vacation or out in the field, and claims it worked well. These pellets are little disks that you toss into the pond, and over time water dissolves the material that holds it together. This process works slowly, and depending on the size of the pellet, it could last for about a month or two. The benefit to this approach is that because they are submerged, they do not put any odor into the air, and thus bears won't be attracted to your pond.


Q: An interesting question came up at the fish cleaning station concerning an actual trip. This was sport fishing, not commercial or commercial passenger. There is one boat that holds three people, including the captain. The scenario is the captain goes out ocean fishing with anglers A and B, and returns with full limits of salmon (6). The captain drops off both people and picks up fisherperson C. Can the boat still fish with two rods under the boat limits rule, or are they limited to one rod as the captain caught his fish earlier in the day? The consensus at the table was he would be at risk of a violation.

David G.

A: No. They can both fish until the last fisherman's bag limit is filled. While the skipper can still only take one bag limit per day, under a boat limit, the skipper is not done until the fishing trip is completed when he returns for the day. Boat limits apply to all species except sturgeon.


Q: Is there a way to follow how many bear and deer tags have been sold? Can you tell me how many have been sold so far this year? Is there a public record or data somewhere?

Norm G.

A: Yes, the deer tag seasons and tag quotas adopted by the Fish and Game Commission are posted online at: www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/deer/tags/index.html. In addition, a daily list of the current available deer tags is posted at: www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/. There is no bear tag quota, but the season is monitored by the number of bears reported taken. Bear season runs through Dec. 29, or until 1,700 bears are reported taken. If 1,700 bears are harvested before Dec. 29, CDFW will immediately close the season early. For daily updates on the number of reported bear harvested, please visit our website at: www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/bear/harvest.html.


Q: I have cottontail rabbits, gophers and rats that are destroying my garden and property. Do I need a license to shoot them on my private property?

Rodger D.

A: Landowners and their tenants are not prohibited from taking cottontail rabbits, gophers or rats that are damaging their crops, gardens or ornamental plants. However, you should check with your local police department or sheriff to determine whether you may discharge a firearm where you live.

Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Contact her at Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

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