Q: What’s the best time to see wildlife at Elkhorn Slough in Monterey County?
A: There isn’t a bad time to visit the Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve if you want to see wildlife! Year-round, migratory birds from hummingbirds to willets pass through the slough to stop or rest and feed on this California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) property. As part of the Pacific Flyway, tens of thousands of birds migrate through Elkhorn Slough each year. All told, more than 340 species of birds have been identified in and around the slough!
Additionally, there are more than 100 southern sea otters residing at Elkhorn Slough. They are often abundant during the fall. During spring, you can see large groups of California sea lions and hundreds of harbor seals loafing along the shore. Elkhorn Slough also features six miles of hiking trails traversing salt marsh habitats, oak forests, and grasslands.
The key to visiting Elkhorn Slough is choosing how you want to visit and then making plans. Call (831) 728-2822 or go to elkhornslough.org to plan your visit. The reserve is open year-round Wednesday through Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. More information is available on CDFW’s website.
Q: What can the public do to help reduce the spread of avian trichomonosis in band-tailed pigeons?
A: Population numbers for band-tailed pigeons in California are relatively stable. However, we remain active in our conservation efforts—especially considering a novel form of avian trichomonosis that was discovered in 2013. The disease, caused by a flagellated protozoan (e.g. a microbe with a tail), causes abnormal growth in pigeons’ throats which can prevent them from eating and breathing. Avian trichomonosis can be passed from parents to their young during feeding and at water or mineral sites where pigeons congregate. Band-tailed pigeons are especially vulnerable during winter when they congregate at feeders in large flocks.
Residents can help by planting native plant species like coffeeberry, Christmasberry and madrone on their properties. Oak trees are also a good landscape choice because band-tailed pigeons consume a lot of acorns. By planting native species, residents can attract birds and allow for natural foraging with a lower probability of infection. If residents install bird feeders, baths or fountains they should be sanitized often or contain a filtering mechanism.
Read more about band-tailed pigeon conservation efforts on CDFW’s website.
Q: I’m 17 years old and have my hunter education certification and license. Is it legal for me to hunt by myself with a rifle or shotgun, without adult supervision?
A: For the most part, yes, it is legal, except for a few apprentice hunts that CDFW hosts which require an adult chaperone. Pay attention to the hunt details if you are applying to different apprentice hunts, also known as junior hunts. If there are such restrictions, it will be noted in the application information.
We’re happy that you have taken the time and have the interest to pass your hunter education course and take up hunting. Although you are legally permitted to hunt on your own, we encourage you to go out with experienced hunters and soak up everything they have to teach you. There are many skills you need to develop – everything from hunting methods, to game care to cooking techniques. The fastest way to learn is to spend time with others who already have the expertise. And as you progress through your education, gain experience and develop confidence as a hunter, we hope you’ll encourage your friends to do the same. Maybe one day you can be their mentor.
If you have a question you would like to see answered in the California Outdoors Q and A column, email it to CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.