By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
What’s Black, White And (Maybe) Out Of Place In California?
California Outdoors 3-25-20
Two zebras enjoy the sunshine while in a grassy field at Hearst Ranch. Shutterstock Photo

Enlighten me on zebra sighting

Question: I am a South African. I and four others were travelling by car on the 101 north from Santa Barbara, and somewhere just south of the elephant seal sighting point on the coast we were astounded to see a large herd of zebras grazing in a large grassed field. Any information you can give about these zebras would be gratefully received! All five of us would dearly love to know how they got there. I accused my daughter, who was driving at the time, of having taken a wrong road, as I thought we were back in Africa! (James R.)

Answer: Your eyes weren’t deceiving you. There is a herd of about 120 wild zebras living on the coastal range off Highway 1 near Hearst Castle in San Simeon. We have famed publisher William Randolph Hearst to thank for them. At the height of Hearst’s career, he imported a host of exotic animals onto his property – including bears, tigers, monkeys, storks, an elephant and some zebras – to build what was then the world’s largest private zoo. The zoo closed in 1937 due to financial constraints. Many of the animals were sold or donated to other zoos, but some were set free, including non-native elk, barbary sheep, sambar deer and a small population of Himalayan Tahr goats. According to Hearst Ranch staff, zebras were also imported to the property during the 1960s by a Hollywood production company. The production company paid for the zebras to live there so they could access them for use in films and television.

California law does not restrict animals in the taxonomic family Equidae, which includes horses, donkeys and zebras. Because zebras are not on the state’s list of restricted species, they are not regulated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

The zebras – a novelty sighting for many Highway 1 motorists – are not domesticated in any meaningful way. Staff at Hearst Ranch maintain a small herd of cattle on the southern portion of the property, in part to keep the zebras from wandering onto neighboring land. Other than that, the zebras aren’t fed or managed and are considered completely wild and free. According to both staff at the ranch and CDFW employees in the area, the zebras don’t appear to have any negative impact on native wildlife.


Do Native Americans need a fishing or hunting license?

Question: I am a registered member of a Native American tribe in California. Do I still need to purchase a hunting and fishing license? (Aaron)

Answer: You do need a state fishing license to fish outside of tribal lands, but fishing licenses are free for any Native American or lineal descendant who is a California resident and whose total annual income does not exceed $12,490 for the head of the household, plus $4,420 for each additional family member living with them. Certification by the Bureau of Indian Affairs or proof of being on a tribal registry is required and must be verified annually. These licenses must be purchased from a CDFW License Sales Office and are not available online or through license sales agents. Additional report cards and validations must be purchased at the regular price.

There is no equivalent free license for Native American hunters. Tribal members who are hunting within their own reservation generally do not require a state hunting license and are subject to federal and tribal fish and wildlife laws, rather than state laws.


Is beaver hunting legal?

Question: Can I legally take a beaver in California? (Hugo)

Answer: Hunting of beavers is addressed in California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 463. The season is Nov. 1 through March 31 in certain counties (see the regulations for a full list). There is no bag or possession limit in those counties.

CCR Title 14, section 465 specifies the authorized methods of take for beaver, which include firearm, and bow and arrow. Please note that although section 465 indicates that the use of traps is allowed, that regulation has been superseded by AB 273, which prohibits trapping of all furbearing and nongame mammals in California for purposes of recreation or commerce. CDFW is in the process of updating the regulations to remove trapping as an authorized method of take.

Authorized traps (per section 465.5) can still be used to take beaver for depredation purposes.


Fishing in the Carquinez Strait

Question: When fishing in the Carquinez Strait, east of the Carquinez Bridge, either from shore or by boat, are there any limits on lines and hooks per person? (“Rookie Fisherlady”)

Answer: Waters east of the Carquinez Bridge are considered inland. While fishing in inland waters, except as otherwise authorized, fish can only be taken by angling with a closely attended rod and line, or a one-hand line with up to three hooks or three lures with three hooks each, per California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 2.00. Those who possess a two-rod validation can use two lines.


If you have a question you would like to see answered in the California Outdoors Q and A column, email it to