Why Don’t Wardens Release All Poached Animals?

Game Warden Kyle Kroll with K-9 detection dog, Buck, and the 57 poached abalone that they seized (Photo by Debra Hamilton for CDFW)

Game Warden Kyle Kroll with K-9 detection dog “Buck” and 54 poached abalone that they seized (Photo courtesy of CDFW)

Question: I support the work of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and want to congratulate and say thank you for all your services. However, I was watching an episode of “Wild Justice” recently and something didn’t seem right about the way the game wardens carried out a couple of operations. On the show, game wardens busted a poacher with 42 abalone. The wardens spied on a group and knew they were fishing illegally, so why didn’t they stop them when they came back to the beach? Why did the game wardens allow the group to pull the abalones away from the beach and wait? By the time you guys busted the group, all 42 abalone were dead. My 4-year-old daughter couldn’t understand why you didn’t catch the poachers as soon as they hit the beach so the abalone wouldn’t have had to die. Can you please give me an answer so that I can explain it to her? (Christopher R.)

CDFW K-9 detection dog with a poached abalone she seized (Photo by Debra Hamilton for CDFW)

CDFW K-9 detection dog “Coco” with a seized poached abalone (Photo courtesy of CDFW)

Answer:  Wardens are often faced with the dilemma of when to make contact on a poaching case. According to CDFW Lt. Patrick Foy, there are circumstances where a warden can make an excellent poaching case, contact the perpetrator, and return the live animals to the water/or wild. Those cases usually result in a fine. There are other times, such as the one you reference, where an effort needs to be made to prove that the perpetrator’s actions weren’t just a one time occurrence by a person who wasn’t aware of the law. If a warden can document that the perpetrator’s actions were planned, and intended to make a profit poaching wildlife, it is called commercialization. Commercialization cases are difficult to make, but when a warden makes them, they can lead to life-time revocation of fishing privileges, steep fines, and even jail terms. The wardens in the case you watched made the judgment that the loss of 42 abalone was necessary to permanently take the poachers out of business.


Wolves from another state?
Question: Is it legal to hunt and bring a wolf hide from another state into California? (Stephen H.)

Answer: It is legal to bring a wolf hide legally acquired in another state or province into California. You are required to complete a declaration of entry pursuant to section 2353 of the Fish and Game Code when the hide enters the state.


Fishing for crayfish in a stream closed to other fishing?
Question: Can crayfish be taken from a trout/steelhead stream closed to fishing?

Answer: Yes, taking crayfish by legal methods other than hook and line is allowed in streams closed to fishing. (See California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 5.35(e).)


Vintage Native American jewelry?
Question: I realize buying and selling bear claws is prohibited in California, but is there an exception in the law for vintage Native American jewelry? These old pieces often include bear claws in their designs, which are an important part of their culture. (Neil Z., Burbank)

Answer: No. The purchase or sale of the pieces or parts of any bear is prohibited in California. The law does not provide any exception for bear parts used in Native American art or ceremonial pieces of any age (Fish and Game Code, section 4758).


Maximum number of crab traps allowed?
Question: What is the maximum number of crab traps allowed for recreational fishermen? I see a limit of 10 hoop nets but nothing for traps or pots in the regulations. I’m fishing the Bodega and Tomales areas.

Answer: North of Pt. Arguello (just north of Pt. Conception), a recreational fisherman may use any number of crab traps or pots except when fishing from a public fishing pier, where the limit is two fishing appliances, such as crab traps or pots, per person.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

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