Category Archives: Import/Export

Ethics of Shooting Birds on the Water or on the Ground

Wood duck (USFWS photo)

Wood duck (USFWS photo)

Question: Is it lawful to shoot a bird that is on the water, or if I’m field hunting, to shoot a bird that is standing on the ground? I do not consider it sporting, but I was party to a group of hunters that took part in the above actions. Just curious what the official word is on this. (Nick V.)

Answer: It’s not illegal, but it’s certainly not sporting as it violates the Fair Chase Principle. “Fair chase” is the ethical, sportsman-like, lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an unfair advantage over such animals. In addition, it can also be unsafe to shoot birds on the ground or on the water because nearby hunters might be in your line of fire.


Is it legal to keep legal-sized fish caught in hoopnets?
Question: If I catch fish in a hoop net while lobster fishing, are they legal to keep provided they meet any size requirements? I have been throwing them back because I’m not sure it is legal to catch them that way. Someone told me they must be caught on fishing line only. What about sea snails and octopus that are caught in my hoops? Can other line-caught sportfish, such as tuna, be used as bait in lobster hoops? Please advise. (Steve G.)

Answer: You were correct to return fish caught in your hoop nets because hoop nets are not a legal method of take. Finfish may only be caught by hook-and-line except in very specific circumstances listed under “Finfish – Gear Restrictions” in the Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.65).

Taking sea snails and octopus caught incidentally in your lobster hoop net is not allowed (CCR Title 14, section 29.10(a)). Any finfish that is legal to take or possess in California may be used as bait in your lobster hoop net.


If license is forgotten, will a photo copy of license do?
Question: My son and I fish from our private boat almost exclusively and keep our sport fishing licenses aboard so they are always present. On rare occasions we will attempt to fish without the boat, and a few times have forgotten to bring our licenses. To prevent us from mistakenly being without our fishing licenses, can we show a photo copy of our licenses or can the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) issue more than one copy to a sport fisherman? (Murray C.)

Answer: Good questions, but the answers to both are no. You must have a valid fishing license in your possession when fishing or attempting to take fish, and you must present it to a game warden upon request. Additionally, only one license may be issued to a person per year.


Importing buffalo hides and products?
Question: Are there any restrictions on importing buffalo hides or buffalo art productions into California?

Answer: American buffalo (Bison bison) are considered a domestic breed of bovine (like cattle, goats and sheep) and thus no Fish and Wildlife laws regulate them. American buffalo hides are not restricted by CDFW and so they may be imported or possessed as long as they were obtained legally. However, the live importation of other species of true buffalo (e.g. African Cape Buffalo, etc.) or their hides is restricted by law (CCR Title 14, section 671).


Is it legal to catch carp and trout by hand?
Question: I recently read a post from people saying they had caught carp by hand in a lake. Is this legal in California? I have caught trout by hand in streams when I was younger, but wasn’t sure if that was legal either. Can you please clarify? (Nick)

Answer: There are no freshwater finfish species that can be legally taken by hand from any California lake waters within the state (only exception: a few fish species are allowed to be caught by hand during specific times in a few non-lake areas, as per CCR Title 14, sections 1.76 and 2.30.)


Electronics and hunting
Question: Is there any law against mounting a camera to the scope of a rifle to record my hunting experience? (Barry N.)

Answer: No, there is no law against this as long as there is no light emitted from the camera.

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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 CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

How to Keep Hunters from Hunting on Our Property?

Mule deer_Clear Lake_USFWS

Mule deer around Clear Lake (Photo courtesy of USFWS)

Question: Our church owns about 700 acres in the foothills of Northern California. We recently had someone shoot at a 6-point buck, wound it, and screech away off the property. We called the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), who sent out a tracker. They followed the trail of blood but never found the wounded animal.

Meanwhile, we have many deer that reside on our property and we are vegetarians. We do not shoot the deer and they wander freely on the property. You can walk within maybe 20 feet of even these majestic big bucks and they won’t flee. We do not want people shooting the animals on our property.

The Fish and Wildlife person who came out told us it was legal for people to shoot the deer on our property unless we fenced it or posted signs (such as “POSTED NO HUNTING”) all over the property. Is this really true? For one thing, it isn’t even hunting season (with a firearm, which this was), and second, it’s private property and we’ve not given written permission to anyone to hunt on our property.

We also don’t want to post “NO TRESPASSING” signs because we welcome the public to visit our beautiful community with 85 homes and a number of businesses, including a school.

Can you help me understand what the law states, and what we must do to allow the public on our land but disallow hunting (and fishing) on our land? (Church Administrator)

Answer: Hunters do not need permission to hunt on private property unless the land is under cultivation, enclosed by a fence, or posted in accordance with Fish and Game Code, section 2016. This section requires that signs “forbidding trespass or hunting, or both are displayed at intervals not less than three to the mile along all exterior boundaries and at all roads and trails entering those lands,” and “signs may be of any size and wording that will fairly advise persons about to enter…that the use of the land is so restricted.”

If you would like to pursue trespassing charges (under Penal Code 602) against specific people who have entered the property for any reason, including without permission to fish or hunt, you can do so but the prosecutor generally wants the owner to state they will testify and also show that the suspect was already warned at least once.

Another law to be aware of is one that states “It is unlawful … to hunt or to discharge while hunting, any firearm or other deadly weapon within 150 yards of any occupied dwelling house, residence, or other building or any barn or other outbuilding used in conjunction therewith. The 150-yard area is a ‘safety zone’.” (FGC, section 3004).

You may need to take measures to discourage deer from becoming too comfortable on your property around humans because this makes them vulnerable to unscrupulous poachers. To do this, remove as many attractants as possible. If the deer are being fed, this is illegal (California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 251.3 and 251.1). Also, by encouraging more deer to occupy your property than is normal, this may bring in some additional unwanted side elements (e.g. poachers, Lyme’s disease and mountain lions).


Throw nets to capture live bait
Question: I know round nets can be used to catch live bait like anchovies and smelt from piers, but I am not sure if there is a size restriction for the circumference on the net. I couldn’t find that info in the regs book. (Mike I.)

Answer: There is no size restriction on the circumference of a throw net used in ocean waters at this time. However, throw nets may only be used north of Point Conception (Santa Barbara Co.) and may only be used to take herring, Pacific staghorn sculpin, shiner surfperch, surf smelt, topsmelt, anchovies, shrimp and squid (CCR Title 14, section 28.80.)


Bringing mountain lions into California as “personal property”?
Question: A friend of mine told me that because mountain lions are not endangered or federally protected, that California cannot prevent a person who has taken one legally in another state from bringing it into the state as personal property. Is California blowing smoke? Thanks (Ken)

Answer: No, your friend is mistaken. Fish and Game Code section 4800, which was added to the code as an Initiative Measure (Prop. 117) in 1990, designates mountain lions as “specially protected” in California, and prohibits their possession or importation into the state. However, Fish and Game Code section 4800(b)(2) does allow for mountain lion possession if the owner can demonstrate the mountain lion was possessed prior to June 6, 1990.

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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.

Releasing Pet Ducks to the Wild?

It is not legal to release pet ducks into the wild (USFWS photo)

Releasing domestic animals to the wild is not only illegal, but most are not prepared to take care of themselves in the wild. Our pets are usually dependent upon humans for food and protection, so when released to the wild to fend for themselves, many will end up starving to death or falling prey to any number of predators. (USFWS photo)

Question: I have some ducks that I would like to find a good home for but I’m not sure where to start. They have been pets and I don’t want to eat them or risk giving them to someone else who will eat them. I’d like to release them into the wild and am hoping you can advise where I can do this. I’m willing to donate them someplace as long as I know they won’t get eaten. (Mike)

Answer: I understand you are seeking a good home for your pets, but releasing domestic animals into the wild is a bad plan and often has disastrous results. Typically, domestic animals depend on humans for food and are ill-equipped to take care of themselves in the wild. When released to the wild, many end up starving to death or falling prey to any number of predators.

If the animals do survive, they often become a nuisance in their new home and may cause damage because they tend to seek out people for food. Domestic animals also compete for resources with wildlife, and in some cases may breed with their wild counterparts which reduces the genetic fitness of wildlife populations. There is also a real possibility of introducing domestic diseases to wildlife that have no immunity. This may cause die-offs, sometimes quite massive ones. In addition to all of this, it is also against the law. Any person who willfully abandons an animal is guilty of a misdemeanor under California Penal Code, section 597s.

You might try posting a notice at a local farm or agricultural store because many of these stores regularly sell domestic ducklings. You could also search for petting zoos or small city zoos to see if they may be interested in giving them a good home. If that doesn’t work out, try advertising on the Internet. You might also check with local schools and ask friends.

Bottom line … you have a number of options to explore in your quest to find a new home for your feathered friends, but releasing them into the wild should not be one of the them.


Selling abalone jewelry
Question: I’ve recently been to a few beaches where I’ve found red abalone shells that have washed up on the shore. I’ve collected a few shell fragments and have made jewelry from them. Friends of mine have shown the items to others and now they want me to make them items as well. My questions is … Is it illegal for me to collect red abalone shells and then make jewelry, then sell them to friends, and so forth? I’ve gotten mixed answers from the Web and have tried to navigate your Website. I have seen no definitive answer. If anyone could respond to this it would be great. (Matt R.)

Answer: You may give the shells away or use them for personal use, but shells collected under the authority of sport fishing license cannot be legally bought, sold, traded or bartered.

People often ask what they can do with their old abalone shells. We get requests for shells from Native American tribes who use them for ceremonial purposes. Shells can be donated directly to a Native American Tribe, or they can be given to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and we will distribute them to Native Americans when we get requests.


Deer decoys
Question: I know that baiting for big game is illegal in California, but what about using deer decoys to attract deer to a certain location when deer hunting? (Matt W.)

Answer: Yes, decoys are legal to use while deer hunting in California. However, decoys that employ any recorded or electrically amplified bird or mammal call or sound is illegal to use for big game.


Transporting smoked/canned fish
Question: We have a vacation house on the North Coast where we spend a lot of time ocean fishing and enjoy smoking and/or canning our fish. How can we legally transport this processed fish back to our home in the valley? (Jim S., Redding)

Answer: As long as you possess only the legal limit and the fish were taken legally, transporting these fish as smoked or canned is not a problem. Regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen, or otherwise preserved, no more than one possession limit may be possessed by any one person (CCR Title 14, section 1.17).

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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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