Category Archives: Regulations

What’s the Level of Wildlife Officers’ Search Authority?

CDFW Wildlife Officers have broad search authority. Hunters and anglers are required by law to exhibit upon demand all licenses, tags, wildlife, fish, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take fish and/or wildlife.

CDFW Wildlife Officers have broad search authority. People are required by law to exhibit upon demand all licenses, tags, wildlife, fish, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take fish and/or wildlife (CDFW photo)

Question: Do California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens have the authority to search a sportsperson’s truck, boat, cooler, etc. without a warrant or probable cause? If so, how would an abalone check point (for example) not be a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment of the constitution? I’m all for stopping poachers, but not at the cost of violating what makes our country so special. Thanks. (John McClellan)

Answer: In the hunting and fishing context, wildlife officers are authorized to conduct compliance inspections that would likely require warrants or probable cause in other contexts. Hunting and fishing are highly regulated activities. The fish and wildlife belong to the people of the state and not to any individual. Many states, including California, recognize this and have enacted statutes to allow Wildlife Officers to conduct regulatory inspections when interacting with those who are engaged in hunting and fishing activities. Some of these include:

• Authorization to inspect boats, buildings other than dwellings, and containers that may contain fish or wildlife (Fish and Game Code, section 1006)

• Authorization to “enter and examine any…place of business where fish or other fishery products are packed, preserved, manufactured, bought or sold, or to board any fishing boat…or vehicle or receptacle containing fish…and may examine any books and records containing any account of fish caught, bought, canned, packed, stored or sold.” (Fish and Game Code, section 7702)

Also, people are required to exhibit upon the demand of a wildlife officer all licenses, tags, wildlife, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take wildlife (Fish and Game Code, section 2012)

The courts have consistently upheld these inspection authorities. As for check points, CDFW has used check points for the past 25 years as a focused and effective means of educating resource users and deterring violations of our wildlife laws. In a state as vast as California with a population of over 38 million people and with a staff of only 400 sworn officers, CDFW needs to ensure that the funds and manpower resources we have are put to the most efficient use possible. Conducting checkpoints allows us to contact thousands of people who are using our public trust resources with a handful of officers. For those who are not using our public trust resources, the check points provide us an opportunity to educate them about our state’s wildlife resources and our role in protecting those resources. The courts have established minimum standards that must be followed when we conduct checkpoints, but just like DUI checkpoints, wildlife checkpoints have been upheld by the courts.


Helping friends fill their deer tags?
Question: If a group of friends go hunting for a week, and one of the hunters tags a buck on the first day, can he continue to carry his loaded rifle with him and help his friends fill their tags? If not, can he only help with spotting and drives without a weapon? (Rod P., Napa)

Answer: Once a hunter takes a deer and fills his tag, he may accompany other hunters but cannot assist them in any way in the take of additional deer. In addition, he should leave his rifle behind. Otherwise, if encountered in the field with a rifle or other method of take, wildlife officers may determine the person assisting the hunters is also actively hunting.


Fishing for rockfish and fishing crab snares simultaneously?
Question: Can a kayak/boat angler use one line to take rockfish and then fish a crab snare with another line? In this case, a hand line tied off to his kayak? (Anonymous)

Answer: The law requires that when fishing for rockfish, only one line with no more than two hooks may be used. However, in this case, an angler may also fish for crabs at the same time with a line that attaches to a crab loop trap because these traps will not likely catch rockfish. If approached by a wildlife officer, the angler should be prepared to explain up front that only one line contains two hooks for rockfish and the other line is attached to a crab loop trap. Remember that crab loop traps are restricted to six loops.


Pelagic red crabs
Question: The pelagic red crabs (tuna crabs) are drifting in with the warm El Niño waters and washing up on beaches everywhere. I’d like to use them for bait. Are there any regulations to be aware of? (Andrew S.)

Answer: The limit is 35 pelagic red crabs per day and 35 in possession. There are no size limits and they may be taken only by hand.

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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.

Must Hunters and Anglers Carry CDL with License?

Hunters and anglers should carry photo identification along with appropriate fishing/hunting licenses to properly identify who they are (CDFW photo by Debra Hamilton).

Hunters and anglers should carry photo identification, along with their appropriate hunting/fishing licenses, to properly identify themselves to wildlife officers when asked. (CDFW photo)

Question: While hunting or fishing, besides carrying the appropriate license(s), do I also need to carry my state driver’s license? I would prefer to leave it in my vehicle, but I also want to be sure I am in compliance with the law if I run into a game warden in the field. So my question is do I need to carry photo I.D. with my license? (Anthony B.)

Answer: You will need to verify that you are the person holding your own fishing or hunting license. Though photo identification is not mandated by law, being able to identify yourself properly is. If you cannot appropriately identify who you are, you may see yourself in an extended contact with the wildlife officer. If you’re getting cited for something, the wildlife officer may have to take you to jail until you can be properly identified. The bottom line is even though the law doesn’t state you must have photo identification in possession, it would benefit you greatly to carry photo identification, so you may properly identify who you are to the wildlife officer.


Family crabbing trip
Question: My family plans to take a trip to San Francisco this July. Is red crab season still open or is it open all year? If it is open, please let me in on some rules and regulations, such as the limit and the size? Where can I find more information about crabbing in San Francisco and ask more questions? (Kao X.)

Answer: Take of rock crab is open year-round. Red/yellow/rock crab are species that may be kept in San Francisco Bay (no Dungeness crab may be kept from the Bay, even during the open season). Rock crab and other non-Dungeness crab have a daily bag and possession limit of 35 crab that must measure at least four inches across (see California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.85(b) on pg. 50 of the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet).

There are a variety of piers where people go crabbing in the San Francisco Bay area. Try reviewing piers on the website www.pierfishing.com. A guide that shows the differences between the crab species is available online at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/dungeness_crab.asp#cancroid.

Be sure to review the above subsection thoroughly for further fishing regulations that pertain to rock crab (bag limit, size limit, etc.). For more information about crab, you can visit our Invertebrate Management Project webpage at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/invertebrate/crabs.asp.


Transporting cleaned and portioned fish
Question: If I take a long road trip with my boat in tow and catch fish over a few days, my concern is that while I will only have legal quantities in possession, the fish will be cleaned, portioned and vacuum sealed before I return home with my boat in tow. I know it’s legal to clean fish after I am at my vacation home, but in this this situation the quantities of yellowtail, yellowfin, white sea bass, etc. would be impossible to determine even though I am within the possession limits. How would a wildlife officer deal with this situation if I was stopped on the roadtrip home with a cooler full of vacuum sealed fish? (Charlie C.)

Answer: Unless the regulations specifically require that a fish be kept whole until being prepared for immediate consumption, such as lobster and abalone, you may clean and store your fish in any condition you want to, once they are brought ashore. In similar situations, people have chosen to package each fish separately, and retain the carcass, so that if stopped by a wildlife officer, they could show the officer the legal-sized carcasses, which would also aid in identifying the species of fish. That still would be more complicated than if you hadn’t chunked up the fish, but it would be better than a bag of nondescript cubes of fish. If the quantity appeared highly excessive, a wildlife officer might use our Wildlife Forensics Laboratory to determine the exact quantity.


AO tags during rifle season?
Question: Can you use an Archery-Only tag during rifle season if you’re still using archery equipment as your method of take? (Eric C.)

Answer: Yes. The Archery-Only (AO) tag allows hunting with archery equipment only during the archery and general seasons in A, B or D zones and Hunt G10 (military only). You may not possess a firearm or crossbow when hunting under the authority of an AO deer tag, except as otherwise provided.

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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.

Bowfishing from a Moving Vehicle?

Bowfishing for carp in Big Bear Lake (Photo courtesy of John Poimiroo)

Bowfishing for carp in Big Bear Lake is one of the methods used by water managers to help control the growing invasive carp population. Big Bear is also a popular lake for bowfishing anglers and carp fishing derbies. (Photo courtesy of John Poimiroo)

Question: I get stopped and questioned by officers fairly often while bowfishing. I have been trying to find out more information about the bowfishing regulations but the freshwater sport fishing guide is unclear to me. Is it legal to bowfish from a moving vehicle, like from the bed of a pickup? Is it legal to bowfish in the California Aqueduct or State Water Project? I was told by an officer that it was not. (Justin F.)

Answer: No arrow or crossbow bolt may be released from a bow or crossbow upon or across any highway, road or other way open to vehicular traffic (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354(e)). In addition, no person may nock or fit the notch in the end of an arrow to a bowstring or crossbow string in a ready-to-fire position while in or on any vehicle (CCR Title 14, section 354(i)).

Regarding where and what you may take while bowfishing, “bow and arrow fishing is permitted only for the taking of carp, goldfish, western sucker, Sacramento blackfish, hardhead, Sacramento pikeminnow and lamprey, all year, except in:

• Designated salmon spawning areas (Fish and Game Code, section 1505).

• The Colorado River District where only carp, tilapia, goldfish and mullet may be taken.

• The east fork of the Walker River between Bridgeport Dam and the Nevada state line where only carp may be taken” (CCR Title 14, section 2.25).

Bullfrogs may also be taken by bowfishing under some conditions (CCR Title 14, section 5.05).


Hunting on an Indian reservation?
Question: The Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) Reservation is in deer zone D12 along the Colorado River. D12 maps show that all of this land is legal to hunt with a California hunting license and deer tags right up to the Colorado River. Can I legally hunt on CRIT Reservation land because it is within California D12, or should I stay away from reservation land? (Anonymous)

Answer: A person who is not a tribal member and wishes to hunt on the CRIT Reservation would have to comply with both California and tribal law, which requires a hunting license issued by the CRIT in addition to a California hunting license and deer tag. You should contact the CRIT’s Fish and Game Department and consult the CRIT Natural Resources Code for further information about hunting on this Reservation. CRIT contact information and the CRIT Natural Resources Code is available at http://www.crit-nsn.gov/.


Rules on drones in Marine Protected Areas?
Question: What are the rules regarding drones? Specifically, are there any regulations regarding flying drones in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)? (Jeanée Natov)

Answer: It is a violation to fly any aircraft, including any airplane or helicopter, less than 1,000 feet above water or land over the Año Nuevo State Reserve, the Farallon Islands Game Refuge, the Point Lobos State Reserve, the California Sea Otter Game Refuge, and Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Barbara and San Nicolas Islands, except for rescue operations, in case of any emergency, or for scientific or filmmaking purposes under a permit issued by the department after a review of potential biological impacts (Fish and Game Code, section 10501.5).

Federal regulators of the FAA and NOAA also restrict the use of drones. Flying motorized aircraft (except valid law enforcement) is prohibited less than 1000 ft. above any of the four zones of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary which are listed in Appendix B (Code of Federal Regulations Title 15, section 922.132(a)(6)). Individuals should consult the MPA- specific regulations in section 632 of Title 14 for special restrictions for individual MPAs. There may be additional regulations prohibiting disturbance of nesting and rafting birds offshore that are covered under federal law.


Firearm for self defense during archery season?
Question: During an archery hunt, can a member of your group who is a licensed hunter, but does not have a deer tag, be in possession of a firearm strictly for self-defense? I will be archery hunting for the first time this year and I plan to travel into the backcountry on foot. A friend who will be coming with me has always had reservations about traveling in bear/mountain lion habitat unarmed due to some unfortunate run-ins in his past. (Kevin K.)

Answer: If it helps put you at greater ease, dangerous encounters by hunters with bears and lions are extraordinarily rare. As long as the person is not hunting with archery equipment, does not have a tag, and is simply accompanying you, then he may carry a firearm. You must be in a location where it is legal to carry a firearm, and your friend cannot assist in the take in any way.

With limited exceptions for active or retired peace officers, archery hunters may not possess a firearm while hunting in the field during any archery season, or while hunting during a general season under the provisions of an archery-only tag (CCR Title 14, section 354(h)).

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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.

Shouldn’t Wildlife Officers Display Badges?

Anglers fishing along the popular Owens River during the Eastern Sierra Trout Opener weekend (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Anglers fishing in the popular Owens River Valley during the Eastern Sierra trout opener weekend (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: During the 2015 Eastern Sierra Trout Opener, I was checked three times by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens for license and barbless hooks. I was in compliance each time. On the three contacts the wardens were wearing jackets and hats that did not have any CDFW insignias or badges on them. On two occasions the wardens stated that they were wardens and I could see radio and gun holsters sticking out from under their jackets. They did not show me any credentials or badge. On the other contact the warden pulled open his jacket collar and showed me his lieutenant bars.

My question is what citizen rights do I have to ask to see a badge or credential during a contact, and what is the policy of CDFW for displaying and showing proper credentials when making a contact, not just telling me he’s a warden? I understand the need to be “undercover” before making a contact, but once the contact is made I think more than just saying you are a warden would be necessary. After the third contact where the warden showed me lieutenant bars, this lack of identification was getting a little old and I believe unprofessional. I had no way of identifying these wardens by name or badge number. (Michael M.)

Answer: You have every right to ask to see their credentials. As I’m sure you know, the Eastern Sierra Trout Opener is a very popular event that draws tens of thousands of anglers to the area during that weekend, and you were fishing in a high contact area, so it’s not unusual that you were contacted by wildlife officers, even multiple times. And because that area is so open and highly visible, and because people are easily seen from a long distance away, wildlife officers often wear a cover shirt over their uniforms and a fishing hat to better blend in and look like another angler so that they can more easily watch everyone without being immediately detected. Our goal is to encourage compliance even when anglers don’t see a wildlife officer in the area.

However, if you were uncomfortable with the contact(s) because you could not be sure the person really was a wildlife officer, by all means, you have the right to ask them, or any peace officer who is contacting you in a law enforcement capacity, for their identification. That is definitely a reasonable request and the wildlife officer should not mind showing you their credentials upon request.

By the way, I spoke to the wildlife officer who likely contacted you (at least one of the times!). He welcomed your comments and wanted me to encourage you to request to see his credentials next time and he will be happy to show them to you.


Rifle silencers for a hunter with substantial hearing loss?
Question: I have substantial hearing loss and my doctor recommended surgery to correct my problem. The issue is that my hearing will be very sensitive to noise afterwards and so shooting a rifle could actually damage it greatly. I am wondering if, when hunting, can an exception be made to allow me to use a silencer on my rifle? (Carlos)

Answer: Unfortunately, the answer is no. It is a felony to possess silencers, except for law enforcement and military purposes (California Penal Code, section 33410). Your best bet is to wear hearing protection while hunting. There are many choices out there and some actually enhance your ability to hear ambient noise while minimizing any loud noises, such as gunshots. Wildlife officers use this type of hearing protection during firearms training.


Ab in a Cab?
Question: I found a sub-legal abalone shell in the stomach of a legally caught cabezon. Is a small abalone shell like this legal to possess? My wife likes it and I want her to know it’s legal to possess. (Ken K.)

Answer: Yes!


How many fishing rods in possession at one time?
Question: How many fishing rods can be in one’s possession? I have a second rod stamp but want to know if I can carry more than two rods with me? Although I may be on foot fishing from the bank, I see anglers on the bass tourney TV shows fishing while still having several rods on their boats. What advice do you have? (Joe P., Red Bluff)

Answer: The number of rods in your possession is not the issue, it is the number of lines that you have in the water fishing at one time. You may have as many rods as you wish in your possession – just make sure to use only the number allowed for the species of fish or for the particular waters that you’re fishing.

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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.

Aggressive Deer Gone Rogue in Local Park

Black-tailed does with young fawns can be very protective of them when they perceive threats (even people with dogs on leashes). When this happens, they may act  quickly and aggressively to drive the threat away (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Black-tailed does with young fawns can be very protective when they perceive threats and may act quickly and aggressively to drive the threat away (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I had a weird thing happen the other day. I was walking with my dog in a local Monterey park when a doe deer came right up to us. My dog ran out after her and the next thing I knew I heard yelping and looked out to see the doe standing over my 60 lb. dog, kicking it repeatedly. This cannot be normal! Typically, the deer run away from my dog when he chases them. There’s something wrong with this deer. Can you please come get this rogue deer so that it does not threaten other people in our neighborhood? (Spooked in Monterey)

Answer: While this situation may seem unusual, there is probably nothing wrong with this doe. You should be aware that this is fawning season and it sounds like this doe may have had a young fawn or fawns nearby that it was trying to protect. For California black-tailed deer, fawning season runs roughly April through July, and during this time the does can be very protective and will do all they can to defend their young against predators. These deer may view domestic dogs as a threat even if the dog is being walked by the owner on a leash or even in the owner’s backyard. This doe may have viewed your dog as a potential predator and instinctively acted quickly and aggressively to drive it away from the area in order to protect her fawn(s) against this perceived threat. Does that have lost their fear of people may also act aggressively toward humans who wander too close to their fawns. This is a temporary situation and aggressions usually subside once the fawns become more mobile.

Does will hide their fawns in locations away from other does while they go out foraging. This ensures that the fawns imprint on their mothers and not on another doe. In urban or suburban areas, these fawning sites may quite often be in public parks or secluded backyards where plenty of plant life creates protective cover. Once the fawns become strong enough to travel and can keep up with their mother, the doe will lead them back to where she lives. In the interim, it is best for you and other dog owners this time of year to give any deer you encounter a wide berth and keep your dogs on a leash.

In addition, allowing your dog to chase big game constitutes harassment and you may be cited for it (California Code of Regulations, sections 251.1 and 265).


Fishermen and firearms on boats?
Question: We do not have a concealed carry permit but while camping we keep a loaded pistol in our camper for personal protection. We would prefer not to leave it in the camper while we are out on the boat fishing. Is it legal to carry an unloaded firearm (pistol) on a boat while fishing in the ocean? If so, does it have to be in plain sight or can it be kept in a glove box on the boat? (Lisa G., Granite Bay)

Answer: California Penal Code, section 25400 provides: A person is guilty of carrying a concealed firearm when the person does any of the following:

  1. Carries concealed within any vehicle that is under the person’s control or direction any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.
  2. Carries concealed upon the person any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.
  3. Causes to be carried concealed within any vehicle in which the person is an occupant any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.

However, the above section does not apply to, or affect, licensed hunters or fishermen carrying pistols, revolvers, or other firearms capable of being concealed upon the person while engaged in hunting or fishing, or transporting those firearms unloaded when going to or returning from the hunting or fishing expedition (California Penal Code, section 25640).

A summary of firearms laws is available online at http://dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/ under Helpful Information on the right margin.


Out-of-state hunter safety cert valid here?
Question: I recently moved to California from Michigan and am wondering if I will be required to take another hunter safety class to be able to hunt here? Also, during archery season, are you able to hunt from a tree stand or an elevated platform? (Noah S.)

Answer: California has no restrictions against using tree stands. And no, you will not need to take another hunter education course as long as you can show proof that you have passed a hunter education class in Michigan or can produce a valid hunting license issued to you within the last two years. If you cannot produce proof of a hunter ed class or a recent hunting license, you will need to complete another course to get your hunting license. Information regarding hunter education courses in your area is available online at www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered/index.aspx.

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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.

When the USDA Checks Wild Waterfowl, is it a Bad Sign for Hunters?

Mallard pairQuestion: On the last day of hunting at Modesto Reservoir we had a lady from the United States Department of Agriculture that swabbed our ducks and geese for parasites, etc. I asked her why she was doing this and she smiled at me. So then I said, “Is it that Foster Farms has been having problems with viruses?” She just smiled again and nodded her head.

I can’t help but wonder what Foster Farms is up to but can bet they are up to no good for hunters. They had problems with their chickens in Livingston and other places so I can’t help but wonder if they are trying to tie this to our waterfowl. I think there is a good story here for somebody who wants to take the time to make the phone calls and dig it out! (Ron W.)

Answer: While this is an interesting question, Ron, there’s no conspiracy going on here against waterfowl hunters. I asked Krysta Rogers, Avian Specialist and Environmental Scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and here’s what she had to say:

“In response to the recent detections of avian influenza in Washington in December 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture and United States Geological Survey, in coordination with state wildlife agencies, initiated active surveillance through swab sampling of hunter-harvested waterfowl in several states, including California. Avian influenza viruses naturally circulate in wild bird populations, primarily in species that are associated with an aquatic habitat. Therefore, monitoring wild waterfowl for avian influenza activity is one of the most efficient surveillance tools for determining what viruses are circulating worldwide. Between 2006 and 2011, CDFW participated in similar surveillance efforts to aid in the detection of avian influenza viruses. As with the previous surveillance, state and federal wildlife agencies do not foresee any impacts to wild waterfowl populations or to hunting.

“Recently, in the western United States, two main viruses have been detected, H5N2 and H5N8. Both viruses have previously been found in other parts of the world. While these viruses are not known to cause significant disease in wild waterfowl, they can cause high mortality in domestic poultry. Surveillance of hunter-harvested waterfowl has resulted in additional detections of these viruses in California, Oregon, Utah and Idaho. The H5N2 virus has been detected in backyard poultry flocks in Washington and Idaho while the H5N8 virus has been detected in a backyard poultry flock in Oregon and a commercial turkey flock in Stanislaus County, California.”


Managing multiple fishing rods on the Sacramento River?
Question: If two anglers are anchored on the Sacramento River bait fishing for sturgeon and both have second rod validations allowing them to fish with four rods collectively, if one person then hooks up, is it legal for the other person to reel in the other three rods while that person is fighting the fish? In other words, is it legal for the person not trying to reel the fish in to clear the other three rods? (Monty R.)

Answer: Yes, provided the anglers are fishing in a location where the second rod validation is operative. Legally, since each fisherman is only authorized to fish with up to two fishing poles, the fisherman trying to bring in the other three poles would have to first secure one of his fishing rods so that it is no longer being used to fish. That would leave two fishing poles to reel in, which would be within the angler’s legal authority to do.


Dead heads
Question: I’ve been up shed hunting and recently have found a couple mountain lion kills. Can I legally take the dead heads? How do I prove it’s a dead head and not a poached deer? (Brice R.)

Answer: You should avoid picking up anything that is fresh but it is not illegal for someone to pick up bleached antlers. In addition, you can sell sheds that you have found but they must have been manufactured into products or handcraft items, or have been cut into blocks or units which are to be handcrafted. You cannot sell whole antlers with heads attached (Fish and Game Code, section 3039(c)).


Selling sea urchin jewelry
Question: Is it legal to use legally harvested/farmed California uni biproducts for jewelry to be sold in retail? I have a local fish market that sells large amounts of the purple urchins they obtain from Catalina Seafood. I obtain the eaten shells and use the spikes for crafts. Is it legal to sell them in California as well as globally? (Alexandra F.)

Answer: Commercially-taken sea urchin spines can be sold in jewelry, but sport-harvested marine resources may not be sold, bartered, traded, etc.

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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.

Although They Sell Deer Chow, Don’t Be Deceived

Even if you find deer chow for sale in your local feed store, it is not legal to use to feed deer or any big game in California. (Photo of a white-tailed deer courtesy of USFWS)

Even if you find deer chow for sale in your local feed store, it is not legal to use to feed deer or any big game in California. (Photo of a white-tailed deer courtesy of USFWS)

Question: I was at my local feed store today and was astounded to find bags of Purina Deer Chow for sale, and another feed for wild pigs. I know it is illegal in California to feed big game animals, including deer, bear, elk, wild pigs and pronghorn. So why is it okay to sell deer food? I asked the proprietor and they said that it was not illegal to sell the food and that their customers wanted the product. Isn’t this a little bit like saying it is okay to sell drugs, even if it is illegal to use them? What is the rationale for allowing the sale of a product when its use is banned? (Roy “Confused in Caspar” Falk)

Answer: Although feeding deer or any big game species is prohibited in California, deer are allowed to be fed in other states. Hunters are even allowed to bait them in some states, probably even with this feed. The deer picture that they show on the package is of a white-tail deer which we don’t have here in California. Feeding deer unnaturally concentrates the animals in a very confined location and increases the potential spread of disease. It also makes them more vulnerable to predation by mountain lions and coyotes who quickly figure out where to find concentrated numbers of deer. CDFW has investigated many cases of deer feeding that inadvertently attracted mountain lions which killed the deer the people were trying to feed.

You’re right to feel confused and I’ve asked the same question. It doesn’t seem right since it sends the wrong message to the customers, but the Fish and Game Code generally doesn’t regulate the products that feed stores and pet stores may carry. Many also sell ferret food, and those animals are illegal to possess in California.


Why do fishing and hunting license fees increase every year?
Question: Why do fishing and hunting license fees and various cards and tags increase in price every year? This concerns my friends and me as we are of the older population of California and are on fixed incomes. Hunting and fishing are some of the only pleasures we have to enjoy in our old age, but it is becoming so costly we won’t be able to afford it if you keep raising prices. (Bill D.)

Answer: California law establishes fishing and hunting license fees each year, not the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The base fee for sport fishing licenses is established in Fish and Game Code, section 7149 and the fees for stamps and most report cards are established in other sections of the Fish and Game Code or California Code of Regulations, Title 14.

According to CDFW License Program Analyst Glenn Underwood, the Fish and Game Code, section 713 requires license fees to be adjusted in response to increases (or decreases) in costs of goods and services using an index called the “Implicit Price Deflator.” This index is a gauge of the change in the cost of goods and services from year to year.

For example, as hatchery, law enforcement and wildlife management costs have increased, license fees needed to increase to keep pace with these rising costs. Essentially, license fees are adjusted to compensate for inflation. If license fees were not adjusted for inflation, then funding for fish and wildlife management and protection would actually decrease because the “buying power” of a dollar has declined over the years.

License fee increases over the past five years have ranged from a low of 1.2 percent in 2013 to a high of 2.8 percent in 2011. The average index over the past five years has been 1.91 percent. For 2014, the cost of goods and services increased by 1.3 percent and 2015 license fees increased accordingly. If the cost of goods and services were to decrease, then license fees would actually decrease the same percentage. However, when is the last time the cost of living actually decreased?

Although fishing and hunting license fees have increased throughout the years, the increase ensures that the CDFW has adequate funding to manage California’s diverse fish and wildlife resources and provide the public with enjoyable fishing and hunting experiences.


Hunting by javelin?
Question: I just tried javelin throwing for the first time and it sparked an idea that I could hunt with this for big game mammals. But I can’t find it specified anywhere in the mammal hunting regulations booklet. Does this mean that since it isn’t mentioned it’s illegal to use to take down an animal? (Brent L.)

Answer: Yes, you are correct. Hunting by spear or javelin is not a legal method of take for big game.

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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.