Category Archives: Transporting Taken Animals

Did Game Warden Have the Right to Search My Car?

Wildlife officers have extensive inspection authorities. It's a crime to refuse to show any wildlife officer upon request all licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians taken, and any device or apparatus capable of being used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians." (CDFW photo by Debra Hamilton).

Wildlife officers have extensive inspection authorities. It’s a crime to refuse to show any wildlife officer upon request all licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians taken, and any device or apparatus capable of being used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians.” (CDFW photo by Debra Hamilton).

Question: I was out fishing at Lake McSwain. A man was there before me but didn’t catch anything. I got lucky and caught two trout right away, then decided to go try out a different spot. I was planning on doing a whole day of fishing and didn’t want the two fishes to spoil, so I gave them to the man that had not caught any. As I was leaving, a game warden showed up. I told him I caught two but gave them away because I’m heading to a different spot. He wanted to search my car and I let him because I didn’t have anything to hide. After not finding anything, he then told me those two fish count towards my bag limit so I can only catch three more, even if I move to a different spot. Now my question is, does he really have the right to search my car just like that, and is it correct that I can only catch three more fish after I gave those two away? What happened to the five fish in possession regulation? (Anonymous)

Answer: Good question, but the game warden was correct. No more than one daily bag limit may be taken or possessed by any one person (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.17). There is a difference between the bag limit (the number you can take per day) and the possession limit (the maximum number you can have in your possession). Just because you gave two fish away, this did not set the slate back to zero so that you could take five additional fish that day.

As far as the request to search your vehicle, any officer can ask for your consent to inspect a vehicle. Your question indicates you “let him” inspect your car because you had nothing to hide. This was perfectly legal.

Whether an officer has the authority to conduct an inspection when consent is not given depends upon the specific circumstances of the contact. Wildlife officers have extensive inspection authorities that are unique to their jobs. For example, it is a crime to refuse to show an wildlife officer “… all licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians taken or otherwise dealt with under this code, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians” (Fish and Game Code, section 2012). Also, wildlife officers are authorized to inspect all receptacles, except the clothing actually worn by a person at the time of inspection, where birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians may be stored or placed (FGC, section 1006).


Challenging the Hunter Education exam?
Question: Can I challenge the Hunter Education exam to get my license? (Mark L.)

Answer: Yes, many California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) offices offer a comprehensive equivalency exam, but according to Hunter Education Coordinator Lt. James Kasper, this exam is a difficult examination to pass and the failure rate is high. There is a nonrefundable, administrative fee required to take the examination. This fee must be paid prior to taking the test. If you fail the examination, you must take a hunter education class or a home study/on-line course to become certified. The equivalency exam can only be taken one time.

WARNING! Not all states accept the equivalency certificates as proof of hunter education. All states will accept the certificate of completion that is awarded upon completion of a hunter education class or home study/on-line course.

If you are still interested in taking the equivalency examination, please contact your local CDFW office to see if they offer it. This examination can only be taken by appointment.


Antique dealer selling animal parts

Question: Can hunters bring mountain goats, brown bears and buffalo into the state (under California Penal Code, section 653(o))? If so, may a California antiques dealer sell animal mounts, skins or rugs from these animals? (Eric L.)

Answer: The Fish and Game Code does not prohibit the selling of animals not found in the wild in California so long as the animals were legally acquired and the importation is declared to the Department of Fish and Wildlife (pursuant to FGC section, 2353). Antique dealers should be aware of federal laws regulating the importation, possession and sale of some animals. Questions regarding those laws should be directed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They can be reached online at www.fws.gov/.

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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.

Bowfishing for Bullfrogs?

Bullfrogs can be taken by bow and arrow (CDFW Photo by Dave Feliz)

Bullfrogs can be taken by hand, hand-held dip net, hook and line, lights, spears, gigs, grabs, paddles, bow and arrow (including compound bows) or fishing tackle (CDFW Photo by Dave Feliz)

Question: In the regulations it says it’s legal to use bow and arrow to take bullfrogs. Does this mean we are also allowed to take them using compound bows? (J. Riggs)

Answer: Yes, compound bows are a kind of bow, so you can use them to take bullfrogs. Bowfishing for bullfrogs will also require you to have a California sport fishing license.  Amphibians may be taken only by hand, hand-held dip net, or hook and line, except bullfrogs may also be taken by lights, spears, gigs, grabs, paddles, bow and arrow or fishing tackle (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 5.05(e)). Since there are some protected frog species that may coexist with bullfrogs, please be sure you are correctly identifying your frog as a bullfrog, Rana (Lithobates) cataesbeiana, before releasing your arrow!


Taking a deer to a butcher across the state line?
Question: I live in Lake Tahoe on the California side, and hope to tag my first buck this fall. If I have a successful hunt, is it legal to take the buck to our favorite butcher who happens to be just across state line in Incline, Nevada? Or, would I need to find a butcher in California to help process the animal? (Scott Y., Lake Tahoe)

Answer: You will need to check with Nevada Department of Wildlife regarding their importation laws. Each state regulates importation of dead wildlife under its own regulations. California’s Fish and Game laws do not prohibit this, but when you bring the meat back into California, you will need to file a “Declaration for Entry” form. This form and all directions can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/entry-declaration.aspx.  


No deer tag, so what can we hunt?
Question: Half of our group drew tags for our favorite hunting zone and half did not. The unlucky ones will be helping with chores, fishing and hunting coyotes. Can we carry a rifle for coyotes while riding with the hunter with a tag? Many times we’ll drop the deer hunter off and then come back to pick them up, meanwhile calling coyotes to kill the time. Is it legal or would it be best to leave the guns at camp and separate the two activities? Thanks. (Mark)

Answer: This would be legal as long as the coyote hunters are clearly not attempting to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill a deer. If your friends are hunting deer and you are hunting coyotes, it’s best to keep the two practices separate. This is especially true during deer season so the coyote hunters will not be mistaken by others to be deer hunting without a tag. In addition, as coyote hunters, you cannot engage in driving deer for your friends to shoot while in possession of a rifle because this is considered take of deer. Take is defined as to “Hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or the attempt to hunt pursue, catch, capture or kill.” If the coyote hunters are involved in any activity which results in the pursuit of deer, they would be in violation.

Keep in mind that coyote hunting methods are often not compatible with deer hunting, so wardens sometimes encounter hunters claiming to hunt coyotes when in fact they are deer hunting and trying to fill a friend’s tag. This is a significant problem in areas where drawing a tag is difficult, such as the X-1 zone, so the wardens are watching for this.


Fishing in isolated ponds
Question: As our creeks dry up, ponds are formed, with some of them at the road culverts. Is it legal to fish these ponds with a pole, by hand or a dip net? (Jeanne G., Portola)

Answer: In intermittent streams like you describe, what appear to be ponds are actually isolated pools. Although not apparent during the dry season, water may still be flowing, out of sight, under the streambed surface. This is often called “intragravel flow.” Because a creek is still a stream and not actually a pond or lake, the same regulations for the stream will still apply. Fish can only be taken from these waters under the regulations currently applicable for that stream, including seasons, limits, methods of take, etc. To view the current sport fishing regulations for inland waters, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/ or pick up a copy of the booklet wherever fishing licenses are sold.


Are artificial fish scent attractants considered bait?
Question: Are products like artificial, scented fish eggs considered “bait” when it comes to areas where the regulations call for artificials only? My guess is they would be considered bait, but what about just plastic salmon egg imitations with no scent? Or, does scent play into the regulations at all? (Mike S.)

Answer: An artificial lure “… does not include any scented or artificial baits” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.11). This means attractants may not be applied to the lure while fishing in waters restricted for artificial lure use.

In addition, some people spray WD-40 on their lures. This substance contains petroleum and is specifically prohibited by law to be deposited or introduced into the waters of the state (Fish and Game Code, section 5650).

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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.

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.