Tag Archives: photography

Remote-Controlled Electric Aircraft in California Reserves?

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (Photo by Robert Sahara)

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (Photo by Robert Sahara)

Question: I am a conservation advocate and an avid wildlife photographer. Over the last several years, I have been photographing birds and landscape views of Southern California’s wildlife areas. I am interested in expanding this documentation with video, and in particular aerial video taken from a remote-controlled electric helicopter. While I am very aware of the need to not disturb or harass local wildlife, I am wondering if there are regulations that restrict or prohibit the use of RC-aircraft in or around the perimeter of ecological reserves and conservation areas? (Bill K.)

Answer: There is no general prohibition against using radio-controlled “vehicles” in wildlife areas (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 550). However, in ecological reserves, prohibitions against: 1) disturbing any bird, mammal, etc.; 2) operating vehicles; and 3) operating any type of aircraft or hovercraft without permission may apply (CCR Title 14, sections 630(a)(1) & (a)(4) and (a)(17)). There is also a provision that prohibits the use of any motorized, hot-air, or unpowered aircraft or other device capable of flight or any earth orbiting imaging device to locate or assist in locating big game mammals beginning 48 hours before and continuing 48 hours after any big game hunting season in the same area (CCR Title 14, section 251(a)). In addition, a permit could be required if there are concerns your aircraft will “ … herd or drive… or disrupt animal’s normal behavior patterns, which includes, but is not limited to breeding, feeding or sheltering …”

Under federal regulations, this may be illegal if you are using the video for any commercial purpose.  “Under current federal aviation rules, using unmanned aircraft — what commonly are referred to as drones — for commercial purposes is prohibited in the United States.”

Please contact the Regional Manager for the area you intend to visit for information on the application of these laws. For a list of contact numbers available, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/regions/.


Serving abalone at a fund-raiser?
Question: My husband and I are residents of both Humboldt and Sutter counties. We occasionally dive for abalone in Humboldt where we live. If we don’t consume them right away, we freeze them whole in the shell as the local game warden advised us years ago. I also work for a nonprofit hospice in Sutter County and they are having a fundraiser in May at a private house, where many of our staff will prepare appetizers for 100 guests. I want to prepare abalone appetizers from three abalone that we already have tagged and frozen from last season. The event is being professionally catered for the meal and dessert and so they are selling tickets, but no one is paying for or making money from the abalone I want to cook. The abalone is such a minuscule part of the meal. I just want to make sure I am allowed to bring it to an event like this and I was not able to find anything specific about that in the regulations. Please advise. Thank you. (Amy M., RN)

Answer: Sport-taken abalone may not be bought, sold, bartered or traded (Fish and Game Code, section 7121.) If sport-taken abalone are used for a non-profit fundraising dinner, then the cost of attending the dinner must be advertised as a requested donation to the organization putting on the dinner. In your situation, if you are just providing a few abalone for an appetizer, and as long as the dinner is not advertised to contain abalone in order to sell more tickets to the fund-raising dinner, then I think that would be ok. However, you should contact your local game warden where you will be having the dinner to confirm they are in agreement.


Running dogs with GPS for pigs and coons?
Question: Since bear and bobcat hunting with hounds is now banned in the state of California, can we still use GPS collars on hounds for hunting pigs, coons, etc.? (Dean C.)

Answer: You may use dogs to hunt raccoons and pigs, however, the use of GPS collars is prohibited (CCR Title 14, section 265(d)(2)).


Poke poling – need a license?
Question: Do I need a fishing license to poke pole for monkey-faced eels? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, the only exceptions are if you are 15 years old or younger or if you are fishing from a public pier or the most seaward jetty of a public harbor. Otherwise a fishing license is required and all regular fishing regulations apply.

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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.

Lights at night to monitor wildlife behavior and movement?

You never know what you might capture with a trail camera. These porcupines were caught by Adam Miller from Sheffield, PA (Photo courtesy of Cuddeback Digital)

Question:Is it legal to use lights to monitor wildlife if you do not have any guns in your possession? Watching wildlife at night is a very interesting way to educate kids to be on the lookout for and gain an interest in wildlife. I’ve always wondered if using lights to do this would be considered harassment somehow and not be allowed? (Bill T.)

Answer: It is not illegal to shine lights since you won’t have a “method of take” with you, but your activities could alert a game warden who might think you are using the spotlights to poach game at night. Be aware that there are vehicle code laws that prohibit shining a hand-held spotlight from a motor vehicle, and another provision that requires “off road” lights to be covered while traveling on a public roadway or highway.

(Photo by Nathan Borgmeyer of Apex, N.C and courtesy of Cuddeback Digital)

Instead, you might consider using a trail cam like those sold through most outdoor gear stores. These will allow you to capture (via night vision equipment) images or video of wildlife that might be visiting a watering hole or passing through an area where the camera could capture their image. There are some cameras that take photos when a light sensor is tripped and some that take photos at certain time intervals. The trail cams would not bother or harass the wildlife and you’d be able to capture them while they are act ingnormally, doing whatever they are naturally doing at night. You might also be surprised by the different species that will appear that you probably were not expecting!


How much help for a legally blind angler?
Question: I helped my boss, who is legally blind, get a disabled license for fishing. However, due to her disability, she will need help baiting her hook. Can I legally help her without needing a two-pole stamp? (Sandy B.)

Answer: Yes, as long as you are just assisting and not controlling the rod or reeling the fish in for her, you will not need a fishing license or second rod stamp.


When fishing catch-and-release for ocean fish, what’s the limit?
Question: If my friend and I catch and retain our boat limit of salmon, can we continue fishing for them if all are immediately released? (Anonymous)

Answer: No. If you have taken and retained your limit of salmon, or any other limit of fish, you cannot continue fishing with gear and methods that will most likely target those fish. According to California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Lt. Dennis McKiver, if you were to do this, by law you are attempting to take more salmon. “Take” is defined by law to include hunting, pursuing, catching, capturing or killing, or attempting to hunt pursue, catch, capture or kill (Fish and Game Code, section 86 and California Code of Regulations, section 1.80). If you are in possession of a limit of salmon, you may not attempt to catch additional salmon. If you do, you could be subject to a citation if you are targeting salmon while you are in possession of your limit of salmon. In addition, salmon are not good candidates for catch and release fishing because they are highly susceptible to hooking mortality, so it is important to stop salmon fishing when you reach your limit.


Can a non-hunter carry an unloaded shotgun when with other hunters?
Question: While hunting on a game bird club, can a non-licensed, non-hunter carry an unloaded shotgun while walking with other hunters? (Anonymous)

Answer: While it may not technically violate the law for you to carry an unloaded shotgun without a license, by doing this with others who have ammunition and are taking game, it will likely generate many questions by the game warden contacting you in the field. Whether or not you have a hunting license is not an element of “take.” You may argue you are not taking game, but the warden has sufficient evidence to prove you are. Do you really want to put yourself through the hassle of going to court? Leave the firearm behind if you want to go with your buddies while they are taking game.


Legal to bait for coyotes?
Question: Is it legal to use animal carcasses as bait for hunting coyotes? (Wilcox)

Answer: Yes, the carcass of legally acquired wildlife may be used as bait when taking coyotes. It is legal to use feed, bait or other material capable of attracting coyotes and other nongame animals unless you’re hunting these animals with the assistance of hunting dogs (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 475(e)).

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

Can I Use a Camera on my Bow to Film my Hunts?

Archery pro, Keli Van Cleave (Photo by Bill Konway)

Question: I have heard it is illegal in California to use a camera (such as the Roscoby Riser camera) that mounts onto your bow to film your hunts. Is this true? If so, why? (Shane S.)

Answer: Mounting a camera (with no spotlight) onto your bow is legal. It would only be a problem if it was an electronic device with lights to assist in the taking of game (California Fish and Game Code, section 2005).


Abalone and SCUBA diving on the same trip?
Question: We want to go abalone diving and SCUBA diving on the same day. I know we have to free dive for abalone, but we also want to SCUBA dive on the same trip. We live away from the coast but can only do a one-day trip, so which one should we do first? How can we do this without getting in trouble with a game warden who might think that we used the SCUBA for the abalone? (Matthew P.)

Answer: If you’re planning to be out on a boat, just make sure that you don’t have any SCUBA gear present on the boat while diving off of it. If you’re entering and exiting from the shore, be sure to leave your SCUBA gear in your car or in your camp. You could probably do your dives in either order but just be sure that it’s obvious your dives were done separately and that SCUBA assistance was not part of your abalone dive. The law prohibits having SCUBA gear on a boat or floating device when diving for abalone or when abalone are onboard. The law does not prohibit driving home from your dive site with both abalone and SCUBA gear in the same car.


Why can’t fishing licenses extend for 12 months from purchase?
Question: Has the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) ever considered a 12 month fishing license – good for 12 months from the date purchased? If not, is there a reason? Also, has the number of resident fishing licenses grown, stayed the same or declined in the past five years here in California? (Paul R.,San Diego)

Answer:  Sport fishing license sales fluctuate, but generally, have been declining gradually for many years. The DFG maintains a website of license sales statistics at: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/statistics/statistics.html.

According to DFG Sport Fishing Program Analyst Glenn Underwood, we occasionally receive suggestions to change the sport fishing license structure to make licenses valid for one year from the date of purchase. Generally, they come from anglers who do not fish until the summer or fall each year and do not wish to purchase a sport fishing license for the remainder of the year. Making fishing licenses valid for one year from the date of purchase would not reduce the number of licenses an angler has to purchase. If an angler doesn’t fish until July each year, the angler would have to purchase a new license each July, it would expire in June of the following year and the angler would still have to purchase a new license each year in July. There is no real advantage to the angler.

Several factors would have to be dealt with before sales of fishing licenses valid for one year from the purchase date could be implemented. For example, license years and expiration dates for fishing licenses and stamps are set in the Fish and Game Code and would have to be changed.

Several of DFG’s licenses are issued in the form of report cards. Report cards grant the licensee the privilege to pursue a particular species, and help DFG gather valuable data regarding the time spent pursuing the species and the number and location of the species harvested. If DFG switched to a license that’s valid for one year from the date of purchase, report card data would not be from the same time period. Therefore, it would not be very useful.

All of the states bordering California issue licenses that are valid for the calendar year, except Nevada which employs a license year of March 1 through Feb. 28. None offer licenses that are valid for one year from the date of purchase.

DFG offers several short-term fishing licenses for anglers not wishing to purchase an annual Sport Fishing License. Anglers who choose to fish only occasionally may want to purchase a Two-Day Sport Fishing License for $21.86 or a One-Day Sport Fishing License for $14.04.

DFG also provides two Free Fishing Days each year when anglers do not need licenses or stamps to fish, but appropriate report cards are required (e.g. sturgeon, steelhead, abalone, etc) and all other regulations such as size and bag limits must be followed. For 2011, Free Fishing Days will be held on July 2 and Sept. 3. In addition, a fishing license is not required while fishing from a public pier in ocean or bay waters.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.