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.

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