Interfering with Fishing/Hunting vs. Hazing from Private Property

(Photo by Richard Gilliam)

Ken Oda fishing the surf for surf perch in Monterey Bay (Photo by Richard Gilliam)

Question: My girlfriend and I were recently surf fishing on a local beach when some other “fishermen” showed up demanding we leave as it was their fishing spot. Things escalated quickly when one of the anglers cast his line over mine and intentionally cut it. From there the situation degraded with the other party making threats of death and bodily harm. All this over a barred perch fishing spot! The police got involved and the instigator ended up going to jail charged with a felony (for the threats).

I understand there are state laws that forbid individuals or groups from intentionally interfering with the legal hunting efforts of others. I believe these regulations were primarily created in response to anti-hunting groups trying to both intimidate legitimate hunters and scare away game from being accessible. Do these same laws apply to legal fishing?

Are the above-mentioned laws Fish and Game codes or some other California state statute, and are violations of these laws misdemeanors or felonies? I’d like to know if my legal fishing efforts were interfered with and whether I should ask the City Attorney to add any additional charges. (Dan F., Venice, CA)

Answer: You are correct in your understanding of laws regarding interfering with hunting, and these same laws protect any individual engaged in shooting, hunting, fishing, falconry, hunting dog field trials, hunting dog training or trapping where the activity is taking place … even for surf perch!

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Todd Tognazzini, Fish and Game Code, section 2009, is the law you are referring to and it is punishable as an infraction, but escalates to a misdemeanor for a second conviction in a two year period.

The law is a little different than most Fish and Game Code sections in that the wildlife officer has to establish that the offender has specific intent to interfere with the activities listed. In addition, “interfere with” is defined in the law as any action which physically impedes, hinders or obstructs the lawful pursuit of these activities, including but not limited to:

  1. Actions taken for the purpose of frightening away animals from the location where the lawful activity is taking place,
  2. Placing or maintaining signs, gates, locks or barricades that prohibit or deny access to lands without authorization from the landowner or lessee or an authorized designee of the landowner or lessee,
  3. Placing food on lands not belonging to the person for purposes of eliminating the lawful ability to hunt due to the presence of bait.

Wildlife came with the property, so leave them alone
Question: My neighbor has lake front property and regularly chases away (or throws sticks and pine cones at) Canada geese during the nesting season. His intent is to keep them off his dock, but he extends his harassment about one-tenth of a mile up the beach on several others’ private ground and PG&E property. Is this legal? I figure the wildlife came with the property location and should be left alone. Love my neighbor but hate his treatment of our local geese. (Anonymous)

Answer: Your neighbor is within his rights to haze geese from his property. Canada geese are state and federally protected under laws and regulations within the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and California Fish and Game Code. However, within those regulations, non-lethal hazing methods, such as harassment as done by this individual, are allowed to deter Canada geese from privately-owned property where property damage or a nuisance may occur to the landowner.

Resident Canada goose populations have increased considerably since the 1990s in California. In this time, Canada geese have expanded outside their historical nesting range. Due to this increase, conflicts between landowners and resident Canada geese have expanded in many counties in California.

Your neighbor is allowed to scare resident geese away from his property with non-lethal means at any time. CDFW advocates that landowners take proactive non-lethal measures to reduce Canada goose use on impacted private property. Possible suggestions for hazing geese away from properties during the breeding season include landscape modification to make the area less attractive to resident geese (e.g. keep grass short to discourage feeding), use of dogs, visual deterrents, such as scarecrows, predator decoys, mylar flagging and balloons, and fencing. Additionally, waterfowl hunting can be an effective deterrent in problem areas outside the breeding season when state and local regulations allow this activity.

For additional questions regarding how private landowners can best control problem Canada geese, please contact CDFW’s Waterfowl Program staff at (916) 445-0411.

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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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