Category Archives: Photography

Properly Catching and Releasing Fish while Taking Photos?

(CDFW file photo by Roger Bloom, Heritage and Wild Trout Program)

Question: My friends and I are all fly fishermen who promote catch and release fishing rather than taking fish for consumption. Many other fishermen, fishing guides and lodges, as well as most fly fishing magazines also claim to share this philosophy but then publish untold numbers of photos of people holding the fish they’ve caught. Typically these photos reveal the fish being held for quite a few seconds out of water, and clearly their slime barrier is being broken by the clutching hands. I wonder how many fish handled in this way ultimately die from the stress of being caught, held out of water and having their protective coating compromised. While growing up, I was taught if you break the slime barrier, the fish will likely die. Is this true? Moreover, most anglers I know count successful days of fishing as catching (and releasing) as many fish as possible. If you consider the increased probability of a fish dying from being caught and held, multiplied by the number of fish caught, there could be a lot of mortality which goes directly against the point of catch and release. Can you please provide some information on this issue? (David W.)

Answer: While many photo layouts suggest prolonged time out of water, it can obviously vary greatly. According to Senior Environmental Scientist Jeff Weaver, a good rule of thumb is to hold your breath when you lift the fish and get it back into the water before you run out of breath. Wetting hands before handling fish is probably the most effective method to minimize damage to the slime coating. Handling fish with dry hands generally removes at least some areas of this protective barrier, subjecting the fish to increased risk of fungal or other infection (though not necessarily mortality). If extra time is needed to set up the photo or make adjustments to correct for lighting problems, etc. the fish should be retained under water in a net for as much time as possible.

Steelhead (Photo by Ken Oda)

There are four important practices that will help reduce mortality: 1) keep most of the body of the fish in the water while photographing it, particularly the opercula and gills so they remain oxygenated, 2) always hold the fish with wet hands underneath the pectoral fins (near the head) and at the caudal peduncle (narrow part just forward of the caudal or tail fin) to avoid injury to the vital organs in the belly, and 3) assuming you have a fishing partner that will serve as photographer, have them get the camera settings ready and set up the frame of the picture while the fish is retained underwater in a net. Quickly remove the fish from the water for a picture and return it to the net to rest and respirate for some time, then lift it again for another shot (only if necessary to get a good photo), and 4) always recover the fish before releasing it to the point that it can swim of its own accord and remain upright. If necessary, hold the fish with the mouth facing upstream in an area with adequate flow to ensure thorough oxygenation of the gills.


When transporting turkeys home, which parts are required for ID?
Question: What portions of a turkey is a hunter required to retain for identification purposes? I’m not sure that “plucking a turkey in the field but leaving the beard attached” is sufficient to stay legal when transporting. While keeping the beard would certainly help identify, I believe a fully feathered head or wing is the actual requirement. In fact, if a hunter chooses to pluck both wings and leave the “fully feathered head” attached, would that be enough proof for identification purposes? Please advise. (Blake D.)

Answer: Hunters are not required to retain the turkey’s beard. However, “all birds, including migratory game birds, possessed or transported within California must have a fully feathered wing or head attached until placed into a personal abode or commercial preservation facility or when being prepared for immediate consumption” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251.7).

Since the law only authorizes the take of bearded turkeys during the spring season, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommends leaving the beard attached during the spring season (CCR Title 14, section 300).


How to properly preserve and transport Pacific halibut?
Question: I’m planning some trips this year to fish for Pacific Halibut. If we should happen to catch one of any size, what is the legal way to transport a fish if it won’t fit in a cooler? Could it be filleted, and if so, when could that be done? I’m very particular about preserving fresh fish properly as soon as it’s caught. (Ross B.)

Answer: You may not fillet your Pacific Halibut when on your boat or before you land the fish (Fish and Game Code sections 5508-5509). Once ashore, there are no restrictions on filleting your fish into the size and conformity you want.


Video recording crab traps?
Question: Are there any regulations or restrictions regarding using video cameras (GoPros) on crab traps or lobster hoop nets? (Josh F.)

Answer: No, there are no fishing regulations that prohibit use of a video camera while 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.

Can Sport-Caught Fish Be Donated to a Food Bank?

Sport-caught fish can be donated to a food bank or soup kitchen as long as they were legally taken, don’t exceed the angler’s bag limit and as long as the food bank or soup kitchen will accept them. Be sure to check with them first! (CDFG photo)

Sport-caught fish can be donated to a food bank or soup kitchen as long as they were legally taken, don’t exceed the angler’s bag limit and as long as the food bank or soup kitchen will accept them. Be sure to check with them first! (CDFG photo)

Question: We often take folks out fishing while they are visiting the area and staying at hotels, bed-and-breakfasts or campsites. Unfortunately, they are often not able to consume all of the fish that they catch. We understand we are allowed to gift fish to friends and family members (as long as each individual does not possess more than one bag limit per person per day).

Are there restrictions on gifting extra fish to local food banks or soup kitchens as long as the food bank would want and accept them? This is a question from a traveler who is interested in planning a future trip. (Jenny O., Santa Cruz)

Answer: Yes, a person is allowed to donate (gift) any fish taken to a food bank or soup kitchen that does not charge money for the fish as long as the fish were legally taken and the daily bag limit was not exceeded. Since every person is only allowed to take or possess one daily bag limit of fish per day, anglers should individually donate their fish to avoid having someone transport more than a possession limit of fish at any time. Since many food banks and soup kitchens no longer accept donations of meat or fish that is not USDA-certified, you may want to check with them in advance.


Airguns and Upland Game Hunting?
Question: My buddy and I are part of the ever increasing population of airgun hunters. We typically take rabbits and ground squirrels, but would like to use these .22 caliber precharged pneumatics for turkey and other upland game, such as quail and dove. While we believe the regulations cover the turkey hunting explicitly, can you confirm if it is also legal to take dove and quail with these firearms? (Jason C., Windsor)

Answer: Resident small game (as listed in California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 257) may be taken with an air rifle firing pellets and powered by compressed air or gas. This includes: wild turkey (must use at least 0.177 caliber or larger), Eurasian collared doves, quail, non-protected squirrels, jack rabbits and cottontails, in addition to the other resident small game species defined in section 257.

Western mourning dove, white-winged dove and band-tailed pigeons are listed as migratory game birds and may not be taken with an air rifle.


Continue diving for fish after abalone limit reached?
Question: Just a quick question now that abalone season is upon us. I took up spearfishing last season and really enjoy it. I know the regulations state that once you reach your limit on abalone you must immediately stop diving. Does this mean stop diving altogether or just for abalone? I guess the question I am asking is can I continue to dive and spearfish after I get my limit of abalone? (Tom R.)

Answer: It is legal to spearfish after harvesting abalone. Abalone divers may take up to three abalone per day, and no more than three abalone may be possessed at any time. Nothing in the regulations requires you to exit the water after harvesting a limit of abalone. However, individuals “taking abalone shall stop detaching abalone when the limit of three is reached” (CCR Title 14, section 29.15(c)). This section also requires abalone divers to retain all legal-sized abalone they detach until they reach the limit.


Crayfish for bait?
Question: I was wondering if you can use crayfish as bait when fishing for freshwater fish, such as bass? (Jerry Y.)

Answer: Generally, crayfish may be used for bait statewide, with some exceptions (see CCR Title 14, sections 4.00 and 5.35). Even though crayfish are allowed as bait for bass fishing in most areas of California, if the crayfish were not caught and used in the same waters from where taken, many lakes prohibit anglers entering lakes with live bait. This is due to the potential for the introduction of exotic species, such as quagga and zebra mussels. There is no way to certify the bait and water holding the bait are free from these species. If you plan on using crayfish brought into a lake, it is important to check ahead of time with the operator of the lake to see if they allow importation of legally acquired bait.


Underwater camera to find trout?
Question: Is it legal to use an underwater camera to look for trout that may be hiding underneath the creek/river bank? Does it matter if it’s used while engaged in the actual activity of trout fishing or when not in possession of a fishing pole? (Jim B., Elk Grove)

Answer: An electronic viewing device, such as an underwater camera, would be legal but a non-electronic viewing device (such as goggles, scuba mask, etc.), would be prohibited for taking fish (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 2.09). There’s an exception, though, under the provisions of spearfishing (CCR Title 14, section 2.30).

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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.

 

Shotgun for Protection When Fishing?

(USFWS photo)

(USFWS photo)

Question: I would like to know if I can carry my 12-gauge shotgun for protection when I’m fishing from the shore. I have a fishing license and the chamber would be empty. Would it be legal? (Aaron A.)

Answer: In many locations along California’s coastline it would be unlawful to have a firearm with you. There are rules specific to state and national parks, wildlife refuges (Fish and Game Code, section 10500(b)) and marine sanctuaries, as well as local and county laws that would make it unlawful to carry a firearm while fishing along the coastline. In order to answer your question, we would need to know where you intend to carry the shotgun. In addition to the locations above, it is unlawful to carry a loaded gun in a public place in an incorporated city (Penal Code, section 25850), e.g. the entire shoreline of San Francisco. Simply having the live ammunition attached to the firearm in any manner constitutes “loaded” for purposes of this section.


Photography in marine protected areas
Question: It is my understanding that on land, CDFW takes care of things in Marine Protected Areas, and in the water, it is the responsibility of NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries. Can one take pictures within the marine protected areas on land or sea and sell them for commercial purposes or does one need a permit? (Lisa W.)

Answer: MPAs are managed by several different agencies, so the answer will vary depending upon the MPA. If the MPA is part of the state park system, you may be required to obtain a permit for commercial photography from the California Film Commission (CCR Title 14, section 4316.) If the MPA is part of a county park, a permit may be required depending on the county. For example, San Mateo and San Francisco counties both require permits for commercial photography in their county parks.


One pig tag for each feral pig taken?
Question: Am I correct in assuming that, similar to deer tags, one must have one pig tag for each feral pig taken, or does the purchase of one pig tag legally allow for taking multiple feral pigs? I saw your comment on a recent feral pig question where you said there is no daily bag limit on feral pigs, but I am assuming that this would mean one would still have to have multiple tags for multiple feral pigs taken over a given time frame. (W.B.)

Answer: Yes, you are correct. Although there is no daily limit for wild pigs, you must possess a tag prior to pig hunting for each pig you intend to take.


Pistachio farmers shooting ravens on my property?
Question: I live about 50 acres away from a pistachio orchard. The owners of that orchard drive around and shoot at the ravens out of their truck. They park in front of my property and shoot at the ravens. I called the sheriff and he said to call Fish and Wildlife since the farmers have a depredation permit and so it’s out of their hands. The farmers also told the sheriff that they are shooting blanks. Since this has started happening, I have found three dead ravens on my property. One was right next to my horses’ watering trough and the other two were out our back door near our barbecue grill.

The orchard owners can see when we are home or away by our vehicles. We live on 10 acres and our house is in the middle of the property. I feel unsafe and creeped out. I came home today to find the third dead raven. Are they allowed to do this? How can I keep them away from my property? Do I have any rights or does their permit supersede my rights? I’ve been taking pictures of the dead ravens. One is even in my freezer. What is my next step? Is there a season they kill the ravens or do they have free rein to do what they want? I have a child and animals and I’m afraid for their safety. (Cindy P.)

Answer: The first place to start is to contact your local wildlife officer to report this. If you don’t have their direct number, contact your local CDFW office. A list can be found on our website at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/regions. The wildlife officers should be able to look up the conditions of the owners’ permits and make sure they are acting within the parameters allowed by the permit. At a minimum, it is illegal to shoot within 150 yards of any occupied dwelling without the permission of the occupant. There is no open hunting season for ravens.

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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.

What Information Can Be Collected from Banded Birds?

USFWS Bird Bands (Credit: Matt Ewalt, Creative Commons)

USFWS Bird Bands (Credit: Matt Ewalt, Creative Commons)

Question: While hunting ducks a few months ago at my hunt club, my son shot a double banded wood duck. It had the normal metal band on one leg and on the other leg it had a pink plastic band with the number 9 on it. The club next to us raises wood ducks and we were wondering if it may have come from there? How can I best describe to my kids why some ducks are banded? (Mike O.)

Answer: Bird banding is one of the most useful tools in the modern study of wild birds. Banding birds with uniquely numbered leg rings is meant to reference where and when each bird is banded, its age, sex, and any other information the bander thinks crucial to report to scientists. Information from bands subsequently found and reported provides data on the range, distribution and migration habits, their relative numbers, annual production, life span, and causes of death of countless species of birds. Having this information increases scientists’ ability to understand bird habitat and behavior and assists them in their management and conservation efforts (source: USFWS website).

As far as the bands you found, it depends on what kind of metal band the bird had. If the band was issued from the USFWS, then you can go to their website www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl and easily find out where it came from. If it is not a USFWS issued band, that likely means an organization may be providing nesting habitat via wood duck nest boxes, and then banding them as part of a federally-permitted study. Between the two bands, hopefully you can track some information down.


Animal cruelty
Question: My daughter and I were going to the store on Saturday when we noticed a possum that had just crossed the road and was near the gutter on the other side of the road. The car in front of us veered to the other side of the road and ran over the possum on purpose!! I have been told that possums are a protected animal. Who do I contact to report this? I was shocked and very angry that someone would do this on purpose! I have pictures of the car, the license plate and of the possum. I would appreciate any help in this matter. There is no excuse for this kind of cruelty. (Kathi V., Orange County)

Answer: Although opossums are not native to California, they are classified as nongame animals pursuant to Fish and Game Code section 4150, and they may not be taken in the manner you have described (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 472). However, these kinds of violations can be difficult to prove and prosecute because the drivers will likely claim it was unintentional and that they were distracted and swerving because of other issues inside the car such as a coffee spill, dropped cell phone, etc. The driver might also claim he was attempting to avoid the animal but the animal got confused and ran back in the direction the car was veering, which does happen sometimes. Despite these possible scenarios however, what you described could be investigated as an illegal method of take. Hopefully, this was something you will not come across again. But if you do, you can call the 24-hour CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or report by text message via “tip411 (numerically, 847411).


What are the rules for mounting trail cameras?
Question: What are the rules or requirements regarding putting a trail camera in a public park? We’re trying to find a friend’s lost dog and have gotten tips that she’s in a local public park. No one can ever find her during the day though so we want to put up a trail camera at night to try to confirm if she is there. If it makes any difference, one of the parks where we think she might be is next to an elementary school. I just want to know if it’s legal, and if so, if there’s anything special that needs to be done to put up the trail camera. (Kevin H.)

Answer: This is not under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). This decision will need to be made by the manager or the agency that manages the park as to whether they have any policies that permit or disallow this practice.


Fishing access to the California Aqueduct?
Question: I see many videos on YouTube regarding fishing along the California Aqueduct. As a main water supply line for California, I would think most areas would restrict access. Is there any information I can look up to find where the access areas are? I think most areas on the videos are in Southern California. I am looking for access to the California aqueduct around Central California. (Daniel S.)

Answer: There are many fishing access points along the aqueduct, and many have signs posted as well. To find some of these places, please check out our online fishing guide at www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/guide or our mobile fishing guide at www.dfg.ca.gov/mobile.

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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.

Can Anglers and Divers Help Fill Another’s Bag Limits?

Divers cannot help one another to fill their bag limits. Only anglers fishing from boats on the ocean can help others fill their limits (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Divers cannot help other divers fill their bag limits. Only ocean anglers fishing from boats can keep fishing until all anglers aboard have limits (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: We do a lot of ocean fishing and spear fishing and have a question: Does an angler or spear fisher have to stop fishing once they reach their bag limit even if they are with another licensed angler or spearfisher without their limit? For example, if I am on my boat fishing for rockfish with a friend and I catch my limit but my licensed friend is having a slow day, can I legally gift him some of my limit and continue fishing? The same with spearfishing. I know in years past I have been on boats where fishing was not stopped until the boat had limits for everyone fishing. This seems like a gray area to me and I just want to make sure I am following legal and ethical methods while diving and fishing. Thank you. (Charlie C.)

Answer: You can help your friends who are having a slow fishing day only if you are fishing from a boat on the ocean. “Boat limits” are allowed only for ocean anglers fishing for finfish while aboard a boat. This does not apply for divers or for people fishing for invertebrates (e.g. lobsters and crab) or for anglers fishing in freshwater lakes and streams. Boat limits mean that all licensed anglers (and anglers under 16) may keep fishing until enough fish have been caught to fill all the anglers’ collective bag limits. It doesn’t matter who caught the fish as long as nobody is over-limit when they depart the boat. This provision is allowed only in this situation for saltwater anglers fishing with hook and line. It does not extend to divers or to shore fishermen or to people fishing in inland waters (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 27.60[c]).


GPS collars for training hunting dogs?
Question: I am training hunting dogs for raccoon and pig hunting and need to buy new tracking collars that I can also hunt with. I’ve always used these old radio frequency collars but want to replace them with some good global positioning system (GPS) collars. One of my hunting buddies says he thinks these GPS collars are going to be illegal to hunt with though. Is that true? (Bart H., Merced)

Answer: Yes, it’s true. GPS collars and collars with treeing switches are prohibited when using dogs for the pursuit/take of mammals (CCR Title 14, section 265(d)). GPS retrieval collars employ electronics that utilize satellite transmissions. Collars with treeing switches utilize a mercury switch mechanism that changes the collars’ signal transmission when the dog raises its head toward a treed animal.


How is the high tide line within MPAs determined and enforced?
Question: In MPA zone mapping, who and how determines what is the “mean high tide” boundary? How is this enforceable to determine if you are in the MPA zone or not? (Anonymous)

Answer: The shoreline shown on nautical charts represents the line of contact between the land and water at a selected vertical datum. In areas affected by tidal fluctuations, this is usually the mean high-water line. In confined coastal waters of diminished tidal influence, a mean water level line may be used. The shoreline of interior waters (rivers, lakes) is usually a line representing a specified elevation above a selected datum. A shoreline is symbolized by a heavy line.


Throw nets to catch baitfish in private lakes?
Question: Can I use a throw net to catch baitfish (threadfin shad) in a private lake? I am assuming that since it is a private lake, it should be fine, right? (Daniel B.)

Answer: California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fishing regulations generally do not apply in any water that is self-contained without any hydrological connection to state waters, or to any fish that are planted by the owner or person in control of the property. In these waters fishing methods are not governed by CDFW regulations. However, it would be a violation of the law to transport fish alive from the water where they were taken (CCR Title 14, section 1.63).


Can I mount a camera to my rifle scope to record my hunt?
Question: Is there any law against mounting a camera to the scope of a rifle to record my hunting experience? (Anonymous)

Answer: No, there is no law against this as long as there is no light emitted from the camera.

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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.