Category Archives: Religious/Cultural Use

Are Green Lobsters Safe to Eat?

(CDFW photo by Derek Stein)


Question: A buddy of mine got two lobsters in San Diego Bay right before the season closed. While he was cleaning them, he noticed green algae on their shells and then found the meat to be white, looking like it was already cooked. Both lobsters were still alive when detailing them. Have you heard any other stories like this? Would they have still been okay to cook and eat? (Ray C., San Diego)

Answer: When you find a lobster with algae on its shell (exoskeleton) it usually means it hasn’t molted in quite a while. This should be nothing to worry about, though. An animal getting ready to molt pulls salts out of its existing shell and creates a soft exoskeleton underneath that will expand with water and salts once the animal molts. Our best guess is that the old exoskeleton may have been overgrown and what your friend encountered (white, cooked-looking meat) could have been the new exoskeleton just under the old. As long as the animal was acting normally and was still alive before it was cooked, there was likely no problem with the meat.

One test seafood businesses use when cooking whole lobsters is whether they curl. The shell should turn to a darker red color and the tail tends to curl (not tightly, but it’s difficult to lay the animal flat). If there’s no curl, discard the animal.


Trapping opossums?
Question: My city neighbor is now renting a home and has taken it upon himself to trap local opossums and release them elsewhere. He says he is taking them to a county road (Dry Creek) but there is no way to verify this. We have lived in our home for 15 years and so we, along with our neighbors, are concerned. We have lived with the possums and raccoons for a lot of years without issues. This tenant intends to exterminate them. Is there anything we can do? (Tyler)

Answer: “All furbearing and nongame mammals that are legal to trap must be immediately euthanized or released” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 465.5(g)(1)). So it is not legal to transport opossums elsewhere for release. Possums should not be “relocated” from where they were trapped for many reasons, the most important being to prevent the spread of disease, and immediately releasing the opossums would not take care of the “pest” problem that your neighbor probably wants to solve. There are other options that you could inform your neighbor about though. “Keep me Wild” is a campaign that strives to limit conflicts between wild animals and humans. More information about how your neighbor can avoid problems with opossums may be found at the Keep Me Wild website.


Python skins to make leather goods?
Question: I’m a fashion designer located in New Jersey and I am looking to move my business to California. I’ve heard and read things about Python skin being illegal in California. I was looking for more information on this and whether this is 100 percent true? I currently make leather goods, but with exotic skins. (Michael S.)

Answer: Pythons are on the list of animals, or parts or products thereof, that are illegal to import into this state for commercial purposes, to possess with intent to sell, or to sell within the state (see California Penal Code, section 653o.) Prohibited species include: polar bears, leopards, ocelots, tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, sable antelope, wolves (Canis lupus), zebras, whales, cobras, pythons, sea turtles, colobus monkeys, kangaroos, vicunas, sea otters, free-roaming feral horses, dolphins or porpoises (Delphinidae), Spanish lynxes or elephants.


Fishing with kids and friends
Question: I am taking my daughter and a couple of friends and their dads on our boat this weekend. The girls are all under 16. I have a license but do all of the dads need them, too? Or, can I be the only adult angler? (Eric N.)

Answer: As long as the non-licensed adults on the boat do not assist in any way with fishing, they do not need to have a sport fishing license to ride along with you on your fishing trip. “Every person 16 years of age or older who takes any fish, reptile or amphibian for any purpose other than profit shall first obtain a valid license for that purpose and shall have that license on his or her person or in his or her immediate possession or where otherwise specifically required by law or regulation to be kept when engaged in carrying out any activity authorized by the license” (Fish and Game Code, section 7145).

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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.

Religious Live Fish Releases

Channel catfish (Photo by Dennis McKinney, CDOW)

Channel catfish (Photo by Dennis McKinney, CDOW)

Question: I am looking for a place/beach to release live fish. Our religion says it is very good to release a live fish because you save a life and also you learn to be merciful to all of the lives in the world. I live in Orange County, but any places/beaches in Los Angeles or Orange County works for us. We have friends who get permission in Europe to do this. The government allows them to release only certain fish species in specific areas only. (Joo Pheng, Ooi)

Answer: What you are proposing cannot be authorized in California, even for religious purposes. It is illegal to transport live finfish as well as to release live finfish into waters different from where taken.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Marine Aquaculture Coordinator Kirsten Ramey, prayer animal release can pose a serious risk to natural resources and society through the introduction of non-native and/or invasive species. California currently faces a variety of significant and lasting impacts from introductions of non-native and invasive species in both fresh and coastal waters. Just a few of these impacts include reduced diversity and abundance of native plants and animals (due to competition, predation, parasitism, genetic dilution, introduction of pathogens, smother and loss of habitat to invasive species), threats to public health and safety (via parasites and disease) and increased costs to business, agriculture, landowners and government (for invasive pest treatment and clean up).

One of California’s costly introductions was attributed to the aquarium trade, based on DNA evidence. Caulerpa taxifoli, an invasive algae originally from the Mediterranean Sea, has cost California more than $6 million to eradicate.

In terms of ecological impacts, the introduction of invasive species is thought to be second only to habitat loss in contributing to declining native biodiversity throughout the United States. California has been invaded by many aquatic plants and animals which have altered native ecosystems and taken a toll on recreation, commercial fishing and sensitive native species. For these reasons and more, it is unlawful to place, plant or cause to be placed or planted, in any of the waters of this state, any live fish, any fresh or salt water animal, or any aquatic plant, whether taken without or within the state, without first securing the written permission from CDFW (Fish and Game Code, section 6400).

Since releasing fish into public waters is not legal, here are a couple of other options. You could get involved with CDFW’s Trout in the Classroom program in which instructors and their students set up an aquarium in the classroom to raise fish for an eventual field trip to an approved local stream or river where the fish are released.

Another option might be to contact one of the registered aquaculture farms found on CDFW’s Aquaculture website. These businesses raise different species of fish and have private stocking permits allowing them to plant fish in approved private waters within the state. Perhaps one of these businesses will allow you to assist and plant one of the fish they will be stocking. Good luck!


Using black or blue rockfish for lingcod bait?
Question: Can one use black or blue rock fish as bait to catch lingcod? I have seen people do this but I believe you cannot since rockfish are considered to be a game fish. (John C., Roseville)

Answer: Yes, anglers can take black or blue rockfish that they have caught to send back down on a hook to catch lingcod. However, while those two species do not have minimum size limits, any legal rockfish you use as bait count toward your daily bag limit of rockfish.


License required for a nuisance coyote?
Question: Does someone need a hunting license to shoot a nuisance coyote on their property, or near their property, if they are the legal distance away from a residence to discharge a firearm? (Carol S.)

Answer: Coyotes are classified as nongame mammals in the Fish and Game Code (FGC) and if found to be “injuring growing crops or other property” (FGC section 4152), they can be taken on your property without obtaining a hunting license. However, if a coyote is NOT injuring your property, you will need to obtain a hunting license before taking it (FGC section 3007). Before you do anything though, you should first check with your local Sheriff’s department regarding any city, county, municipality laws and regulations that may apply to be sure this will be legal to do in your area.


Fish and game regulation of groundfish
Question: Current fish and game regulations limit the fishing depth for groundfish in Southern California to 60 fathoms or 360 feet. I need to know how far from the shore line this depth limitation is enforced. I saw from another link on your website that the State of California’s fishing jurisdiction only goes out to three miles from shore. (James J.)

Answer: The depth limit is enforced out to 200 nautical miles from shore. Groundfish are jointly managed by the states and federal government, and the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extends from California’s three nautical mile state waters boundary out 200 nautical miles. CDFW is authorized to enforce California laws throughout the EEZ regarding individuals and vessels operating out of California ports. CDFW wildlife officers have also been delegated authority to enforce several federal laws in the EEZ. Also, keep in mind that depth limits may differ depending upon which groundfish management area you are fishing in.

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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.

Learning to Hunt at any Age

Used by permission of Kalkomey Enterprises

You can learn to hunt at any age and the best place to start is with a hunter education course through CDFW (Photo courtesy of Kalkomey Enterprises)

Question: Most hunters that I know learned in their youth. I am an adult male who has never hunted but would like to learn. Are there classes or programs for adult males to learn? If so, can you please give me some information as to how an old guy like me can get started hunting? (Edward H.)

Answer: Yes, and an excellent first step is to take a hunter education course. This course is required to get a hunting license in California and provides good entry level instruction about firearms safety, first aid, wildlife management, etc. For more information and to find an upcoming class in your area, please go to: http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunter-Education.

After you’ve taken the entry level hunter education class, you might consider taking some of the Advanced Hunter Education classes offered by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) throughout the state. These include wild pig seminars, waterfowl seminars, wild turkey seminars, etc. and can be found on the CDFW website at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunter-Education/Advanced.

I also encourage you to check around for local sportsmen’s clubs in your area. Most communities have them and many are associated with a gun range. This would be another location to learn a great deal about firearms and to discuss hunting with experienced people.

And finally, there are lots of books and magazines available that provide many resources about hunting, and the Internet is also full of information that may help (e.g. http://www.nssf.com/hunting/getstarted/). Just remember, you’re never too old to learn how to hunt and there are lots of resources available to help you. Good luck!


When is the best time to go clamming?
Question: When is the best season to enjoy clamming? (Julie S.)

Answer: There really is no best season for clamming. Generally, any really low tide during daytime hours with minimal surf and decent weather is a good time. There are specific seasons for taking of Pismo clams and razor clams in specific areas, so please check the regulations before venturing out for these clams.

The hours of take for clams are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. No instruments capable of taking clams (shovels, hoes, rakes, etc.) may be possessed on the beach during closed hours. It may be safer to go clamming from November through April, as biotoxins may be concentrated in filter-feeding bivalves (such as mussels and clams) from May through October especially. For more information about biotoxins, please visit the California Department of Public Health website at http://www.cdph.ca.gov/healthinfo/environhealth/water/pages/shellfish.aspx.


Collection of antler sheds and winter kill skulls?
Question: Is it legal to keep deer and elk antler sheds? How about deer, elk and big horn sheep skulls from winter kills? I have seen people collecting them but I wasn’t sure if it was ok to do. (Pamela Sue)

Answer: You cannot collect big horn sheep skulls or horns at any time. The other antler sheds may not be removed from wildlife refuges or from public parks and forests. You can pick up deer and elk sheds from public lands and private property you have permission to be on and deer and elk antlers may be legally collected and sold (Fish and Game Code, section 3039). You should avoid picking up anything that is fresh but it is not illegal for someone to pick up bleached antlers. In addition, you can sell sheds that you have found but cannot sell whole antlers or antlers with heads attached (FGC, section 3039(c)).


How can a mobility impaired angler obtain a fishing license?
Question: I am disabled and confined to a wheelchair and am trying to obtain a general sport fishing license. The rules seem to require someone in my position to go to a license sales office, which would be difficult as I live in San Francisco. (Blaine J.)

Answer: You can complete the Free Sport Fishing License Application (which requires a physician’s signature) found online at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing and return the form with a copy of your identification (DMV ID, passport or birth certificate) to any CDFW license sales office listed on the back of the form. The office will then enter your information into the system and mail you back a license. You also may renew your license at any CDFW license agent, CDFW license sales office or online.

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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.

Returning Fish and Wildlife Back to the Wild

CDFW staff releasing waterfowl after health inspection (CDFW photo)

CDFW Waterfowl Biologist Melanie Weaver releasing a male pintail following a routine health examination (CDFW photo)

Question: If I want to release fish and other shellfishes that I got from the local market into California waters, how do I get permission or a permit? Also, what about birds? Do I need a permit? (Stella T.)

Answer: It is not legal to move and plant live finfish in any waters of California. Same goes for birds or mammals, regardless of where they came from. In addition to the fact that to do so is illegal, it is also not a compassionate gesture to relocate fish and wildlife to new waters or habitats where they are not accustomed or to environments they are not familiar with or already adapted to. Most fish and wildlife will probably not survive under these conditions, and you run the risk of spreading parasites and diseases to healthy ecosystems that may then endanger the health and well-being of native fish and wildlife living in their natural environments.

“It is unlawful to place, or cause to be placed or planted, in any of the waters of this State, any live fish, any fresh or salt water animal, or any aquatic plant, whether taken without or within the State without first submitting it for inspection to, and securing the written permission of, the department” (Fish and Game Code, section 6400). The law also states that no person having possession or control over any wild animal under this chapter shall intentionally free, or knowingly permit the escape, or release of such an animal, except in accordance with the regulations of the Fish and Game Commission (FGC, section 2121).

Many of the live fish and shellfish found in the local markets are imported into California from other states or countries under an importer’s permit. Besides being illegal, the release of these exotic species into our state waters could devastate the native species with disease or unnatural competition for food or predation. The same would apply to birds and other wildlife.


Turning deceased animals into taxidermy art?
Question: I have a question in regards to acquiring animal remains. If an animal is a legal species to possess and is found as road kill, or is decomposed to bone by nature, how can one go about obtaining the remains legally to use for taxidermy and art? I know this is a sensitive subject since there is no way to prove one “found” an animal, and ethics come into play. But I’m connected to a lot of groups on Facebook from outside of California that have laws allowing people to obtain animal remains that are not from protected species. These pieces are then used and sold as art.

Before continuing with my endeavors though, I want to make sure I can ethically source remains and legal specimens. Or if I can’t just as a citizen, what permits would I need in order to do so? I find it really hard to believe that state laws in Florida vs. California can differ so vastly. And it’s almost impossible to find reliable information on the Internet, so I figured I’d go straight to the source. (Christina G.)

Answer: First of all, any wild bird or mammal (or part thereof) found in California may not be sold (FGC, section 3039). Animals that have been legally taken under the authority of a hunting or fishing license in this state may be preserved through taxidermy consistent with California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recordkeeping requirements, but they may not be sold or purchased (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 695). Road-killed animals generally may not be possessed, with some exceptions for scientific and educational purposes.


Harvesting sea anemone for food?
Question: While eating sea anemone probably seems strange to most Americans they are eaten throughout the world, most notably in Asian countries. When chopped, tossed with flour and fried (think clam strip), it tastes like a cross between crab and clams. Is it legal to harvest sea anemone for food in California? (Brent A., Fort Bragg)

Answer: Sea anemone may not be harvested in the area between the high tide mark and 1,000 feet seaward and lateral to the low tide mark (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.05). In fact, only the following marine invertebrates may be taken in this area:

“Except where prohibited within state marine reserves, state marine parks, state marine conservation areas, or other special closures only the following may be taken: red abalone, limpets, moon snails, turban snails, chiones, clams, cockles, mussels, rock scallops, native oysters, octopuses, squid, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, sand dollars, sea urchins and worms except that no worms may be taken in any mussel bed, unless taken incidental to the harvesting of mussels” (CCR Title 14, section 29.05(b)(1)).

It would be perfectly legal, however, to take 35 sea anemone outside the 1,000 foot intertidal zone, and sea anemone do live outside that zone. A shore picker would have difficulty doing this though unless it was a zone where the intertidal area is very flat.


Any restrictions on crab bait components?
Question: Are there any restrictions on what you can use for crab bait in non-commercial crab traps? (Al and Karen B.)

Answer: No. As long as the bait sources are legal for you to possess, there are no restrictions on what you may use.

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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.

Releasing Pet Ducks to the Wild?

It is not legal to release pet ducks into the wild (USFWS photo)

Releasing domestic animals to the wild is not only illegal, but most are not prepared to take care of themselves in the wild. Our pets are usually dependent upon humans for food and protection, so when released to the wild to fend for themselves, many will end up starving to death or falling prey to any number of predators. (USFWS photo)

Question: I have some ducks that I would like to find a good home for but I’m not sure where to start. They have been pets and I don’t want to eat them or risk giving them to someone else who will eat them. I’d like to release them into the wild and am hoping you can advise where I can do this. I’m willing to donate them someplace as long as I know they won’t get eaten. (Mike)

Answer: I understand you are seeking a good home for your pets, but releasing domestic animals into the wild is a bad plan and often has disastrous results. Typically, domestic animals depend on humans for food and are ill-equipped to take care of themselves in the wild. When released to the wild, many end up starving to death or falling prey to any number of predators.

If the animals do survive, they often become a nuisance in their new home and may cause damage because they tend to seek out people for food. Domestic animals also compete for resources with wildlife, and in some cases may breed with their wild counterparts which reduces the genetic fitness of wildlife populations. There is also a real possibility of introducing domestic diseases to wildlife that have no immunity. This may cause die-offs, sometimes quite massive ones. In addition to all of this, it is also against the law. Any person who willfully abandons an animal is guilty of a misdemeanor under California Penal Code, section 597s.

You might try posting a notice at a local farm or agricultural store because many of these stores regularly sell domestic ducklings. You could also search for petting zoos or small city zoos to see if they may be interested in giving them a good home. If that doesn’t work out, try advertising on the Internet. You might also check with local schools and ask friends.

Bottom line … you have a number of options to explore in your quest to find a new home for your feathered friends, but releasing them into the wild should not be one of the them.


Selling abalone jewelry
Question: I’ve recently been to a few beaches where I’ve found red abalone shells that have washed up on the shore. I’ve collected a few shell fragments and have made jewelry from them. Friends of mine have shown the items to others and now they want me to make them items as well. My questions is … Is it illegal for me to collect red abalone shells and then make jewelry, then sell them to friends, and so forth? I’ve gotten mixed answers from the Web and have tried to navigate your Website. I have seen no definitive answer. If anyone could respond to this it would be great. (Matt R.)

Answer: You may give the shells away or use them for personal use, but shells collected under the authority of sport fishing license cannot be legally bought, sold, traded or bartered.

People often ask what they can do with their old abalone shells. We get requests for shells from Native American tribes who use them for ceremonial purposes. Shells can be donated directly to a Native American Tribe, or they can be given to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and we will distribute them to Native Americans when we get requests.


Deer decoys
Question: I know that baiting for big game is illegal in California, but what about using deer decoys to attract deer to a certain location when deer hunting? (Matt W.)

Answer: Yes, decoys are legal to use while deer hunting in California. However, decoys that employ any recorded or electrically amplified bird or mammal call or sound is illegal to use for big game.


Transporting smoked/canned fish
Question: We have a vacation house on the North Coast where we spend a lot of time ocean fishing and enjoy smoking and/or canning our fish. How can we legally transport this processed fish back to our home in the valley? (Jim S., Redding)

Answer: As long as you possess only the legal limit and the fish were taken legally, transporting these fish as smoked or canned is not a problem. Regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen, or otherwise preserved, no more than one possession limit may be possessed by any one person (CCR Title 14, section 1.17).

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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.

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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.