California Outdoors for the week of 11/29/2013
Right to search car
Question: I was out fishing at Lake McSwain. A man was there before me but didn’t catch anything. I got lucky and caught two trout right away, then decided to go try out a different spot. I was planning on doing a whole day of fishing and didn’t want the two fishes to spoil, so I gave them to the man that had not caught any.
As I was leaving, a game warden showed up. I told him I caught two but gave them away because I’m heading to a different spot. He wanted to search my car and I let him because I didn’t have anything to hide. After not finding anything, he then told me those two fish count towards my bag limit so I can only catch three more, even if I move to a different spot.
Now my question is, does he really have the right to search my car just like that, and is it correct that I can only catch three more fish after I gave those two away? What happened to the five fish in possession regulation?
Answer: Good question, but the game warden was correct. No more than one daily bag limit may be taken or possessed by any one person (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.17). There is a difference between the bag limit (the number you can take per day) and the possession limit (the maximum number you can have in your possession). Just because you gave two fish away, this did not set the slate back to zero so that you could take five additional fish that day.
As far as the request to search your vehicle, any officer can ask for your consent to inspect a vehicle. Your question indicates you “let him” inspect your car because you had nothing to hide. This was perfectly legal.
Whether an officer has the authority to conduct an inspection when consent is not given depends upon the specific circumstances of the contact. Wildlife officers have extensive inspection authorities that are unique to their jobs. For example, it is a crime to refuse to show an wildlife officer “… all licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians taken or otherwise dealt with under this code, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians” (Fish and Game Code section 2012).
Also, wildlife officers are authorized to inspect all receptacles, except the clothing actually worn by a person at the time of inspection, where birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians may be stored or placed (FGC section 1006).
Challenging the exam
Question: Can I challenge the Hunter Education exam to get my license?
Answer: Yes, many California Department of Fish and Wildlife offices offer a comprehensive equivalency exam, but according to Hunter Education Coordinator Lt. James Kasper, this exam is a difficult examination to pass and the failure rate is high. There is a nonrefundable administrative fee required to take the examination. This fee must be paid prior to taking the test. If you fail the examination, you must take a hunter education class or a home study/online course to become certified. The equivalency exam can only be taken one time.
Warning! Not all states accept the equivalency certificates as proof of hunter education. All states will accept the certificate of completion that is awarded upon completion of a hunter education class or home study/online course.
If you are still interested in taking the equivalency examination, please contact your local CDFW office to see if they offer it. This examination can only be taken by appointment.
Selling animal parts
Question: Can hunters bring mountain goats, brown bears and buffalo into the state (under California Penal Code, section 653(o))? If so, may a California antiques dealer sell animal mounts, skins or rugs from these animals?
Answer: The Fish and Game Code does not prohibit the selling of animals not found in the wild in California as long as the animals were legally acquired and the importation is declared to the Department of Fish and Wildlife (pursuant to FGC section 2353). Antique dealers should be aware of federal laws regulating the importation, possession and sale of some animals. Questions regarding those laws should be directed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They can be reached online at fws.gov.
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. Contact her at Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.