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A pair of elk stand in the wild. Photo courtesy of CDFW

Beware of transportation of hunting harvest across state borders

Question: I’m going elk hunting in Colorado. If I get a nice bull, can I transport the head back into California?

— Anonymous

Answer: If you do bag an elk on your out-of-state trip, here’s what you need to know. There are restrictions on importing deer and elk into California — and they are in place for a very good reason.

You’ve probably heard of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), the neurodegenerative disorder that is fatal to cervids. Colorado is a CWD positive state. Keeping the disease out of California is one of CDFW’s top priorities. It is incumbent upon every hunter to do his or her part to prevent inadvertently transporting the agent that causes CWD into California.

We must keep our cervid populations healthy in part so that hunters like you can continue to benefit from their harvest. While CWD has never been detected in humans, scientists haven’t completely ruled out the possibility that the disease could spread between species.

To prevent the accidental importation of CWD-infected tissues into the state, California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 712 prohibits hunters from importing or possessing carcasses with a skull or backbone still attached. If you are hunting out of state, please make sure to review the regulations related to CWD for that state. Also, if hunting in a state where CWD is present, make sure to check with that state’s wildlife agency for information about hunter check stations and how to get your animal tested in the state where it is harvested.

An animal that is taken in a CWD endemic zone should be processed in that area or state. Bringing back packaged meat is the best and safest approach. If a harvested animal tests positive for CWD, CDFW supports the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization to not consume the meat.

The hunter should contact a CDFW office or the Wildlife Investigations Laboratory to have all remaining tissues incinerated.

So, what can you bring home? You do have options as per CCR, section 712. You can import meat with no part of the spinal column, brain or head attached. You can also bring in a clean skull plate without a single iota of brain tissue present. Also allowed are hides and capes, antlers, finished taxidermy mounts and upper canine teeth. In all cases, the spinal column, brain tissue must be removed. (Please read the regulation carefully for specifics.)

Failure to comply with Section 712 is a misdemeanor offense that will result in a citation by a California wildlife officer. But compliance is easier than you may think. CDFW createda video to show you how to clean your elk. You can also find background information, additional links and updates on California’s efforts to fight CWD at www.wildlife.ca.gov/cwd.

Does a spectator need a fishing license?

Question: Do all persons on a vessel need to have fishing licenses and lobster cards? My daughter wants to go with her dad and watch (which means I’ll have to go as well) but we aren’t sure if she and I would need our own license/cards just to go along. We are not going to be fishing — just spectating.

— Bonnie

Answer: No, as long as you’re not attempting to fish (and that includes handling lines and nets, helping bring in catch, etc.), you don’t need a license on the boat.

Also, fishing licenses are only required for those age 16 and older. If your daughter is younger than that, she is welcome to help her father — no license needed, but she will still need a lobster report card!

Does a helper need a fishing license?

Question: My friend has offered to net fish that I catch. In particular, he is interested in accompanying me on a steelhead outing. Does he need to have a current license in order to net any fish that I may bring to net?

— Mike F.

Answer: By definition, “take” of a fish or animal includes hunting, capturing, killing and catching. So, if your friend is assisting you with the “catching” of fish, by the letter of the law, he would need a license, too.

Free Fishing Days for 2020?

Question: Have you decided which 2020 days will be designated as Free Fishing Days?

— Jim

Answer: Yes! Next year, California’s Free Fishing Days will be Saturday, July 4, and Saturday, Sept. 5. On those days, anyone can fish without a sport fishing license. All fishing regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures remain in effect, and every angler must have the appropriate report card if they are fishing for steelhead, sturgeon or salmon in the Smith and Klamath-Trinity River systems.

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