Monday, November 30 , 2015, 12:09 am | Fair 45º

Outdoors Q&A: What Are the Rules on Bagging Roadkill?

Read on for answers to that question and others about state regulations on hunting and fishing.

By Carrie Wilson |

Question: I have a couple of questions regarding deer killed on roadways. If a deer is accidentally hit and killed on a roadway, can it be collected and utilized so as not to go to waste? Secondly, if I have a valid California hunting license and deer tag and while coming back after dark from a day of hunting I accidentally hit and kill a deer on one of the backroads, how is that handled? Do I wait until morning and shoot it, or is that considered a “bag”? What are the laws pertaining to animals accidentally killed on highways? (James M.)

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Carrie Wilson
Answer: Road-killed wildlife may not be retained by the driver of the vehicle that hits the animal, nor anyone else associated or not with the accident. Only authorized personnel of state and/or local agencies are permitted to dispatch and remove injured or dead animals.

In regard to your second question, even if the driver of the vehicle is a licensed California hunter who has the appropriate tags to take a deer that is accidentally hit by their car, that hunter can’t legally tag that deer and take it home. Deer may only be taken with rifles, shotguns, pistols and revolvers, muzzleloaders and archery equipment. Motor vehicles are not included in this list of legal methods of take.

Although Fish & Game Code section 2000.5(a) states the accidental taking of game by a motor vehicle is not a violation of the law, it doesn’t authorize the possession of animals taken by a collision with a vehicle. You may wonder why this is the case since it seems like it would be a waste of a deer not to be able to place a tag on it and perhaps save another from being taken. The reason is that some poachers would use the “collision” excuse to take deer at night with their vehicle and just attach their tag to justify the action.

Question: I was just reading where the Department of Fish & Game caught some lobster poachers and that all of their dive gear used in the crimes was seized. What happens to all of the fishing, diving and hunting gear that is seized from illegal operations? Is there an auction during the year to make money from the sale of this equipment for Fish & Game? If so, please let me know the dates and places. (Rich B.)

Answer: According to Lt. Eric Kord of the patrol boat Thresher, once the case is adjudicated, the judge decides to have the gear either returned to the defendants or forfeited to Fish & Game. If the judge forfeits the gear to Fish & Game, then there are two options: If the gear is in poor condition and not safe to use, then it is destroyed; if it is in good condition, the dive gear is transferred to the head of the dive program, who then redistributes the gear to certified dive team members (scientists and game wardens) in need of equipment.

For all other gear confiscated and ordered by judges not to be returned to defendants, Fish & Game basically has three options: put the gear into use, destroy it, or sell it at a public auction.

Confiscated fishing gear is usually donated to our Fishing in the City or California Fishing Passport programs for use by the public during promotional fishing events. All confiscated firearms not returned by the courts are ordered by law to be destroyed unless they have collector value, in which case they may be donated to a museum or educational facility for display. Public auctions for confiscated gear are not frequently held, but when they are, Fish & Game is required to provide public notice through local newspapers.

Question: A buddy of mine was caught recently with a small black sea bass. What is the fine for those fish? Will he be looking at any jail time? (Jimmy L.)

Answer: The courts have the responsibility to administer fines, and many courts send a notice regarding the fine in the mail. A black sea bass violation generally would be cited as a misdemeanor under section 12002 of the Fish & Game Code. The code provides for a fine of not more than $1,000 and/or six months in the county jail. All bails and penalties can be found on our Web site. Click here. However, be aware that the bail schedule is only a guideline or recommendation. The judge has the final say of what the fine will be.

Question: My husband and I have sturgeon cards, but we neither fished for sturgeon nor caught any accidentally. Are we still required to mail them to Fish & Game? (Kathie M.)

Answer: Yes, both of you are required by law to mail them to Fish & Game by Jan. 31, regardless of whether you fished for or caught sturgeon.

Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. Her DFG-related question-and-answer column appears weekly at She can be reached at [email protected]

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