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Outdoors Q&A: Baiting for Wildlife Photography

Read on for answers to your questions about state regulations on hunting and fishing.

Question: I have a question regarding attracting wildlife for photographic purposes. A retired mammalogist I know enjoys taking candid photos of wildlife using camera traps. He often baits them with various lures or meat (chicken, fish, etc.). Is this legal? The animals are not harmed, but they may be attracted to areas they would not otherwise be foraging, although part of the sport is knowing the life history of the target animal. If not, are there permits that can be obtained to photograph wildlife remotely? I can see this hobby becoming more popular as technology continues to advance. (Lorna D.)

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Carrie Wilson
Answer: It is illegal to “knowingly feed big game,” so you can’t bait deer, elk, antelope, etc., even for photography purposes. If you put out bait for, let’s say, squirrels, and a bear started visiting it, you would need to remove it.

It is also illegal to hunt mammals within 400 yards of a baited area, and even after bait is removed, the area is still considered to be baited for 10 days after removal, as a result of the bait being there in the first place (Title 14 Section 257.5, page 8 of the 2008-09 Mammal Hunting Regulations).

According to Lorna Bernard, who manages the Department of Fish & Game‘s “Keep Me Wild” campaign, beyond that there is no law that specifically bans feeding of wildlife. People should use common sense to ensure they aren’t creating problems for themselves and their neighbors. Wild animals are unpredictable and don’t make any distinction between the food you intend to leave for them and other items that are edible — the family pet, for example.

Also keep in mind that some diseases, such as rabies and distemper, can be transmitted from wildlife to pets, so it’s not generally a good idea to encourage wild animals to come closer to your home than they normally would. Plus, there’s the potential to attract the wrong animals, such as rats and mice.

Question: It was in the news recently that a bear was hit by a car in the Lake Tahoe area. By the time authorities arrived, they realized that someone else already had removed the bear’s gall bladder from the carcass. I can’t believe that’s legal. Is it?

Answer: No. According to game warden Patrick Foy, possession of bear parts from a nonlawfully harvested bear in California is a misdemeanor crime and with a potential citation. If that person takes the bear gall bladder and tries to sell it on the black market, even if the bear had not been hit by a car and was harvested legally, it elevates the crime to a felony with stiff penalties and possible jail terms.

Question: Can I remove deer antlers from a road-kill deer?

Answer: No, not legally, for the same reason above.

Question: I was wondering if it is OK to fillet a tuna into four pieces (two pieces per side), not including bonito, because I know they have a size limit, etc. I am talking about the large fillets of albacore, yellowfin and bluefin tunas. By cutting them into smaller sections, they would be easier to manage and transport home. (Kevin S., San Diego)

Answer: The definition of a fillet is the flesh from one side of a fish extending from the head to the tail that has been removed from the body (head, tail and backbone) in a single continuous piece (Fish & Game Code Section 27.65[a]).

According to Lt. Eric Kord of the patrol boat Thresher, keeping the fillets under the legal definition helps game wardens determine how many fish you have. This is especially important since there are tuna limits now even for albacore (section C.C.R Title 14 section 28.38). For example, if you’re coming in with limits of tuna and they are all filleted, game wardens have to get a fillet count to determine how many there are and of what species. If there are a bunch of pieces for one fish, it would be difficult and you would be piecing the fillets together for hours to persuade the game warden not to give you a ticket. If the amount of fish you have is undeterminable, or if the species of fish is undeterminable, you will get a ticket.

It’s understandable that getting a legal fillet from an extremely large yellowfin tuna might be difficult, but do the best you can to keep the fillets whole or just keep the fish whole. Use large trash bags to wrap your fillets and get large coolers for temporary storage and transport home.

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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