Q: I was fishing in a lake and accidentally hooked a duck. I reeled it in and carefully removed the hook from its bill. The duck looked fine, so I let it go. My friends and I were wondering: If I had a hunting license and federal and state stamps, could I have legally kept the duck?
A: We’re glad you released the duck, because harvesting it would have been illegal. Even though it was an accident, taking a duck by hook is not an authorized method of take in California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 507. Accidentally catching waterfowl by hook and line happens occasionally - usually in parks with waterfowl that have developed more domesticated behavior characteristics. You did the right thing by removing the hook and releasing the duck immediately. However, if the duck were injured or if you did not want to risk injuring it by removing the hook, we’d recommend notifying a local wildlife rehabilitation facility.
Q: Is it legal to keep a squirrel as a pet?
A: No. It is unlawful to possess wild animals in California per California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 671 (PDF) and California Fish and Game Code section 2118. It’s not in the best interest of wildlife, including the health of wildlife, to keep them in captivity. Typically, only zoos, wildlife sanctuaries and wildlife rehabilitation facilities have the proper veterinary staff, training, equipment and knowledge of how to properly feed and house wildlife to qualify for a permit. Additionally, keeping wildlife in captivity can be problematic from a public health and safety perspective. We understand that people want to care for wildlife, but the best way to do that is by letting wildlife be wild. Possession of California wildlife as a pet is a violation that California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wildlife officers take seriously, and if discovered may result in citation and seizure of the wild animal.
Q: What should I do if a bear breaks into my home or business?
A: First and foremost, the best way to prevent break-ins is by properly storing food and garbage and keeping property entrances secure. This includes securing crawl spaces and other spaces underneath porches and decks that bears may use for winter dens. Bears are primarily scent-driven when seeking food, and improperly stored human food and trash is typically the root cause of bear break-ins and property damage. If you’ve experienced a break-in, please report it to CDFW by calling the regional office closest to you or by submitting a Wildlife Incident Report. Reporting helps CDFW track conflict bear activity and supports property owners to prevent further damage. The property should be cleaned up and immediately secured to prevent further break-ins. CDFW staff is available to consult with property owners about best practices to help make homes or businesses less attractive to bears. If the damage to property is severe, CDFW staff may be able to conduct a site inspection and collect DNA evidence to see if the bear’s DNA matches any known conflict bears in the area. CDFW staff can also explain the depredation permit process.
CDFW’s recently updated statewide bear policy highlights the importance of taking preventative action by removing attractants in bear habitat and establishes a clear process for addressing each unique situation involving bear/human conflict. Additional information and resources are available on CDFW’s Keep Me Wild: Black Bear web page.
If you have a question you would like to see answered in the California Outdoors Q and A column, email it to CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.