Q: What type of law enforcement work do California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) K-9 teams do?
A: Established in 2006, CDFW’s K-9 program currently has 16 teams working across the state in just about every law enforcement area within the department, including cannabis enforcement, marine enforcement and CDFW’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, the state’s lead for response to oil spills.
K-9s help wildlife officers enforce the many laws in our state related to the protection of natural resources. CDFW’s K-9s are primarily used for their detection abilities which allow them to sniff out evidence, illegally harvested game, narcotics, contraband and invasive species like quagga mussels. CDFW K-9s also serve as part of dual-purpose teams and, in addition to detection, are utilized to help protect wildlife officers and apprehend suspects. A K-9 can serve as a wildlife officer’s primary backup when no one else is available. All CDFW’s K-9 teams can also be used in search and rescue to help locate missing persons or suspects at large.
K-9s are also an outstanding public relations tool and are often used in schools and public events to bridge the gap between community and law enforcement. The K-9 program is a tremendous asset to CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division in performance of its mission.
Q: I recently went on a fishing trip with a group of friends on a commercial fishing boat out of the Bay Area. The boat captain checked to make sure we all had fishing licenses and explained that he could get a ticket for letting unlicensed anglers fish off his boat. If I let someone fish off my personal boat who doesn’t have a license, would I get a ticket too?
A: No. Operators of Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessels are held to a higher standard than private boat owners and must comply with California Fish and Game Code (FGC) section 7920, which deals with Commercial Passenger Fishing Boat Licenses. FGC section 7920 states: The owner of any boat or vessel who, for profit, permits any person to take fish, shall procure a commercial passenger fishing boat license. This article applies only to a boat or vessel whose owner or his or her employee or other representative is with it when it is used for fishing. A person operating a guide boat, as defined in FGC section 46, is not required to obtain a commercial passenger fishing boat license.
Furthermore, FGC section 7147 describes the license requirements for persons fishing from boat or vessel, which are: The owner or operator of a boat or vessel licensed pursuant to FGC section 7920 shall not permit any person to fish from that boat or vessel unless that person has, in his or her possession, a valid California sport fishing license and any required stamp, report card, or validation issued pursuant to this code.
To recap: As a private boat owner, if you let someone fish from your boat without a fishing license, you would not be subject to FGC section 7147. Of course, we encourage you to make sure your private boat’s fishing passengers have fishing licenses anyway!
Q: When an animal is injured or sick, what gives CDFW the authority to euthanize it versus releasing it and letting it die naturally?
A: The decision to euthanize a wild animal is one of the more difficult decisions CDFW makes as the trustee of California’s fish and wildlife. CDFW’s mission is to manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public. The majority of that effort is related to the improvement, preservation or management of habitat. To that end, CDFW’s primary goal is fish and wildlife population stabilization and management of those populations to the benefit of the species, and the public’s enjoyment of those species.
When a sick or injured animal presents itself, often stemming from a report from the public, CDFW scientific staff and wildlife officers have a lot to think about as we assess the situation. If the animal is injured but has even a minimal chance at surviving, CDFW typically gives it a chance to survive on its own. However, if the animal has suffered mortal injury or is suffering from some terminal illness and is going to die, then staff may humanely euthanize the animal to end its suffering and sometimes to stop spread of a disease.
FGC section 1001 entrusts and provides CDFW with the authorization to make these decisions. The statute states: Nothing in this code or any other law shall prohibit the department from taking, for scientific, propagation, public health or safety, prevention or relief of suffering, or law enforcement purposes, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds and the nests and eggs thereof, or any other form of plant or animal life.
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.