Fish and Game Q&A: Is it legal to use lights to monitor wildlife if you do not have any guns in your possession?
In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:
Question: Is it legal to use lights to monitor wildlife if you do not have any guns in your possession? Watching wildlife at night is a very interesting way to educate kids to be on the lookout for and gain an interest in wildlife. I’ve always wondered if using lights to do this would be considered harassment somehow and not be allowed? (Bill T.)
Answer: It is not illegal to shine lights since you won’t have a "method of take" with you, but your activities could alert a game warden who might think you are using the spotlights to poach game at night. Be aware that there are vehicle code laws that prohibit shining a hand-held spotlight from a motor vehicle and another provision that requires "off road" lights to be covered while traveling on a public roadway or highway.
Instead, you might consider using a trail cam like those sold through most outdoor-gear stores. These will allow you to capture (with night-vision equipment) images or video of wildlife that might be visiting a watering hole or passing through an area. There are some cameras that take photos when a light sensor is tripped and some that take photos at certain time intervals. The trail cams would not bother or harass the wildlife, and you’d be able to take photos of them while they are acting normally, doing whatever they naturally do at night. You might also be surprised by the different species that will appear that you probably would not expect!
Q: I helped my boss, who is legally blind, get a disabled license for fishing. However, due to her disability, she will need help baiting her hook. Can I legally help her without needing a two-pole stamp? (Sandy B.)