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Fish and Game Q&A: Can I be cited for taking bear meat without the shooter being present?

November 12, 2009 |  1:43 pm
A treed black bear.

In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday afternoon or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: I went hunting with my brother-in-law recently. He was hunting for bear and I was hunting for mountain quail and gray squirrels. He had a bear tag and I didn’t. Fortunately, he was lucky enough to shoot a nice one that was about 200 to 250 pounds. We were unable at the time to take the whole bear home so he decapitated the bear, stuffed the head in his backpack and gave me about 50 lbs. of meat to take home in my backpack. We left the rest of the body there and agreed to go back for it later.

When we got home, he asked his brother and me to pick up the rest of the body because he had to go to work. I refused to do so because I thought it would not be legal since I was not the shooter. He told me it should be all right and that if I was stopped by the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), I should just call him at work to verify the kill. I still didn’t go and we got into an argument. In this situation, could I have been cited for taking the bear meat without the shooter being present? Thanks! (Alex V.)

Answer: If you accompany a person in the field who is legally hunting bear and you have a firearm, archery equipment or other means capable of taking a bear, then it is reasonable to assume you are also taking bear. In addition, you could also be cited if you do not have a valid bear tag of your own. Your explanation that you were hunting squirrels would likely not be acceptable to a game warden, especially given that you helped transport some of the bear.

According to Assistant Chief Mike McBride, by leaving much of the bear carcass in the field as your brother-in-law did, he risked having the meat spoil, which would be a violation of the Fish and Game law that prohibits wasting game (CCR Title 14 Section 4304). You and/or another person returning the next day to retrieve the remainder would not have been a violation unless you also brought firearms or another method of take. A warden would consider your possession of a firearm to be prima facie evidence (meaning that the facts of the situation appear to be self-evident to a reasonable person) that you illegally took the bear pursuant to Fish and Game Code Section 2000.

At the time a bear is shot, the bear tag must be validated and immediately attached to the ear of the bear. If this was done and you had with you 1) a copy of the original tag showing it had been properly filled out and validated, 2) a copy of your brother-in-law’s license and all contact information for him, and 3) a note authorizing you to retrieve the remainder of the animal for him, you probably would have had sufficient evidence to prevent you from being cited (a counter-signature from DFG on the tag would be even better).

Be aware that this whole scenario would send up red flags to any game warden you encounter and we would expect them to fully investigate this situation. Hunters who can allocate time to kill an animal must also plan ahead and allocate appropriate time to take it completely out of the field.

In short, we do not recommend what your brother-in-law proposed but it can be done legally if reasonable decisions are made and appropriate methods utilized. In hindsight, your brother-in-law should have been prepared to transport this bear out immediately to have avoided this whole situation.

Q: Why it is unlawful to fish from a boat at night in San Francisco Bay? I’ve asked several people, but nobody knows. It could be a safety issue due to the large container ships, but the large container ships travel upriver into Sacramento and Stockton too. So, could it be the ferries?

A: Yes, conflicts with other vessel traffic are the most likely reason. CCR Title 14 Section 27.56 states that “…there are no closed seasons, closed hours or minimum size limits on fin fish in the Pacific Ocean including all saltwater bays except that in San Francisco Bay between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Carquinez Bridge and in saltwater tributaries to the bay … fin fish may not be taken between one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise except from shore or piers.” The earliest reference we could find for this restriction was the 1959 CCR Title14 Section 55.

Photo: A treed black bear. Credit: Joe Maskasky/Colorado Division of Wildlife