Bagging Roadkill

(Photo by Carrie Wilson)
Stay alert! Deer are unpredictable and may be on roads and highways any time of day, especially around dawn and dusk. When traveling roads bordering steep hillsides, be especially careful as deer may suddenly appear to cross roadways with little or no warning, often accompanied by fawns and other deer (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I have a couple of questions regarding deer killed on roadways. First of all, if a deer is accidentally hit and killed on a roadway, can it be collected and utilized so as not to go to waste? Secondly, if I have a valid California hunting license and deer tag, and while coming back after dark from a day of hunting, if I accidentally hit and kill a deer on one of the backroads, how is that handled? Do I wait until morning and shoot it, or is that considered a “bag?” What are the laws pertaining to animals accidentally killed on the highways? (James M.)

Answer: Road-killed wildlife may not be retained by the driver of the vehicle that hits the animal, nor anyone else associated with the accident or not. Only authorized personnel of state and/or local agencies are permitted to dispatch and remove injured or dead animals.

In regard to your second question, even if the driver of the vehicle is a licensed California hunter who has the appropriate tags to take the deer that is accidentally hit by their car, that hunter cannot legally tag that deer and take it home. Deer may only be taken with rifles, shotguns, pistols and revolvers, muzzleloaders and archery equipment. Motor vehicles are not included in this list of legal methods of take.

Although Fish and Game Code section 2000.5(a) states the accidental taking of game by a motor vehicle is not a violation of the law, it does not authorize the possession of animals taken by a collision with a vehicle. You may wonder why this is the case since it seems like it would be a waste of a deer to not be able to place a tag on it and perhaps save another from being taken. The reason is that some poachers would use the “collision” excuse to take deer at night with their vehicle and just attach their tag to justify the action.

What Happens to the Gear Seized from Illegal Operations?
Question:I was just reading where the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) caught some lobster poachers and that all of their dive gear used in the crimes were seized. This started me thinking – what happens to all of the fishing and diving and hunting gear that is seized from illegal operations? Is there an auction during the year to make money from the sale of this equipment for the DFG? If so, please let me know the dates and places. (Rich B.)

Answer: According to Lt. Eric Kord of the patrol boat Thresher, once the case is adjudicated, the judge decides to have the gear either returned to the defendants or forfeited to the DFG. If the judge forfeits the gear to the DFG, then there are two options: If the gear is in poor condition and not safe to use, then it is destroyed; if it is in good condition, the dive gear is transferred to the head of our dive program, who then redistributes the gear to our certified dive team members (scientists and game wardens) in need of equipment.

For all other gear confiscated and ordered by judges not be returned to defendants, the DFG basically has three options: 1) Put the gear into use, 2) Destroy it, or 3) Sell it at a public auction.

Confiscated fishing gear is usually donated to our “Fishing in the City” or “California Fishing Passport” programs for use by the public during promotional fishing events. All confiscated firearms not returned by the courts are ordered by law to be destroyed unless they have collector value, in which case they may be donated to a museum or educational facility for display. Public auctions for confiscated gear are not frequently held, but when they are the DFG is required to provide public notice through local newspapers.

Fines For Catching a Black Bass
Question: A buddy of mine was caught recently with a small black sea bass. What is the current fine for these fish? Will he be looking at any jail time? (Jimmy L.)

Answer: The courts have the responsibility to administer fines and many courts send a notice regarding the fine in the mail. A black sea bass violation would generally be cited as a misdemeanor under section 12002 of the Fish and Game Code. The fine prescribed under this section provides for a fine of not more than $1,000 and/or six months in the county jail. All bails and penalties can be found on our Web site at However, be aware that the bail schedule is only a guideline or recommendation. The judge has the final say of what the fine shall be.

Are You Supposed to Submit Fishing Cards Even if You Didn’t Use Them?
Question: My husband and I have sturgeon cards, but we neither fished for sturgeon nor caught any accidentally. Are we still required to mail them to the DFG? (Kathie M.)

Answer: Yes, you both are required by law to still mail them to DFG by Jan. 31, 2009 regardless of whether or not you fished for or caught sturgeon.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at

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