Is “Pursuing” Wildlife for a Photo a Form of “Take”?

Wildlife photographers (USFWS photo)

Question: California Fish and Game defines “take” as to “hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill” or attempt to do so. Much discussion and conjecture has been generated amongst wildlife photographers regarding use of the term “pursue” in this definition and how it may apply to them. Some photography and wildlife watching groups have recently gone so far as to recommend their members obtain sporting licenses due to uncertainty surrounding interpretation of the word “pursue.” However, this is of little use if a picture is taken of something that can not be “taken” under the authority of a sporting license. For example, if a photographer informs a warden they are searching for the endangered Southern Mountain Yellow Legged Frog to capture on film with their telephoto lens, could this person be cited for “take” by “attempting to pursue?”

For the sake of discussion, please assume photography is for recreation, habitat is not altered and that wildlife is never touched, possessed or otherwise under the control of the individual behind the lens.

The wildlife watching and photography community would greatly appreciate clarification on this point. (Mason Y.)

Answer: Although the most literal interpretation of “take” could apply to a wildlife photographer looking for and/or pursuing wildlife during photographic opportunities, the pursuit as listed within the “take” definition includes only pursuits that result in take or attempted take of the animal. According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Lt. Todd Tognazzini, a hunting of fishing license is not required for a wildlife photographer.

What are the “landmarks” required for harvest tags?
Question: I will be hunting for deer and bear this year. I noticed that the tags ask for the distance and direction from the nearest landmark. I’m unsure as to what the nearest landmark is, and just what kind of landmark they are asking for. Can you please clarify? (Dan B.)

Answer: Harvest data, including the location where an animal is taken, is an important component of wildlife management. The geographic location helps biologists obtain specific location information so the more accurate you can be with distinguishing landmarks, the more helpful it is to managing our wildlife.  There are many acceptable locations found on any map for your planned hunt area. Please just provide distance and direction to the nearest mountain, creek, river, city, town, campground or other landmark.

Extra fish head – What do I do with it?
Question: I have a salmon head from a hatchery fish that I’d like to bring in. Where am I supposed to bring it? Last time I brought one to the local fish hatchery but they didn’t really know what to do with it and so froze it until they could find out. (Kristina Alley)

Answer: Since the head of your fish was not taken by one of our biologists at the launch ramp the day you caught it, it is outside of our sample and not needed by DFG for salmon management. If you would like information on where your fish came from, you can drop it off at our Eureka, Santa Rosa or Monterey office.  For hatchery salmon taken on the Klamath, Trinity and Smith rivers, their heads can be turned into the Arcata DFG office at the address printed on your salmon report cards.

Can unposted lands be hunted?
Question: Is it true that land that is outside the city limits, is neither posted, under cultivation nor fenced, and is more than 150 yards away from an occupied dwelling, would be legal to hunt? Would there be any distinctions between hunting with a bow, rifle or shotgun? (Charlie C.)

Answer: No, there are many areas meeting this description that would not be open to hunting. Some examples include: 1) County, state or federally designated parks, 2) Recreation or historic areas, 3) Any unincorporated area designated as a firearms closure area by city or county ordinances, or 4) Lands within one mile of most federally designated camp grounds, such as those in a National Forest.

It may make a difference in some of these circumstances (like in an area that is closed to the discharge of firearms) whether or not you were using a firearm or archery equipment. Hunting trespass is a serious violation and you must make certain that the area you wish to hunt is open not only for entry but also to the discharge of firearms and take of wildlife. Your game warden can provide the best and most current information for the area in question. To contact a game warden, go to

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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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