Question: I am a conservation advocate and an avid wildlife photographer. Over the last several years, I have been photographing birds and landscape views of Southern California’s wildlife areas. I am interested in expanding this documentation with video, and in particular aerial video taken from a remote-controlled electric helicopter. While I am very aware of the need to not disturb or harass local wildlife, I am wondering if there are regulations that restrict or prohibit the use of RC-aircraft in or around the perimeter of ecological reserves and conservation areas? (Bill K.)
Answer: There is no general prohibition against using radio-controlled "vehicles" in wildlife areas (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 550). However, in ecological reserves, prohibitions against: 1) disturbing any bird, mammal, etc.; 2) operating vehicles; and 3) operating any type of aircraft or hovercraft without permission may apply (CCR Title 14, sections 630(a)(1) & (a)(4) and (a)(17)). There is also a provision that prohibits the use of any motorized, hot-air, or unpowered aircraft or other device capable of flight or any earth orbiting imaging device to locate or assist in locating big game mammals beginning 48 hours before and continuing 48 hours after any big game hunting season in the same area (CCR Title 14, section 251(a)). In addition, a permit could be required if there are concerns your aircraft will " … herd or drive… or disrupt animal’s normal behavior patterns, which includes, but is not limited to breeding, feeding or sheltering …"
Please contact the Regional Manager for the area you intend to visit for information on the application of these laws. For a list of contact numbers available, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/regions/.
Q: My husband and I are residents of both Humboldt and Sutter counties. We occasionally dive for abalone in Humboldt where we live. If we don’t consume them right away, we freeze them whole in the shell as the local game warden advised us years ago. I also work for a nonprofit hospice in Sutter County and they are having a fundraiser in May at a private house, where many of our staff will prepare appetizers for 100 guests. I want to prepare abalone appetizers from three abalone that we already have tagged and frozen from last season. The event is being professionally catered for the meal and dessert and so they are selling tickets, but no one is paying for or making money from the abalone I want to cook. The abalone is such a minuscule part of the meal. I just want to make sure I am allowed to bring it to an event like this and I was not able to find anything specific about that in the regulations. Please advise. Thank you. (Amy M., RN)