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Animal Relocation And Catch, Cook Regulations
California Outdoors
Mountain Lion pix.png
With assistance from local law enforcement, a CDFW biologist and wildlife officer examine a tranquilized mountain lion in the Sacramento-area community of Natomas in February, 2019. Photo By Sacramento Animal Control

Translocating Mountain Lions

Question: Recently in Sacramento, a mountain lion somehow ended up in a suburban neighborhood (Natomas). I read online that biologists tranquilized it and moved it out of the area. No one was hurt, including the lion, and it seems like a good ending to the story all the way around. But I noticed a lot of people online are commenting that it’s actually against state policy to translocate a mountain lion. Can you explain why this lion was moved? (Marie)

Answer: Thank you for asking. “Translocation” is an often misunderstood concept. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife uses the term to describe the action of purposefully taking an animal out of suitable habitat in one area, and moving it to suitable habitat in another area. In many cases, this is done to encourage a struggling species to repopulate in a new area (for example, bighorn sheep herds or sage-grouse). Mountain lions are not threatened or endangered in California, and we do not currently “translocate” them in this sense.

There are times when wildlife take a wrong turn and end up in unsuitable habitat – as was the case of the lion that ended up in the Natomas neighborhood. When possible, CDFW staff can and do make the call to tranquilize an animal so it can be moved from the unsuitable habitat to the nearest suitable habitat (in the case of the lion in Natomas, the nearest suitable habitat was determined to be the Placer foothills). Providing an animal with the means to escape an unsafe situation is not considered “translocation,” but rather relocation.


Catch and Cook

Question: I have some questions on “catch and cook.” If we are on an overnight fishing trip and want to cook what we’ve caught, is it legal for us to do so? Is catch and cook legal? If so, how do I show that the fish (if it’s a species with a size limit) that I’m cooking is of legal size?

I spoke to some CDFW officials who told me that it is okay to cook our catch as long as they are fish that have no size limits. They also told me that for the species that do have size limits, we just need to keep a picture or video of the fish to show they are of legal size. Is that true? (KACA)

Answer: No, your interpretation is not correct. It is unlawful to possess either on a boat or to bring ashore any fish in such a condition that its size, weight or species cannot be determined (Fish and Game Code, sections 5508-5509). You must keep them in an identifiable condition until they have been prepared for immediate consumption.

The law is not intended to prevent anglers from eating their legal catch as this is fairly common on boats with cooking facilities, such as houseboats on lakes and larger boats at sea. You should only clean your catch immediately before it is eaten, and only clean the number of fish/invertebrates you plan to eat during that meal.

There are a number of fillet laws that allow you to clean many ocean finfish species (check the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65 on page 34 of the ocean regulations booklet.) All fillets must be in the condition listed unless they are being prepared for immediate consumption.

In inland waters, there are no provisions for filleting on a lake/reservoir. The possession of fillets in this situation could only occur if the fish is being prepared for immediate consumption. A photograph or video, just like a retained carcass in a bucket, cannot be established to belong to that specific fish. Remember that daily bag limits always apply whether the fish is on a stringer, in a live well or in your stomach after a meal. If you are at a campground or ashore, you could fillet your fish for cooking.

Showing photos or videos to a wildlife officer to prove what you have filleted will not suffice. If the officer has any questions as to what species the fish is or if they have any reason to believe that it may have been a species with size or species regulations, they will cite you under the two code sections mentioned before. The officers cannot measure a picture or be 100 percent certain that the photos/videos you provide are the same fish you have already filleted.


California Outdoors is a column published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to answer your questions about California’s many fish and wildlife species, hunting and fishing methods, regulations and opportunities and natural resource conservation. If you have a question you would like to see answered in the California Outdoors Q and A column, email it to