David Bess, Chief of Law Enforcement Division
Ari Cornman, Wildlife Advisor, Fish and Game Commission
Scott Gardner, Chief of Wildlife Branch
Matt Meshriy, Environmental Scientist, Wildlife Branch
Victoria Monroe, Supervisor of WHL’s Humane-Wildlife Conflicts Program
Chris Stoots, Captain, Law Enforcement Division
This is a request to clarify the interpretation of Title 14, subsection 465.5 (g)(3), the “150 yard rule”, with all game wardens throughout California.
I am sending this request to the group of you because at some point in the last decade we have discussed 465.5 (g)(3), its interpretation and intent.
To review, 465.5(g)(3) requires anyone setting a trap for wildlife (except mouse, rat, gopher traps) to first obtain written consent from neighboring homeowners with houses within 150 yards.
This requirement not only protects pets and children from potential harm from snares, conibears and box traps, it also serves as a safeguard - a way to verify an animal has become a nuisance to a neighborhood, not just an inconvenience to one household. It also gives neighbors an opportunity to have input on the fate of their shared natural resources - the resident wildlife.
Subsection 465.5(g)(3) is much more about property rights and ensuring sustainable wildlife management practices than given credit for.
Trapping as a means of resolving wildlife conflicts is not ecologically sound or sustainable because the animals aren’t the problem - their presence is a symptom. The actual problem is the reason why they are attracted to a property. What are the “rewards” and how are animals accessing them?
Identifying why wildlife is attracted to a property is key to solving the conflict, permanently, whether it's a mouse or a mountain lion. If you simply remove animals, vacancies are quickly filled by new individuals and the problem continues. The equation is simple: 1 - 1 = 1.
Human behavior is at the core of most wildlife conflicts, yet wild animals that are naturally looking for food and denning opportunities often pay for their ‘mistakes’ with their lives, while the people who may be unknowingly responsible for ‘setting them up’ are rarely held accountable. This is where subsection 465.5(g)(3) plays a role in requiring at least some accountability.
When trapping is contested, 465.5(g)(3) forces property owners to think outside the box(trap). It compels them to consider how their actions might be contributing to the problem, and what they can do to mitigate it. This is a good thing because it provides an opportunity for the property owner to learn about alternatives to trapping and ways to prevent conflicts.
Over the last decade I’ve had numerous conversations with the Department about 465.5(g)(3), usually in response to push back from a licensed trapper as to its correct interpretation. And after every one of those conversations, we were in agreement: anyone setting a trap within 150 yards of another person's habitable dwelling must first obtain written consent from that property owner.
However - and this is the reason for this letter - to the best of my knowledge, the Department has never clarified the interpretation of 465.5(g)(3) to every warden in the state, at once.
Because of this, the interpretation of 465.5(g)(3) has largely been left up to the wardens and their superiors, which has, over the years, resulted in escalation of a number of trapping incidents that could have easily been avoided.
Therefore, I am asking that game wardens, statewide, be provided clarification on 465.5(g)(3) so that its interpretation and implementation may be consistently applied throughout the state.
I feel encouraged. I have been assured by at least one Captain, that officers in the five counties he oversees will be made aware of the correct interpretation of 465.5(g)(3).
I am asking the Department to take this same step, statewide.
Thank you for considering this request.
President and CEO, Wildlife Emergency Services