In our Fall 2009 newsletter we listed the FWS enforcement numbers to report otter harassment. We also noted that you can notify any agent authorized to enforce wildlife laws, such as Sanctuary enforcement officers or the CA Department of Fish and Game.
To follow up on this, I recently spoke with Bob Yerena, who is the enforcement officer for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. He noted that Fish and Wildlife Service is more likely to respond to severe incidents—otters hit by boats, killed, or pups separated from their mothers. Their offices are generally remote, so follow up is not immediate. The local enforcement is likely to come from wardens and rangers from local Sanctuary’s, parks or agencies.
So if you see otter harassment that does not pose an immediate threat to otters, it’s better to call the following numbers:
If you’re in the Monterey Bay area, you can call (831) 249-2810 to talk to the Department of Fish and Game and State Parks dispatcher –they will inform the nearest warden or ranger. If you’re out of the area, or its afterhours, NOAA’s 24 hotline, 1-800-853-1964, will get you a dispatcher that will contact the nearest enforcement officer in your area.
Bob also gave me a list of what kind of information is helpful for the enforcement officers. First of all, you will be asked to give a callback number. They will need to know what you saw, the location, the species it is impacting and the time and the date of the incident. These are the essentials. Other helpful things to include would be a description of the person at fault, details such as boat name or number, and license plate numbers—as long as you’re careful in getting them! “I don’t want anyone playing cop, or putting themselves in danger,” Bob told me, but these details can really help. If you can get images, such as digital camera shots or video, that’s ideal.
Follow up will depend on the infringement—officers may chose to use the incident as an educational moment if it appears people are unwittingly harassing wildlife. They may choose to give a written warning, or to fine the perpetrator. A $100 fine is typical.
If you’re not sure how to handle the situation, or you want help in following up on a report, you can always contact us at The Otter Project.
Thanks for looking out for the otters—they depend upon it!