JANUARY 6, 2016

Drones as Christmas gifts come with responsibility

Remote-controlled gadgets cannot be used in pursuit of wildlife

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department wants to remind sportsmen who received a drone for Christmas that flying the wildly popular devices must comply with state and federal wildlife laws and regulations.

The Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year predicted more than 1 million drones would be bought as holiday gifts. Like Santa’s sleigh, drones are considered “aircraft.” That means the remote-controlled gadgets equipped with cameras cannot lawfully be used for pursuing, disturbing, harassing, or taking wildlife. In addition, a drone shall not be used to locate wildlife beginning 48 hours before the opening of a big game hunting season.

“The use of drones for the harassment and sport harvest of wildlife is not only illegal, but it undermines the ‘fair chase’ hunting ethic and the very tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation,” said Gene Elms, the department’s law enforcement branch chief.

Anyone with information about an individual using a drone to pursue, disturb, harass, or locate wildlife is encouraged to contact the department’s Operation Game Thief hotline at (800) 352-0700, or visit www.azgfd.gov/thief.

For more detailed information about the laws and regulations associated with the use of aircraft to take wildlife in Arizona, review Arizona Revised Statute 17-301 and Arizona Administrative Codes R12-4-301, R12-4-319 and R12-4-320. The Federal Airborne Hunting Act also is applicable.

For more information about Fair Chase, the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, and hunting in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov.