The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking charges against people accused of poaching snow geese in Sutter County.
Warden Mark Michilizzi said investigators determined that 15 individuals were responsible for shooting 116 snow geese and crippling approximately 10 to 20 more that the shooters did not recover from a field.
A warden on Wednesday went to an area about two miles east of Sutter, near Butte House and Humphrey roads, following a complaint of several people shooting into large flocks of geese.
Sutter County sheriff's deputies were the first on the scene and requested assistance from wildlife officers when they discovered a large number of geese had been taken.
Although the regular goose season in this area runs from Oct. 20 through Jan. 27, Michilizzi said California regulations prohibit a hunter from taking more than six geese per day.
Wildlife officers went to three different locations to account for the number of snow geese taken.
They found one individual in possession of an additional 200 waterfowl ducks and geese that had been taken earlier in the season. Individuals may not possess more than twice the daily bag limit at any one time.
Michilizzi said he did not know how the birds were being stored or how they were to be used.
During the investigation, officers concluded that the shooters approached large groups of geese that were feeding and resting on the ground, then fired their shotguns into the groups.
This method of hunting is not unlawful, but when done carelessly it can result in killing more geese than permitted by law and may cripple birds that will later die in the field, officials said.
No arrests have been made. Results of the investigation likely will be submitted to the Sutter County District Attorney's Office, although Michilizzi said investigators could pursue federal charges.
As a migratory bird, he said, the snow goose is a federally protected species.
Anyone with additional information regarding the case is asked to call CALTIP at (888) 334-2258.