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Sunday, September 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Drones can’t be flown near orcas, court says

Drone pilots seeking to get wildlife images are governed by rules to prevent harassing critters such as orcas. (Associated Press)
Drone pilots seeking to get wildlife images are governed by rules to prevent harassing critters such as orcas. (Associated Press)

WILDLIFE -- Drones are to be regulated just like boats when it comes to protecting orcas, according Washington't top legal official.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson released an opinion Friday saying state law says “vessels and other objects” can’t come within 200 yards of an orca and that includes drones.

Ferguson says the Legislature most likely meant to include drones in the term `other objects,’ according to a report by KING-TV.

The case stems from Mercer Island photographer Douglas Shih, who was cited after using a drone to take pictures of orcas in the San Juan Islands last year.

State fish and wildlife Sgt. Russ Mullins says the drone was 20 to 30 yards over a pod of whales.

Mullins says they’re concerned drones could get too close and even strike a whale.

Shih fought the ticket and won. He said the law didn’t specifically mention drones.

San Juan County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord asked the AG’s office for a clarification of the law.




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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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