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Fish and Game Q&A: What is the law on hunting exotic ranch animals on private lands?

Non-native animals, such as this bison, kept behind confining fences are not classified as either game or nongame wildlife. Thus, no hunting regulations apply.

In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: What is the law in regard to hunting "exotic ranch animals" on private lands? I see an advertisement for hunts (pigs, goats, etc.) with no tags or licenses required. These hunts are offered 24/7 year-round. How can this be legal? (Monty S.)

Answer: Imported animals that are not native to California and that are put behind a confining fence are not classified as either game or nongame wildlife. They are considered domestic animals/livestock and are not covered by state Fish and Game laws, so hunting regulations do not apply and no hunting licenses or tags are required.

Feral (domestic animals that have reverted to the wild) goats and a number of other species that have become wild in California are covered under nongame laws (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 472). A hunting license is required to take any nongame animals listed in this section.

Most of the hunts you describe would fall into the first category. These are generally referred to as "canned" hunts where the animals are turned loose in an area or enclosure where they cannot escape or become feral. In this case, it is not considered hunting and so no license or tags are required. There have been some cases where prohibited species, such as tigers, have been brought unlawfully into California for canned hunts. If the exotic animal is not a prohibited species and not covered under section 472, then hunting licenses and tags are not required.

Q: This past weekend a banded speckled-belly goose was taken at my duck club. I’d like to report this banded bird to the authorities. The time, date and place, as well as the tag number seem obvious to report. Is there any other information needed, and whom should I report this band to? (Larry L.)

A: Since waterfowl are migratory, the U.S. Geological Survey has the responsibility of collecting and analyzing all banding information. Government and private sector scientists and waterfowl managers tag and monitor migratory waterfowl every year. This banding information helps them to assess population numbers and track their movement patterns. You may also be asked to provide information about weather and any other waterfowl the goose was flying with when taken. Please go to www.reportband.gov or call (800) 327-BAND to report banded birds.

Q: I live on 20 acres out in the country and am thinking about purchasing a .22 rifle so that I can target practice or maybe even hunt on my land. Is it legal for me to do this? (Jerry M.)

A: Generally, if you live in an unincorporated area, you may discharge a firearm. However, we strongly recommend that you first check with your county sheriff’s office before doing so as there may be county ordinances that prohibit discharging firearms in your particular area.

To hunt on your property, you still must have a valid hunting license. If you don’t already have one, you will need to first take a hunter education course. In addition, even if hunting on your property, you must still remain at least 150 yards (450 feet) away from any of your neighbors’ houses, barns and outbuildings, etc., unless they have given you permission to hunt closer.

A .22 caliber rimfire rifle is only legal for a few species, such as rabbits, squirrels and some nongame species. With few exceptions, all federal and California fish and game laws are in effect on all properties no matter whether they are public or private lands.

If you have a question you would like to see answered in this column, e-mail it to CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

Photo: Non-native animals, such as this bison, kept behind confining fences are not classified as either game or nongame wildlife. Thus, no hunting regulations apply. Credit: Carrie Wilson / DFG

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