Can wild turkeys be planted on private property?

Domestically raised turkeys cannot be released as wild turkeys (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: Is it possible (and legal) to purchase live wild turkeys to turn loose on my property to see how they do? Is there any law against buying live wild turkeys inside California or outside the state and having them shipped here? (Jarrod D., Sanger)

Answer: There is nothing illegal about selling or purchasing domestic poultry sold as wild turkeys. However, it is not legal to release into the wild turkeys that have been domestically reared for propagation or hunting purposes. Only wild turkeys trapped from the wild by the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) may be released into the wild (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 671.6).

In addition, no person having possession or control over any wild animal legally imported under the provisions of this chapter shall intentionally free, or knowingly permit the escape, or release of such animals, except in accordance with the regulations of the commission (Fish and Game Code, section 2121).

According to DFG upland game bird and turkey expert Scott Gardner, aside from the fact that you cannot legally release domestically reared turkeys onto your property, biologically, no matter what the turkeys look like, if they were domestically hatched, they are domestic birds. Upland game birds imprint immediately on their hen, and without her they will not learn the skills to be wild. Domestically reared birds will not survive and don’t even know to take cover.

Bottom line … domestically reared birds released on a landowners’ property will not result in the wild turkeys that they are trying to establish.

How to transport a rifle on a motorcycle?
Question: What is the correct and legal way to transport a rifle on a motorcycle? Can you clarify? (Frank L.)

Answer: A motorcycle is a vehicle and the laws governing possession of loaded shotguns or rifles in a vehicle apply the same as if you are in a car or truck. According to Lt. Todd Tognazzini, if you are in a legal hunting area on a way open to the public or other public roadway, Fish and Game Code Section 2006 prohibits an unexpended (live) round in the firing chamber. If you are on a public highway (whether paved or not), then Penal Code Section 12031 applies which prevents ammunition from being attached to the firearm such as in the magazine. For more complete information on the requirements for transporting firearms with vehicles, please review page 47 of the 2009-2010 Mammal Hunting Regulations Booklet and the California Firearms Laws Summary booklet put out by the Office of the Attorney General at

Hazing nuisance seals and sea lions with paint balls?
Question:If I am fishing and am continually harassed by seals and sea lions, is it lawful to shoot them with a non-lethal paint ball? (T. Jay D.)

Answer: DFG does not manage or regulate interactions with marine mammals. California sea lions and Pacific harbor seals have been federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act since 1972, and thus harassing, capturing, killing or attempting to do so is prohibited and carries a hefty fine. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in recent years the populations of these animals have increased dramatically and are now considered healthy and robust.

Unfortunately, with the good often comes the bad – the increased abundance of animals has also resulted in a growing number of negative interactions with humans and incidents of property damage. People seeking legal methods for deterring marine mammals in order to protect their property, fishing gear and catch from damage by sea lions and seals can find recommendations and approved methods on NOAA’s Web site at And yes, paint balls are an approved method that may be used under certain conditions, but please read the NOAA information before doing so.

Are hunting licenses needed for nongame animals?
Question:I have out-of-state friends who would like to shoot Belding’s ground squirrels on a private ranch. Since Belding’s squirrels are a rodent and a nongame animal, do they need non-resident hunting licenses? (Don S.)

Answer: The recreational take of any wildlife including nongame mammals such as ground squirrels would require your friends to obtain a non-resident hunting license. They could purchase a two-day license valid for everything except big game for $41.20, or annual non-resident license. Nongame mammals may be taken without a license if the animals are injuring growing crops or other property (Fish and Game Code, section 4152). The authority to take nongame mammals without a license under these conditions applies only to the owner or tenant of the premises or employees and agents in immediate possession of written permission from the owner or tenant.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. She cannot personally answer everyone’s questions but will select a few to answer in this column each week. Contact her at

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