Importing Exotics … Reindeer?

Reindeer (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)

Question: I am planning to start a business within the next few years that will involve domesticated reindeer. I will likely need to import them into California from another state and am wondering what licenses, fees and requirements I will need to meet in order to do this. I do not plan to have more than five animals at any time and they will live on my property with me. I will not be using them for anything related to food or human/animal consumption. In other words, they will not be hunted or slaughtered.

I also want to know what areas are subject to zoning and other limitations. How can I know which geographical areas within Southern California will allow me to keep reindeer? I want to figure out which cities/towns I should look into, in terms of the real estate market, to meet these requirements. (Erica A.)

Answer: Reindeer are a restricted species and may not be imported as pets, so you must have a verified use or need. If your plan is to use the animals for exhibition or display purposes, you cannot do so without obtaining a restricted species permit (pursuant to CCR Title 14, section 671).

According to Kathi Kline from DFG’s Special Permits Unit, the importation of any deer to an authorized restricted species facility requires the applicant to submit a Cervidae Importation Application for approval by DFG Veterinarian Dr. Pam Swift at the Wildlife Investigations Lab. Zoning issues are not part of the restricted species permitting process. It is the applicant’s/permittee’s responsibility to comply with all city or county zoning requirements.

Under the Cervidae Importation Application that must be filed, importers seeking authorization to import approved hoofed animal species must verify the animals have been tested and cleared of bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis before importation. Additional testing prior to importation may be required when there is reason to believe other diseases, parasites or other health risks are present.

Incidentally, California law also prohibits the importation of reindeer for meat production (aka “deer farming”). Only fallow deer may be possessed for this purpose (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 676).

Catching bait fish in a fish trap?
Question: Is it against the law to use a small (12 inch by 24 inch) fish trap on the shoreline of Huntington Beach for the purpose of catching bait fish (smelt and anchovies)? I’ve seen a lot of fisherman using them but was told by a kayak shop that they are illegal to use and could result in a hefty fine.  (Roy B.)

Answer:  Using traps to take bait fish south of Point Conception (Santa Barbara County) is not allowed. Generally, hook and line or a dip net not greater than six feet in diameter are the only methods allowed to take fin fish in the ocean waters south of Point Conception (See CCR Title 14, sections 28.65 through 29.00).

Catching crawdads just for fun?
Question: Do I have to have a license to take a piece of string and some liver and fish for crawdads for fun? I don’t want to keep them. I don’t want to eat them. I don’t want to use them for bait. I just want to catch them. (Jim M.)

Answer: Yes, a fishing license is required even if you don’t keep them. It’s the same premise as “catch and release” fishing for trout.

Doctor’s note for a Disabled Archer Permit?
Question: I have recently been advised by my doctor to discontinue shooting archery equipment due to my fourth reconstructive shoulder operation. As an avid archery hunter, I am really having a hard time with this! When I stopped into my local archery shop, they informed me of a device that locks the draw cycle back on a compound bow. What would I need to do to be able to use such a device during archery season? Is there a doctor’s note or something that I would need, and if so, what would I do with that note? (Tim S.)

Answer: You may qualify for a Disabled Archer Permit if you have written verification from a physician regarding your medical condition (check section 354(j) in the 2010-2011 Hunting Regulations available online at

For more information and the Disabled Archer Permit application, please go to: There is no fee for this permit.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at

One response to “Importing Exotics … Reindeer?

  1. In addition to the items listed in the answer to the question is the requirement that the applicant be qualified to possess the animals. Such qualification includes experience exhibiting them (if that is the intenetion) and experience handling them with proof of such experience. There are minimum requirements for the amount of experience. The applicant must also have a USDA license. as having a USDA license.

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