Creating a Private Hunting Ranch

Wild pig on the range (DFG photo)

Question: I’ve been toying with the idea of opening a private hunting ranch and importing animals (mostly pigs) for the ranch. I’d like to research the licensing and regulations. Are there both state and federal regulations? Since the animals will undoubtedly come from out of state, what other agencies (state or federal) would I need to consult? (Mark C.)

Answer: According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) veterinarian Ben Gonzales, importing and possessing exotic and native wildlife species into California is strictly regulated by DFG under Fish and Game Code, section 2118 and California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 671.6, which addresses restricted species. All interstate animal imports are coordinated with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), both of which have their own interstate transport and import requirements.

Most importations of wildlife are for exhibition purposes, such as zoos, and requirements are different for each species. For this purpose, DFG’s License and Revenue Branch reviews all applications for restricted species permits. Restricted species cannot be imported or possessed for hunting purposes. Similarly, importing or possessing live mammals for sport hunting purposes or for sale to another buyer for those purposes is prohibited (Fish and Game Code, section 2124). The importation of cervid (deer) species is very strictly regulated to prevent the entry of Chronic Wasting Disease into the state.

Regarding importing wild pigs, there are strict disease testing requirements for importation of swine from other states, as well as certificates of veterinary inspection and interstate import permits required from the USDA and CDFA. Because pigs are designated as “big game mammals,” the trapping of wild pigs in California is considered “take” and is illegal except under a DFG permit such as a trapping permit or hunting tag (FGC, section 2126 and CCR Title 14, section 250). Wild pigs taken under permit are required to be immediately killed (CCR Title 14, section 251.5) and are not allowed to be released (FGC, section 2121).

DFG promotes wild pigs as an excellent big game hunting resource. However, problems occur when wild pig numbers become excessive and/or they venture into areas where they can cause considerable damage to crops, landscaping and threatened plant and wildlife species. This happens especially when wild pigs are introduced into new areas. Pigs do not respect fence lines and when introduced to a “new” property, they will quickly occupy all surrounding properties and are nearly impossible to eradicate from the area. In certain areas of California, wild pigs can carry diseases such as pseudorabies and brucellosis which may affect domestic swine.

Besides the legal implications, there are serious ethical considerations involved with “farm raising,” selling and releasing wild animals for sport hunting. There are many successful hunting ranches in California that manage the resources on their land in a manner that encourages native wildlife populations and they have no need to augment them through illegal means. For more information on hunting, please visit DFG’s website at

Question: If I am using a legal shrimp fly rig to fish in California waters for rockfish and a legal-sized lingcod bites and holds onto an otherwise legal-sized rockfish, can I legally gaff and possess that legal-sized hitchhiking lingcod? I am assuming the lingcod has not been hooked in the mouth on my shrimp fly rig, but has merely bitten and held on to the rockfish all the way to the surface. Would this be legal? (James O. Peterson)

Answer: Yes. The take of “hitchhiking” lingcod with a gaff is legal as long as the fish is of legal size. Gaff hooks cannot be used to take or assist in landing any finfish shorter than the minimum sizes limit. Gaffs also cannot be used to take  salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or striped bass.

Are deer carts legal?
Question: Is it legal to use deer carts in the wilderness for hauling out deer and bears? (Sam X.)

Answer: These devices are not regulated by fish and game laws and may be used in National Forests and much public land. However, motorized vehicles and “mechanical transport” (including such things as deer carts, bicycles, hang gliders) may NOT be used in designated Wilderness Areas.

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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

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