Decoding California Trapping Law

Though California has major restrictions for many things, trapping being one of them, it is still possible to pursue it here, legally. In fact, trapping licenses can be gotten after taking a test and paying a fee to the DFG. The big thing for any budding trapper, here in California, is decoding the laws.

I’ve gone through the manual many times and have arranged important parts in an order that makes sense, as it relates to they methods of take and the animals.

To begin, throughout the manual one will find reference to fur bearing animals, so lets figure out which animals are considered fur bearing

According to the manual Fur Bearing mammals are the following:

§4000. Definition of Fur-bearing Mammals

The following are fur-bearing mammals:

pine marten, wisher, wolverine, mink, river otter, gray fox, cross fox, silver fox, red fox, kit fox, raccoon, beaver, badger, and muskrat

With that in mind, notice squirrels, rabbits, jack rabbits, and other animals are not on the list, but it doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods yet, for those type of animals.

Now lets find out the type of traps that are typically ILLEGAL in California

According to section 3003.1

3003.1 Use of Body-Gripping Traps Prohibited; Buy, Sell, Barter, Etc. Fur from Animal Trapped with Prohibited Trap.

A body-gripping trap is one that grips the mammal’s body or body part, including, but not limited to

  • steel-jawed leghold traps
  • padded-jaw leghold traps
  • conibear traps
  • snares
  • deadfalls

Cage and box traps, nets, suitcase-type live beaver traps, and common rat and mouse traps shall not be considered body-gripping traps

Please note it says for use for Buy, Sell, Barter, Etc. This is important because in the following case they are legal to use

4152. Taking of Nongame Mammals Found Injuring Crops or Property.

Except as provided in Section 4005, nongame mammals and black-tailed jackrabbits, muskrats, and red fox squirrels that are found to be injuring growing crops or other property may be taken at any time or in any manner in accordance with this code by the owner or tenant of the premises or employees thereof, except that if leghold steel-jawed traps are used to take those mammals, the traps and the use thereof shall be in accordance with subdivisions (a), (b), and (d) of Section 4004

Section 4004 Section (a), (b), and (d) reads

§4004. Unlawful Methods of Taking

It is unlawful to do any of the following:

(a) Use a steel-jawed leghold trap, or use any trap with saw-toothed or spiked jaws.

(b) Use a body-gripping trap, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 3003.1, for the purpose of recreation or commerce in fur.

(d) Fail to visit and remove all animals from traps at least once daily. If the trapping is done pursuant to Section 4152 or 4180, the inspection and removal shall be done by the person who sets the trap or the owner of the land where the trap is set or an agent of either.

[Please note Section (a) says nothing of padded leghold traps, as described in section 3003.1. So in essence are legal to use.]

Conibears are also legal to use, if they fall within this parameter found in subsection (e) (f) and (g) of this same section

(e) Use a conibear trap that is larger than 6 inches by 6 inches, unless partially or wholly submerged in water. Unless prohibited by the department as a permit condition, a lawfully set conibear trap that is 10 inches by 10 inches or less may be set pursuant to subdivision (g) of Section 465.5 of Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations.

(f) When any conibear trap is set on publicly owned land or land expressly open to public use, fail to post 4 signs at every entrance and exit to the property indicating the presence of conibear traps and at least four additional signs posted within a radius of 50 feet of the trap, one in each cardinal direction, with lettering that is a minimum of three inches high stating: “Danger! Traps Set For Wildlife. Keep Out.” Signs shall be maintained and checked daily.

[Please note it says publicly owned land— NOT Privately owned land]

(g) Kill any trapped mammal in accordance with this section by intentional drowning, injection with any chemical not sold for the purpose of euthanizing animals, or thoracic compression, commonly known as chest crushing. This subdivision shall not be construed to prohibit the use of lawfully set conibear traps set partially or wholly submerged in water for beaver or muskrat or the use of lawfully set colony traps set in water for muskrat.

Now, is a license always needed? Not always as described in this section.

§4005. Take with Traps or Sell Raw Furs; License Required

(c) Persons trapping mammals in accordance with Section 4152 or 4180 are not required to procure a trapping license EXCEPT when providing trapping services for profit.

Section 4152 reads

§4152. Taking of Nongame Mammals Found Injuring Crops or Property

Except as provided in Section 4005, nongame mammals and black-tailed jackrabbits, muskrats, and red fox squirrels that are found to be injuring growing crops or other property may be taken at any time or in any manner in accordance with this code by the owner or tenant of the premises or employees thereof, except that if leghold steel-jawed traps are used to take those mammals, the traps and the use thereof shall be in accordance with subdivisions (a), (b), and (d) of Section 4004.

[Please note it did not say anything about padded leghold traps, as described in section 3003.1]

Section 4180 reads

§4180. Take Fur-bearing Mammals; Conditions; Use of Leghold Steel-jawed Traps; Removal of animals in the Trap

(a) except as provided in section 4005, fur bearing animals that are injuring property may be taken at any time and in any manner in accordance with this code, except that if leghold steel-jawed traps are used to take those mammals, the traps and the use thereof shall be in accordance with subdivisions (a), (b), and (d) of Section 4004

Finally

§465.5. Use of Traps.

(g) Use of Conibear Traps, Snares, Cage and Box Traps, Nets, Suitcase-type Live Beaver Traps and Common Rat and Mouse Traps for Purposes Unrelated to Recreation or Commerce in Fur.

Conibear traps, snares, cage and box traps, nets, suitcase-type live beaver traps and common rat and mouse traps may be used by individuals to take authorized mammals for purposes unrelated to recreation or commerce in fur, including, but not limited to, the protection of property

______________

There is a lot more to the laws and regs, but to summarize:

It is unlawful to use snares, deadfalls, steel leghold traps for the purpose of recreation or selling fur.

With the exception of the steel leghold trap, snares, deadfalls, padded leghold traps can be be used if the animal is a threat to property—perhaps squirrels chewing electrical wiring, rabbits eating crops, etc.

Conibears are absolutely legal, if 6×6 and may be placed on land. Bigger connibears can be used if partially or fully submerged in water.

A license is ALWAYS needed, unless you are a property owner or tenant who is trapping on you property for pest control and damage

A license is always needed on private property if you are charging for a service, such as abatement. If for example, the owner gives you 1 dollar, you need a license. So you’re better off doing it for free and targeting animals that are destroying property.

That said, it is NOT legal to take those furs and sell them, not even if you are getting paid under the guise of pest abatement. Pest abatement is pest abatement, not fur trading and selling.

For the most part, the law is for purposes of fur and recreation and may not apply if there is threat to human life, crops, or property.

Please do your due diligence and read the law, before you commit to pursuing trapping.

For the complete California Manual visit the California DFG site and download a current copy