There’s been a bit of confusion when it comes to possession of wildlife by members of the public. In general it is illegal to possess native wildlife, marine mammals or migratory birds without proper permits. There are some exceptions. The main exception is the Good Samaritan clause. A non-licensed member of the public may pick up ill, injured and orphaned wildlife to transport to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or a licensed veterinarian. The public may hold up to 48 hours with the intent to transport it to a licensed individual for proper care. Below are the specific laws.
Federally protected birds.
Title 50 – Wildlife and Fisheries [50 CFR]
Part 21 – Migratory Bird Permits [50 CFR 21]
Subpart C – Specific Permit Provisions
§ 21.31 Rehabilitation permits.
(a) What is the permit requirement? Except as provided in §21.12, a rehabilitation permit is required to take, temporarily possess, or transport any migratory bird for rehabilitation purposes. However, any person who finds a sick, injured, or orphaned migratory bird may, without a permit, take possession of the bird in order to immediately transport it to a permitted rehabilitator.
(b) What are the general permit provisions? (1) The permit authorizes you to:
(i) Take from the wild or receive from another person sick, injured, or orphaned migratory birds and to possess them and provide rehabilitative care for them for up to 180 days;
(ii) Transport such birds to a suitable habitat for release, to another permitted rehabilitator’s facilities, or to a veterinarian;
(iii) Transfer, release, or euthanize such birds;
(iv) Transfer or otherwise dispose of dead specimens; and
(v) Receive, stabilize, and transfer within 48 hours types of migratory bird species not authorized by your permit, in cases of emergency. If a rehabilitator authorized to care for the bird is not available within that timeframe, you must contact the issuing office for authorization to retain the bird until it can be transferred.
In California all birds are protected under this act except regular pigeons, house sparrows, starlings, domestically bred pet birds and exotic pet birds.
16 USC 1361-1407
Marine Mammal Protection Act
Chapter 31-Marine Mammal Protection
§ 1371 (a) imposition: exemptions
(d) Good Samaritan exemption
It shall not be a violation of this chapter to take a marine mammals if – (1) such taking is imminently necessary to avoid serious injury, additional injury, or death to a marine mammal entangled in fishing gear or debris; (2) reasonable care is taken to ensure the safe release of the marine mammal, taking into consideration the equipment, expertise, and conditions at hand, (3) reasonable care is exercised to prevent any further injury to the marine mammal; and (4) such taking is reported to the secretary within 48 hours;
Marine mammals are dolphins, whales, seals, porpoises, sea lions, walruses, polar bears, otters and the like.
The California Department of Fish & Game now called Fish & Wildlife regulates native wildlife.
California Code of Regulations
Title 14. Natural Resources
Division 1. Fish and Game Commission-Department of Fish & Game
Subdivision 3.General Regulations
Chapter 3. Miscellaneous
Section 679 Possession of wildlife and wildlife rehabilitation
(b) Temporary Confinement of Wildlife. Except for big game mammals listed in Section 350, Title 14, CCR, injured, diseased or orphaned animals may be temporarily confined by persons if they notify the nearest regional office of the department within forty-eight (48) hours of finding or confining such wildlife. Notification shall include name and address; the species of wildlife and a description of its injury, disease or condition; the date and location the wildlife was found; and the location where the wildlife is confined. Confined animals must be disposed of pursuant to department direction, which may include placement in a department-approved wildlife rehabilitation facility. (Department offices: Northern Region (Redding), North Central Region (Rancho Cordova), Bay Delta
Region (Yountville), Central Region (Fresno), South Coast Region (San Diego), Inland Deserts Region (Ontario), and Marine Region (Monterey).)
Big game mammals are bears, mountain lion, adult deer, elk and the like. Small game mammals are coyotes, bobcats, foxes, raccoons, opossums, skunks, squirrels…bats.
If you are a member of the public and have found ill, injured or orphaned wildlife, contact a rehabilitator. Below is a list of rehabbers in the US. It can be dangerous to pick up wildlife. Consult with a rehabber if you can. Your safety comes first. If you can’t find a rehabber, call animal control. Thanks for caring about wildlife.
Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game and the USDA. Mary Cummins is also a licensed real estate appraiser in Los Angeles, California.
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