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Wild pets aren’t legal in California except for fish

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POSTED February 5, 2018 10:46 p.m.

As a general rule, wild animals don’t make good pets.  Although there have been several great articles about humans adopting large wild critters such as bears and lions, it simply isn’t practical for most of us. Lions. tigers and bears are pretty much out of the question, as are rattlesnakes, but ferrets, and raccoons and even possums can make good pets. Keep in mind that it is illegal to catch any wild critter in California and keep it as a pet.

Several years ago, my son and I helped rescue a batch of coyote puppies whose mother had dug her den in an orchard that was flood irrigated. Sure enough at irrigation time, the den flooded and an entire litter of newborn coyote pups had to swim for their lives. We were able to rescue several of the cute little guys and kept them in a warm box indoors and hand fed them with a medicine dropper. While it was very tempting to maybe keep one of the little critters as a pet, common sense finally prevailed and I called my local Game Warden who found them a home at a wildlife shelter that eventually released them back into the wild.

While most wild critters do not adapt well as pets, warm water game fish are a notable exception. Largemouth Bass. Smallmouth, Crappie, Bluegills and Sunfish all make fine aquarium pets. For several years I had a pet bass, whose name was Sam. Every week I’d take my live minnow bucket to the local bait shop and get a dozen minnows to feed Sam. Just before dumping the minnows into the aquarium, I’d tap on the glass with my fingernail. Pretty soon, Sam figured out that the finger tapping was his dinner bell & he’d get all excited and race around the tank in anticipation. It was sort of like the “Hungry Dog Dance” my dogs do every night at dinnertime. If you’d tap on the glass and stick your finger in the tank, old Sam would figure you were a minnow and would bite your finger. I almost had several guests convinced that Sam was a man-eating Bass. 

Over the years, I’ve had pet Crappie, Bluegills and Smallmouth as pets, and they all worked out fine. Because they are warm water fish, they prefer water at pretty much the same temperature as your normal household.  They aren’t fussy eaters and will eat minnows, table scraps and yes, there is even a Purina Fish Chow. Crappie are especially beautiful fish & will live in a home aquarium for years. Trout prefer colder waters and don’t adapt as well to aquarium life. I’ve got to throw in a legal disclaimer at this point. It is illegal to catch a California game fish and transport it out of its home water alive. There have been too many examples of how well -meaning folks have transplanted fish into different waters and really screwed things up.

If you want to keep a game fish as a pet, don’t just catch a bass or crappie & bring him home in an ice chest. So how do you get a legal game fish as a pet? You buy one from a private fish breeder, who is licensed by the state. Go to the Department of Fish & Game website and click on their aquaculture link for a list of licensed fish breeders. Once you’ve got your legal game fish you care for them just you would any aquarium fish. They are lots of fun and make great pets. You can even convince your friends you’ve got a man eating bass.

 

Until next week,

 

Tight Lines 

 

 

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