Q: I read about a person in Riverside County who tried to capture a wild donkey but was stopped by the sheriff’s office and game wardens. What is the legal status of wild donkeys? Why can’t I go out and capture one and re-domesticate it? How do you tell the difference between a wild donkey and a domesticated one?

A: You may be surprised how much effort has been put into establishing the legal status of donkeys. The California State Legislature enacted Fish and Game Code section 4600 to make it unlawful to kill, wound, capture or have in possession any wild donkey, known legally as an “undomesticated burro,” with a few exceptions noted below.

California Fish and Game Code protects wild donkeys.

California Fish and Game Code protects wild donkeys. (Courtesy photo)

An undomesticated burro means a wild burro or a burro that has not been tamed or domesticated for a period of three years after its capture.

The fact that a burro was killed, wounded or captured on publicly owned land, or on land owned by a person other than the person who killed, wounded or captured the burro is prima facie evidence that the burro was an undomesticated burro at the time it was killed, wounded or captured.

The legislature went further and included in Fish and Game Code section 4600 a provision that states that the California Fish and Game Commission, or any other department or agency, does not have the authority to modify the section.

Government Code section 53074.5 offers three primary exemptions. The first exemption is at the request of a landowner, officer or employee of a local animal control agency who may remove an undomesticated burro that strays onto private land.

The second is when an officer or employee of a local animal control agency needs to remove an undomesticated burro that strays onto a public roadway to ensure public safety.

The third occurs if an officer or employee of a local animal control agency may provide medical care or treatment, including, but not limited to, euthanasia if medically appropriate, to an undomesticated burro that is seriously ill or injured. 


Q: Is it legal to use a two-way radio while hunting in California? Some states do not allow this, do you know the reason why?

— Tosh

A: California law does not prohibit use of two-way radios during hunting. Those who oppose using two-way radios may feel that they provide an unfair advantage when stalking and hunting wildlife. Currently, California has no such law, so radios and cell phones are legal. 

Lead-free Ammo

Q: Because of the pandemic, there has been a lot of issues finding lead-free ammo. Will there be any exceptions this year to California requiring lead-free ammo for hunting?

— Tyler

A: Nonlead ammunition is required when taking any wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California. That requirement originated with state legislation signed into law in 2013 and, therefore, cannot be suspended, changed or altered by either the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) or the California Fish and Game Commission. 

The ammunition shortage you reference is actually a nationwide situation impacting the availability of lead and lead-free ammunition of all kinds.

The shortage is the result of several factors — high demand brought about by millions of new gun owners, fear prompted by the global pandemic (resulting in panic-buying and hoarding), supply chain and workforce issues impacting the manufacturing process also brought about by the global pandemic, among other issues. 

The best advice we can offer California sportsmen and women is to plan ahead — far in advance of any hunting seasons or trips in order to acquire the ammunition you want and need. The days of quickly grabbing a couple of boxes of hunting loads at the neighborhood sporting goods store on your way to a hunting trip are largely over.

The upside is there are more and better-performing lead-free ammunition offerings being developed and introduced every year. You’ll likely need to call or check with a variety of retail outlets to find the ammunition you need.

You can also shop and order ammunition online — you’ll just need to have it shipped and processed by an individual or a business with a Federal Firearms License or a California Ammunition Vendor License before you can pick it up. These businesses typically charge a small handling fee for this service. 

As the bulk of California’s big game and bird hunting seasons are still some months away, we expect the amount and availability of lead-free hunting ammunition to improve as these seasons approach. For more information, consult CDFW’s Nonlead Ammunition in California web page.