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Can You Have an Owl as a Pet in California?


Can You Have an Owl as a Pet in California

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No, it is not legal to have an owl as a pet in California. Owls are protected under both federal and state laws, which prohibit the possession of these majestic birds without proper permits or licenses.

Although owls might seem like fascinating companions, they require specialized care and expertise that most people do not possess.

In this article, we will explore the reasons why having an owl as a pet is prohibited in California and delve into the regulations surrounding wildlife ownership in the state.

So if you’ve ever wondered about keeping an owl as a pet in California, read on to discover all the pertinent information you need to know.

Can You Have an Owl as a Pet in California?

No, you cannot have an owl as a pet in California. It is illegal to own any wild animal in California without a permit, and owls are considered wild animals. The only people who are allowed to have owls in California are:

  • Licensed falconers
  • Zoos and other educational organizations
  • Wildlife rehabilitators
Can You Have an Owl as a Pet in California?

Even if you are a licensed falconer, you are not allowed to keep an owl as a pet. Owls are considered to be too specialized for falconry, and they are not suitable for living in captivity.

If you are interested in learning more about owls, there are many organizations in California that offer educational programs about owls. You can also visit zoos and wildlife rehabilitation centers to see owls up close.

Owning an Owl: Legalities and Regulations in California

Here are some key points regarding owning owls in California:

  1. Protected Species: Many species of owls are protected under both federal and state law. This means that it is generally illegal to possess or keep them as pets without proper permits.
  2. Permit Requirements: Owning an owl in California requires obtaining appropriate permits from the state regulatory agencies responsible for wildlife conservation, such as the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). These permits may vary depending on factors like the species of owl and intended purpose.
  3. Native Owl Species: Capturing or possessing native owl species found in California typically necessitates additional restrictions due to their protected status. Permits for rehabilitation centers or educational institutions might be available but require meeting specific criteria set by DFW.
  4. Falconry Exceptions: Falconers licensed by DFW have certain allowances when it comes to owning owls for falconry purposes under strict guidelines defined by law.
  5. Exotic Owl Species: In some cases, exotic owl species not native to California might be allowed as pets if they are legally imported into the state through authorized channels, accompanied by necessary documentation proving legality.

Types of Owls Suitable for Keeping as Pets

When considering having an owl as a pet in California, it’s essential to choose a species that is suitable for captivity. Here are some types of owls that can be kept as pets:

1. Eastern Screech Owl:

  • Size: Small
  • Characteristics: Nocturnal, adaptable, and known for their distinctive trilling call.
  • Considerations: Requires a spacious cage with places to perch and hide.

2. Barn Owl:

  • Size: Medium
  • Characteristics: Excellent hunters known for their heart-shaped face and ghostly appearance.
  • Considerations: Needs ample flying space; requires regular access to open areas or aviaries.

3. Northern Saw-whet Owl:

  • Size: Small
  • Characteristics: Cute with big eyes; active at night but relatively calm during the day.
  • Considerations: Needs vertical perches and hiding spots; prefers quiet environments.

4. Great Horned Owl:

  • Size: Large
  • Characteristics: Majestic birds with prominent ear tufts and powerful hunting skills.
  • Considerations: Requires substantial space due to its size; not recommended for beginners.

It’s crucial to note that owning an owl in California may require permits or licenses from local authorities due to wildlife regulations.

The Challenges of Owning an Owl as a Pet

Owning an owl as a pet can be an intriguing idea, but it comes with several challenges that you should consider before making such a decision.

Can You Have an Owl as a Pet in California?

Here are some of the key challenges to keep in mind:

  1. Legal Restrictions: In California, it is illegal to own most species of owls without proper permits and licenses. The state has strict regulations in place to protect wildlife and prevent the illegal trade of animals. Violating these laws can result in fines or even criminal charges.
  2. Specialized Care Requirements: Owls have specific care needs that may be difficult for the average person to meet. They require spacious enclosures with room for flying and exercise, specialized diets consisting mainly of live prey like mice or rats, and regular veterinary check-ups from professionals experienced in avian medicine.
  3. Behavioral Challenges: Owls are wild animals by nature and have natural instincts that may not align well with domestic life. They are nocturnal creatures who are active at night, which can disrupt your daily routine if you’re unprepared for their sleep patterns. Additionally, they have sharp talons and beaks designed for hunting; handling them incorrectly could lead to injury for both you and the bird.
  4. Financial Considerations: Owning an owl can be expensive due to their unique needs. Costs include building or modifying suitable housing structures, purchasing appropriate food (which can add up quickly), providing necessary medical care, obtaining required permits/licenses, and potentially hiring professional trainers or handlers.
  5. Lifespan Commitment: Many owl species have long lifespans ranging from 10-30 years depending on the species kept in captivity—a commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly since it requires ongoing dedication throughout their entire lifespan.

Feeding and Caring for Pet Owls

Owls can make fascinating pets, but it’s important to understand their unique dietary and care requirements.

Can You Have an Owl as a Pet in California?

Here are some key points to consider when feeding and caring for pet owls:

  1. Diet: Owls are carnivores, so their diet primarily consists of meat. It is essential to provide them with a balanced diet that mimics their natural hunting habits. The majority of your owl’s food should be whole prey items such as mice, rats, or chicks.
  2. Feeding Schedule: Establishing a regular feeding schedule is crucial for the overall health and well-being of your pet owl. Adult owls generally require one meal per day, while younger ones may need multiple feedings throughout the day.
  3. Fresh Water: Always ensure that fresh water is readily available for your pet owl at all times. Use a shallow dish or bowl that allows easy access without posing any drowning hazards.
  4. Housing Requirements: Owls need ample space to move around comfortably in their enclosure (also known as an aviary). The size will depend on the species you own; research specific guidelines based on your owl’s needs.
  5. Perches and Enrichment: Provide sturdy perches within the enclosure where your owl can rest comfortably and observe its surroundings from different heights. Additionally, offering toys, branches, or puzzles can help stimulate mental activity and prevent boredom.
  6. Veterinary Care: Regular check-ups by an experienced avian veterinarian are vital to ensure your pet owl remains healthy over time. They can provide vaccinations if necessary and monitor any potential signs of illness or nutritional deficiencies.
Adult OwlsYounger Owlets
Weight ManagementMonitor weight regularly; adjust portion sizes accordinglyFrequent monitoring needed due to growth spurts

Alternative Options: Birds Similar to Owls as Pets

If you’re unable to have an owl as a pet in California, there are several other bird species that share similar characteristics and can make great alternatives.

Can You Have an Owl as a Pet in California?

Here are some birds similar to owls that you might consider:

  1. Hawks: Hawks belong to the same family of birds as owls (Strigidae) and exhibit many similarities in terms of appearance, hunting techniques, and even temperament. While not nocturnal like owls, hawks can be trained for falconry purposes and make impressive avian companions.
  2. Falconiformes: This order includes magnificent birds such as falcons and kestrels, which possess sharp talons, excellent eyesight, and incredible speed. Although they differ from owls in their active hunting style during daylight hours, these raptors offer a unique experience for bird enthusiasts.
  3. Nightjars: Nightjars may resemble small owls at first glance due to their cryptic plumage patterns and large eyes adapted for low-light conditions. Even though they are not closely related taxonomically speaking, nightjars share certain behavioral traits with owls such as their crepuscular or nocturnal habits.
  4. Kookaburras: Native to Australia but sometimes kept as pets around the world, kookaburras have a distinctive call often compared to human laughter. These carnivorous birds display exceptional hunting skills reminiscent of owl behavior when catching insects or small vertebrates.
  5. Tawny Frogmouths: Often mistaken for owls due to their camouflage plumage patterns resembling tree bark or lichen-covered branches; tawny frogmouths are actually more closely related to nightjars than true owls. They possess a wide bill used for capturing prey like insects or small mammals.
  6. Eagle-owls: Eagle-owls, also known as horned owls or Eurasian eagle-owls, are large and majestic birds that share some characteristics with true owls. These impressive raptors have powerful talons and a silent flight similar to their nocturnal relatives.

Conclusion! Can You Have an Owl as a Pet in California?

Having an owl as a pet in California is not allowed. The state has strict regulations and laws regarding the ownership of wild animals, including owls.

Owls are protected under both federal and state laws due to their status as native wildlife.

Owning an owl requires specialized knowledge, permits, and facilities that most people do not possess. It is crucial to prioritize the well-being of these magnificent creatures by allowing them to live in their natural habitats instead of keeping them as pets.

While it may be tempting to have an owl companion, it is important to respect the laws set forth for their conservation and protection.


Can I Get a Permit to Own an Owl as A Pet in California?

No, you cannot get a permit to own an owl as a pet in California. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does not issue permits for private individuals to keep owls as pets.

What Are the Penalties for Owning an Owl as A Pet in California?

The penalties for owning an owl as a pet in California can be severe. You could be fined up to $1,000 and/or imprisoned for up to six months. You could also be ordered to forfeit the owl to the CDFW.

What Are the Reasons Why It Is Illegal to Own an Owl as A Pet in California?

There are several reasons why it is illegal to own an owl as a pet in California. These reasons include:
Owls are wild animals and are not domesticated. They have specific needs that cannot be met in captivity.
Owls are often injured or orphaned and need the care of a trained wildlife rehabilitator.
Owls are prey animals and can be dangerous if they are not handled properly.
Keeping an owl as a pet can contribute to the illegal trade of wildlife.

What Are the Alternatives to Owning an Owl as A Pet in California?

There are many alternatives to owning an owl as a pet in California. These alternatives include:
Visiting a zoo or wildlife rehabilitation center that has owls.
Watching educational videos about owls online.
Reading books about owls.
Joining an owl conservation organization.

What Should I Do if I See Someone with An Owl as A Pet in California?

If you see someone with an owl as a pet in California, you should report it to the CDFW. You can do this by calling the CDFW’s Wildlife Hotline at 1-888-334-2258.

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