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Why can't I have a hedgehog, sugar glider, ferret, or other restricted non-native species as a pet in California?
The Department of Fish and Wildlife gets a number of questions about why various non-native species are restricted as pets in California. Here is a typical response on why this type of request is not a good idea or legal under current regulations:
The Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife asked me to respond to your recent letter regarding hedgehogs as pets in California. California's laws restrict importation and possession of hedgehogs and many other animals in order to protect our public health and safety, agriculture, wildlife, and natural resources. The Department of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Health Services, and Department of Fish and Wildlife are required to protect these interests. California's restrictions apply to many kinds of wild and domestic animals that are legal pets elsewhere, including hedgehogs, gerbils, degus, prairie dogs, sugar gliders, fur-ranch foxes, monkeys, and Quaker parakeets.
I appreciate your thoughts on whether hedgehogs could survive in California or if making them legal as pets would make it less likely that they would be released or escape into the wild. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to these types of questions and the risk to California's native wildlife and habitats is too great to take chances. There are at least 17 species of hedgehogs known and it is well documented that they can become pests where they have been introduced into the wild in new areas. There are also many unknown questions related to natural predators and potential diseases when any non-native animal like the hedgehog is introduced into the wild where they aren't native. If personal ownership were possible for hedgehog species, it's likely that there would be similar requests for many other non-native species. These types of risks are far too great to taken given the diversity of wildlife that California has already.
I hope that this information helps you better understand why these laws are in place. I'm including more background information about these laws and what it would take to change them below. The Department of Fish and Wildlife does not have the staff or resources to work on these types of issues and does not support any changes to them without solid scientific evidence that there would not be any risks to our native wildlife and their habitats.
Currently, all species of hedgehogs are restricted from possession as pets in California. Section 671, Title 14, of the California Code of Regulations (CCR) (www.oal.ca.gov) was established to restrict the possession of thousands of different species of animals for one or more of the following reasons: (1) because their numbers are threatened or endangered in the wild, (2) because they pose a threat to our native fish and wildlife, agriculture or public health and safety.
The State Legislature, in Section 2118 of the Fish and Game Code, included all species of the order Insectivora on its list of prohibited species.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife is authorized to issue permits only to qualified individuals or institutions for limited purposes such as research, public exhibition, or shelter. Permits are not issued to import or possess any wild animal for pet purposes.
Hedgehogs are insectivores and when exported from their native ranges have established populations in the wild outside those ranges. Unfortunately, pet owners sometimes become tired or frustrated with pets and release them into the wild which is detrimental to California's native animals, because they compete for food, habitat, and may introduce new diseases.
Generally speaking, when shopping for a pet, if an animal is for sale in a California pet store, feed store, or live stock auction its "ok" as a pet in California. The laws and regulations that restrict animals as pets can be found at the following Department web page. If you would like to receive a hard copy of laws and regulations, please respond with your mailing address.
We are not aware of any pending changes to existing legislation or regulations changing the status of hedgehogs.
In cooperation with the Department of Food and Agriculture, the Commission would have to amend Section 671, Title 14, CCR, through formal rule making pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) (Government Code § 11340 et seq.) in order to authorize the possession of hedgehogs as pets in California. Any action by the Commission to amend the regulation mentioned above would also require compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Public Resources Code Section 21000 et seq.). CEQA is one of California's preeminent environmental statutes and it applies whenever a state or local agency proposes to approve a discretionary project.
Requests to amend Section 671, Title 14, of the CCR must be sent to the Commission in writing, along with a specific description of the change(s) you are requesting, and the specific reason(s) for the request. (The scientific basis to support the claim that the hedgehog is no longer a detrimental species. Contact the Fish and Game Commission directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions about the process to change Section 671, Title 14, of the CCR as it relates to hedgehogs.
Thank you for contacting the Department of Fish and Wildlife.