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Colorado State Laws Governing Private Possession of Exotic Animals

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Introduction to Chapter 11

In this introduction to chapter 11 we outline possession requirements for live wildlife as found in Colorado wildlife law. There is growing interest in the private possession of live wildlife. At the same time there is considerable confusion over the laws regarding such private possession. Colorado wildlife law generally prohibits the importation, live possession, sale, barter, trade, or purchase of any species of wildlife native to Colorado (33-6-113(1), C.R.S.). In addition, these same laws restrict or prohibit the importation and possession of exotic (non-native) wildlife (33-6-109(4), C.R.S.).

Live possession of Wildlife is permitted only under the exceptions noted below and as further detailed in Wildlife Commission regulations and Colorado statutes, See C.R.S. 33-1-106, 33-6-109, 33-6-113, 33-6-114, 18-9-202. The Wildlife Commission also maintains a "prohibited species" list in Chapter 0. The possession of these species is severely restricted.

The Wildlife Commission establishes these regulations in an effort to balance its mandate to protect native species of wildlife in Colorado from the impacts which could be caused by the introduction of exotic (non-native) species with the public interest and demand for the private possession of live wildlife.

Reptiles and Amphibians - Chapter 10 of Wildlife Commission regulations provide that any person can possess up to six live native reptiles or native amphibians for personal use except for those species whose possession are specifically prohibited in chapter 0 or 10. These animals may not be sold, traded, or bartered.

Scientific Collection permit - Chapter 13 allows for the lawful possession of live wildlife under the authority of a scientific collection permit. Specific permit conditions and restrictions apply and may vary from permit to permit based on the needs of the permittee as well as appropriate protection of wildlife resources.

Wildlife Rehabilitation - Chapter 14 allows for the lawful possession of live wildlife by licensed rehabilitators as a means to care for sick, injured or orphaned wildlife. With few exceptions, possession is allowed only long enough for the animal to recover or mature.

Falconry and Hawking - Chapter 6 allows for the possession of falcons, hawks, and eagles for falconry purposes. Persons possessing these birds must be properly licensed by both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Division of Wildlife.

Aquaculture - Colorado statutory law recognizes that fish may be held and propagated under the authority of an aquaculture permit issued by the Department of Agriculture. In addition, chapter 12 authorizes the possession of fish for use in aquaria with some restrictions.

Bait dealers - Chapter 1, fishing, authorizes bait dealers and individuals to possess certain live fish as bait. Specific restrictions apply.

Snapping turtles - Chapter 0, General Provisions, authorizes the live possession of snapping turtles by any person.

Wildlife Park Licenses - Chapter 11 provides for lawful possession, propagation and sale of native and exotic wildlife via a mandatory licensing process. This includes possession of any live wildlife, other than those discussed above or listed as "unregulated" wildlife. Examples include: Any live mammals (including furbearers), game birds, or other terrestrial wildlife not specifically listed on the unregulated wildlife list. Persons possessing live wildlife under a Commercial Wildlife Parks License are required to maintain their commercial status.

Unregulated Wildlife - No license is required for the private possession or purchase of animals which are included on the unregulated wildlife list or the domestic animal list. These animals may be sold, bartered, traded, exchanged, propagated or purchased by any person provided that importation requirements of the Department of Agriculture, health certifications, or any other federal, state or local requirements are met. There are no possession limits.

These are chapter 11 regulations clarify that it is unlawful to intentionally release any wildlife declared to be unregulated. The wildlife on these lists are typically sold, purchased, possessed and propagated as pets, maintained by hobbyists, or raised for food and fiber within Colorado's alternative livestock industry. If an animal is not listed on either the unregulated wildlife or the domestic animal list it cannot be lawfully sold to an unlicensed person unless specifically authorized by Commission regulation.



A. Domestic animals - The following animals are considered domestic and are exempted from the requirements of Wildlife Commission regulations:

Domestic dog (Canis familiaris) including hybrids with wild canids

Domestic cat (Felis catus) including hybrids with wild felines

Domestic horse (Equus caballus) including hybrids with Equus assinus

Domestic ass, burro, and donkey (Equus assinus)

Domestic cattle (Bos taurus and Bos indicus)

Domestic sheep (Ovis aries)

Domestic goat (Capra hircus)

Domestic swine (Sus scrofa domestica)

Domesticated races of hamsters (Mesocricetus spp.)

Domesticated races of mink (Mustela vison)

Domesticated races of guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus)

Domesticated races of gerbils (Meriones unquiculatus)

Domesticated races of chinchillas (Chinchilla laniger)

Domesticated races of rats (Rattus norvegicus and Rattus)

Domesticated races of mice (Mus musculus)

Domesticated races of European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

Domesticated races of chickens (Gallus)

Domesticated races of turkey (Meleagria gallopavo) distinguished morphologically from wild birds

Domesticated races of ducks and geese (Anatidae) distinguishable morphologically from wild birds

Domesticated races of European ferret (Mustela putorius)

Domesticated races of pigeons (Columba domestica and Columba livia) and feral pigeons

Domesticated races of guinea fowl (Numida meleagris)

Domesticated races of peafowl (Pavo cristatus)

Bison (Bison) including hybrids with domestic cattle

Ostrich (Struthio spp.)

Llama (Lama qlama)

Rhea (Rhea spp.)

Emu (Dromiceius spp.)

Alpaca (Lama pacos)

Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus)

Yak (Bos grunniens)

Camels (Camelus bactrianus and Camelus dromedarius)

B. Unregulated Wildlife - Prior to adoption of this regulation (#1103B), possession of the listed species was expressly prohibited by Section 33-6-109(4), C.R.S. The decision of the Wildlife Commission to authorize this possession as herein provided is based on the scientific evidence available to it at the time of adoption of the regulation. The Wildlife Commission retains the statutory authority and duty to amend these regulations and to impose requirements, restrictions, and/or prohibition on possession of any of the listed species if and when further evidence comes to the Wildlife Commission's attention which makes such amendments appropriate.

Except for the provisions of section #007 regarding importation, #008 regarding the prohibited species list, #009 regarding release of live wildlife, and section #1114 regarding the addition of species to the unregulated wildlife list, the wildlife enumerated in this list are otherwise exempted from the requirements of Wildlife Commission regulations.

Unregulated wildlife may be imported, sold, bartered, traded, transferred, possessed, propagated and transported in Colorado provided that all importation, disease requirements and any other state, local or federal requirements are met. Statutory restrictions still apply.

All marine animals (vertebrates and invertebrates) except for anadromous and catadromous species.


African pygmy hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris, Erinaceus albiventris)

Sugar Gliders (Petaurus breviceps)

Short-tailed Possum (Monodelphis domestica)

Dama Wallaby (Tammar Wallaby) Macropus eugenii

Swamp Wallaby Wallabia bicolor

Bennet Wallaby (Red-necked Wallaby) Macropus rufogriseus

Red Kangaroo Macropus rufus

Wallaroo Macropus robustus


All tropical and subtropical fishes

Common goldfish (Carassius auratus) Koi


All tropical and subtropical birds in the Order Passeriformes: including but not limited to birds in the families:

Sturnidae (Mynahs)

Ramphastidae (Toucans, Toucanettes)

Fringillidae (Siskins)

Estrildidae (Finches)

Emberizidae (Cardinals)

Ploceidae (Weavers)

Timaliidae (Mesias)

Viduinae (Wydahs)

Thraupidae (Tanagers)

Zosteropidae (Zosterops)

European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

All Psitticine birds

Reptiles and Amphibians:

All non-native snakes in the families:

Bolidae (giant snakes)

Colubridae (modern snakes), except venomous species

Acrochordidae (file and elephant trunk snakes)

Xenopeltidae (sunbeam snakes)

Aniliidae (pipe snakes)

Uropeltidae (shield-tailed snakes)

All tropical and subtropical lizards in the Suborder Sauria, including but not limited to the following families or subfamilies:

Agamidae (chisel-teeth lizards)

Anelytropsidae (snake lizards)

Anguidae (glass and alligator lizards)

Chamaeleonidae (chameleons)

Cordylidae (girdle-tailed lizards)

Corytophanidae (casquehead lizards)

Crotaphytidae (collared and leopard lizards)

Dibamidae (blind lizards)

Feyliniidae (African snake skinks)

Gekkonidae (geckos)

Pygopodidae (snake lizards)

Scincidae (skinks)

Eublepharidae (Eyelid geckos)

Helodermatidae (beaded lizards, gila monsters)

Iguanidae (iguanas)

Lacertidae (wall lizards)

Lanthanotidae (earless monitor)

Phrynosomatidae (earless, spiny, and horned lizards)

Polychridae (anoles)

Teiidae (whiptail)

Tropiduridae (neotropical ground lizards)

Varanidae (monitor lizard)

Xantusiidae (night lizard)

Xenosauridae (knob-scaled lizards).

All tropical and subtropical turtles in the families:

Carettochelyidae (New Guinea softshell turtles)

Dermatemydidae (Central American river turtles)

Kinosternidae (mud and musk turtles)

Testudinidae (tortoises)

Trionychidae (soft-shelled turtles)

Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta)

All tropical and subtropical frogs and toads in the families:

Atelopodidae (stub-footed toads)

Bufonidae (true toads)

Centrolenidae (glass frogs)

Dendrobatidae (poison dart frogs)

Hylidae (tree frogs)

Leptodactylidae (tropical frogs)

Microhylidae (narrow-mouthed toads)

Pelobatidae (spadefoot toads)

Pelodytidae (spadefoot toads)

Phrynomeridae (snake-necked frogs)

Pipidae (clawed frogs, Surinam toads)

Pseudidae (Harlequin frogs)

Ranidae (true frogs)

Rhacophoridae (flying frogs)

Rhinophrynidae (cone-nosed toads)

Rana pipiens (Leopard frog) acquired from lawful out-of-state source or instate commercial producer.

Ambystoma tigrinum (Tiger salamander) acquired from lawful out-of-state source or instate commercial producer.

Oriental fire-bellied toad (Bombina orientalis)

Order Gymnophiona - Caecilians, tropical amphibians

Order Urodela - Salamanders and newts

Suborder Amphisbaenia - Worm lizards


Members of the subfamily Phaisianae not native to North America except chukar partridge, grey partridge, red-legged partridge and ring-necked pheasant.

Those species of ducks, geese and swans not listed in the regulations of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in the Code of Federal Regulation 50 CFR. 10.13 (October 1, 1994). This rule does not incorporate amendments to said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations. Information regarding this rule or copies may be obtained from the Terrestrial Wildlife Section, 6060 Broadway, Denver, CO 80216.

C. Federal, state or county agencies or any person with a valid scientific collecting permit conducting research; zoos accredited by AAZPA, and individual animals used in carnival and animal acts which are licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

D. No license is required for wildlife taken in accordance with commission regulation 1000.A.6.

E. Up to 25 live ring-necked pheasants, Gambel's quail, scaled quail, bobwhite quail, chukar, grey partridge or mallard ducks may be possessed for up to twenty-five (25) days without a license. Such wildlife shall be accompanied by a receipt showing that the wildlife have been lawfully acquired, to include the source and the purchase or acquisition date. These birds may only be hunted on the day of release and the number of birds taken cannot exceed the number of birds released. All released birds not taken by hunting on the day of release shall become property of the state. All hunting must occur on private property. No birds held under the authority of this section may be released and hunted during any season established for that species.



A. Prior to the issuance of any license, the Division shall determine that the applicant has met the following requirements:

1. Demonstrates it is a "commercial" operation by documenting it has a profit motive as determined pursuant to the following criteria. An applicant does not have to meet all of the listed criteria.

These criteria include:

  1. Hiring of trained employees

  2. Maintenance of detailed business records

  3. Generation of profits

  4. Abandoning the activity when profits cannot be achieved

  5. Advertising

  6. Experiencing annual increases in net income from the activity

  7. Devoting significant amount of time to the activity

  8. Devoting significant amount of money to the activity

  9. Development of a written business plan

  10. Operating the activity in a business like manner

  11. Evidence of previous profitability in a similar activity

  12. Consistent efforts to market products and/or services

  13. Exercising care in carrying on the activity

  14. Expectation of large profits if successful

  15. Having or developing expertise with respect to the activity

  16. Investigating the profit potential of the activity

  17. Filing state and federal income tax returns on the activity

  18. Inservice training for existing employees

2. Submission of a completed application form provided by the Division.

3. Submission of a plan of the proposed park showing areas to be fenced, topography, type of fence and isolation facilities.

4. Submission of a list of all facilities to be covered by the license, including the address/location.

5. Certification by the applicant that the proposed possession of wildlife is not in violation of any city or county ordinance and submission of any required local permits.

6. Certification by the applicant that he/she has been provided with information by the Division of Wildlife about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

B. Upon receipt of an application, the Division will review the application, inspect the facilities, determine if any negative impact to native wildlife will occur, and determine that the provisions of the chapter have been met. Approval, denial or conditions imposed will be based on compliance with the licensing, facilities, and protection of native wildlife criteria in this chapter 11. Written notification of the approval, denial (including reasons for the denial), and any special conditions will be made within 60 days of receipt of the application by the Division.

C. Review of a denial of a Commercial Parks License shall be in accordance with Section 24-4-104 C.R.S. as may be amended.

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