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California Open Range Law

| Updated September 26, 2017

Open range laws in California were created in the 1800s. The laws require small property owners and farmers to be responsible for building fences to keep grazing cattle and other livestock off their property.


Lassen, Modoc, Siskiyou, Plumas, Sierra and parts of Shasta County have open grazing laws. The counties are located in the far northern part of California.

Type of Land

Open range applies to privately owned and public land. The Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service administer much of the open range land.

Gathering Stray Livestock

California Government Food and Agriculture Code Sections 17121 to 17128 mandate the property owner has no right to take up stray livestock unless the property is properly fenced. The fence must be good and substantial.

Type of Fence

The property owner must construct a fence at least four feet high, with firmly anchored posts no further than one rod (16.5 feet) apart. The fence must have three tightly stretched barbed wires or something similar and be strong enough to turn livestock.