Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In California? [Rules, Laws & Regulations]

can you have a pet squirrel in California

If you live in California and you’re wondering whether you can own a pet squirrel, the answer is – bluntly – no. You can’t keep a squirrel as a pet in California, despite the prevalence of wild squirrels in the state.

Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In California?

No, owning a pet squirrel is prohibited by the California Fish and Game Code section 251.1, and is considered harassment. According to this law, no person may herd, drive, or harass any nongame bird, game, or mammals, including feeding, breeding, or sheltering.

If you’re the type of person who likes owning different types of animals, other than dogs or cats. You need to know which states owning a pet squirrel is legal. It will help ensure you’re not breaking any laws and you don’t try raising a squirrel only to have to release it into the wild.

Is It Legal to Own a Pet Squirrel?

No, it isn’t legal, according to SHouseCaliforniaLaw. California has some of the strictest laws about animals in the United States, and it does not allow the keeping of many animals that are considered acceptable in other states.

This list includes hedgehogs, monkeys, ferrets, and squirrels.

That means you can’t own a squirrel in the state of California. It is rare for people to get prosecuted and fined for keeping illegal pets, but the state may remove a squirrel from your care if you are found to be keeping one, and you could face legal repercussions as well, depending on the circumstances.

You can even get fined for feeding squirrels in the wild. This is classed as animal harassment and, hypothetically at least, could lead to a fine of up to $1000. While the government rarely actually fines people for feeding wild squirrels, it is not unheard of for this to happen. It also applies to other wildlife.

On the other hand, you can hunt tree squirrels in certain parts of California in certain seasons. Would-be hunters should always check the local laws before hunting any animal to make sure they are familiar with what they are and aren’t allowed to do.

The legality of hunting seems at odds with the no-pets law, but the real reason that squirrels are banned as pets is that they can be highly destructive to buildings and personal property. They are also not considered clean animals.

If you want to be near squirrels in California, you will have to find wild ones to enjoy.

Do You Need A Permit To Own a Pet Squirrel?

You cannot get a permit to own a pet squirrel in California, but you may be able to get a rehabilitation permit if you work for or with an established rescue. This is the only way to look after squirrels and spend time close to them, but even this must be done with the goal of releasing them eventually. 

Many people feel that squirrels never accept their status as pets, and they will not ever stop trying to get out. Squirrels raised by humans rarely have the skills they need to survive in the wild, so it will be necessary to rehabilitate them in a proper facility or put them to sleep if they are beyond help.

If you find an injured squirrel, you should take it to an established and certified rescue that will be able to provide it with the care it needs and release it into the wild when it is ready. Do not try to care for it at home; you will be breaking the law and probably not doing the squirrel a real kindness.

What Types of Squirrels Are In the Area?

According to BirdWatchingHQ, there are quite many squirrels in California, which is one reason it is surprising that they are not considered acceptable pets. Let’s look at some of the species you might see there.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Firstly, there is the Eastern Gray Squirrel. Many people will be familiar with this fuzzy gray chap, which can grow to about 21 inches and usually lives for about six years. They can live up to twelve years in some circumstances!

Eastern Grays are usually comfortable around people and like to feast on bird feeders, to the frustration of some humans.

Western Gray Squirrel

The Western Gray Squirrel is much shyer than the Eastern Gray. It spends most of its time in forests. The gray squirrel can grow to be 24 inches and lives for around eight years normally. These squirrels spend most of their time in forests and do not generally come near people.

Humboldt’s Flying Squirrel

Humboldt’s Flying Squirrel is another inhabitant of California, and these amazing little creatures can glide from tree to tree with extraordinary grace. They usually grow to around 12 inches, making them a very small squirrel.

They live in coniferous forests and are hard to spot, even in the best of circumstances, as they are shy of people.

Douglas Squirrel

The Douglas Squirrel also lives in California, and they are a very noisy species that chatter to warn each other of danger. They have a distinct black stripe on their sides in summer, but this fades in the winter and becomes invisible. They live in coniferous forests.

Fox Squirrel

Finally, the Fox Squirrel is the largest, at over 27 inches, but these are not native to California and are causing problems for the smaller native species by out-competing them. They spend a lot of time foraging on the ground and are not afraid of people.

How To Get A Pet Squirrel In California

The only way to legally interact with a squirrel in California is to work for or volunteer with a rescue/rehabilitation center. You cannot obtain a pet squirrel, as they are not legal to buy, sell, or keep. 

Even working with a rescue is not getting a “pet” but helping a wild animal.

Can You Buy A Pet Squirrel In California?

No, you cannot buy pet squirrels in California, despite the many different species. You cannot legally own or keep squirrels, and even feeding wild ones could cause you legal problems as it is technically breaking the law.

Squirrel-lovers will either have to relocate, make connections with local rescues, or just enjoy their squirrels in the park from a distance.


California has some of the strictest animal laws in America, and has banned the keeping of many different mammals and other species. 

It does not permit people to own squirrels, gerbils, ferrets, monkeys, etc.

Some of this is an attempt to protect the animals themselves, and some laws are aimed at minimizing the number of alien species that might escape and wreak havoc on the state’s native wildlife. Perhaps a lesson learned from the Fox Squirrel!

If you really want to own a squirrel, you will have to look at relocating to another state, such as South Carolina, where it is legal to own squirrels or find an alternative animal that satisfies you.

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