Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In Delaware?

can you have a pet squirrel in Delaware

According to the 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey, over 90 million people own a pet in the United States. It’s likely you’re considering one and are wondering if you can have a pet squirrel in Delaware?

Can You Have A Pet Squirrel Delaware?

Delaware is a state that is vague on their laws. According to the Delaware Department of Agriculture website, it states that residents are not allowed to keep live wild animals or reptiles that are not native or found in the state of Delaware. This is because of the health or ecological threat they pose. In addition, squirrels are considered game animals, which are allowed to be hunted. It doesn’t specifically say anything about owning a pet squirrel, so you would have to contact them specifically to find out.

So at the time of this writing, it’s unclear if you can have a pet squirrel in Delaware. That said, let’s look at some of the laws they have in place for people who own unique pets other than dogs and cats.

List of Species That Require A Permit

The Delaware Department of Agriculture specifically states that the following species are exempt exotics. Meaning they are not regulated by the state and can be purchased and kept as pets without requiring a permit.

  • Swifts
  • Hamsters
  • Geckos
  • Gerbils
  • Tegu
  • Mice
  • Skinks
  • Agamas
  • Ferrets
  • Chinchillas
  • Hedgehogs
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Basilisks
  • Rabbits
  • Asian Water Dragons
  • Possums
  • Bearded Dragons
  • Rats
  • Agamas
  • Iguanas
  • Chameleons
  • Sugar Gliders

Since the squirrel is not on the list of approved species, it must be assumed one would need a permit, or they are not allowed as pets?

How Much Does An Exotic Animal Permit Cost?

Residents will be required to pay a $25 fee, which covers the inspection from the Poultry and Animal Investor. They will set up an appointment to visit your home for an inspection to ensure you have the following:

Primary Enclosure: A secure habitat that meets the animal’s needs for food, water, shelter, exercise.

Secondary Enclosure: A smaller enclosure that the animal can be temporarily placed in for cleaning or during transportation.

Animal Knowledge: The investigator will ask several questions pertaining to the species, to help determine your knowledge of the animal.

After the inspection is completed, and everything is up to par, you will be given a permit that’s valid for three years.

Is It Illegal To Have A Pet Squirrel In Delaware?

Delaware is one of the few states that allows its residents to own exotic pets that consist of rats, chinchillas, ect. As mentioned above, squirrels (except the Delmarva and Bryant Fox squirrel) are considered game animals, which are allowed to be hunted. So while the law is unclear, it seems as if you could technically own a pet squirrel in Delaware with the proper permit.

If you’re thinking about getting a pet squirrel or any other type of exotic animal, make sure to do your research beforehand. Contact the Delaware Department of Agriculture Poultry and Animal Health Section at (302) 698-4561 to find out more information. They will be able to tell you what permits (if any) you’ll need in order to make it legal.

What Are The Consequences of Having A Pet Squirrel In Delaware?

According to the Delaware Regulation Code, failure to obtain, renew, or possess an exotic animal permit, will result in the seizure of the animal without an administrative hearing. You are also subject to criminal proceedings in accordance with 3 Del.C. §7203.

Delaware adopted the Truth in Sentencing Act in 1989, which consists of felonies, misdemeanors, and violations. Misdemeanors and Felonies are classified determined based on the seriousness of the crime.

The punishments vary from 30 days jail time for an unclassified misdemeanor to 15 years to life for a Class A felony. In addition, there is no parole in Delaware. So make sure you’re aware of the consequences before making the decision to get a pet squirrel or any other type of exotic animal.

Can You Rescue A Squirrel In Delaware?

According to the Delaware Council of Wildlife Rehabilitators, wild squirrels should not be taken into your home as pets. If you find an injured or orphaned squirrel, the best thing to do is to contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

They have the proper equipment, knowledge, and care to help nurse the animal back to health before releasing them back into the wild. They have a list of licensed rehabilitators by county you can contact for help.

Rescuing a wild squirrel and taking care of it is a big responsibility. If you’re not prepared to do so, then it’s best to leave them be.

Can You Obtain A Wildlife Rehabilitator License In Delaware?

The Delaware Council of Wildlife Rehabilitors and Educators (DCWRE) is a non profit organization that offers educational workshops and training opportunities for those interested in becoming a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

The cost of the course of attending the courses will vary depending on which one you attend. Unfortunately, the state does not offer any funding to people rehabilitating wildlife. That said, the DCWRE helps subsidize the cost of attending a regional conference, which are held in New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Contact the DCWRE for more information about becoming a wildlife rehabilitator and they will direct you to the right one in your county.

Can You Relocate To Delaware With A Pet Squirrel?

If you’ve purchased a squirrel in a state where it’s legal and are getting ready to move to Delaware, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to keep it. As you can see, the The First State has confusing regulations regarding types of pets you can keep with and without permits.

You will want to reach out to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to let them know you have a domesticated pet squirrel. Since the squirrel is tame and won’t survive in the wild, they may allow you to keep it as a pet. That said, don’t be surprised if they give you a hard time keeping it.

There have been many instances in the past where the state Game Commission didn’t allow residents moving to different states to keep a pet squirrel, and after some lengthy legal battles, the squirrel was allowed to remain a pet.

One such case that comes to mind is the case of Nutkin, the squirrel that was acquired in South Carolina (where it’s allowed to own squirrels) and relocated to Pennsylvania.

Can You Breed or Sell Squirrels In Delaware?

According to uappeal, game breeders are allowed to breed squirrels and other animals with the proper permit. The animals must be raised in humane and sanitary conditions and the breeding limit is less than 25.

Types of Squirrels Found In Delaware?

Mississippi is home to the Eastern Gray Squirrel and the Fox Squirrel. Both squirrels can be found throughout the state, but the gray squirrels are the most common ones seen in parks, neighborhoods, and backyards.

Gray Squirrels

The Eastern Gray Squirrel is the larger of the two, measuring up to 20 inches long and weighing up to 19 ounces. They are easily recognizable by their gray fur and white belly.

It has a long bushy tail that is used to help them balance when dashing between tree branches. Their diet consists of mostly flowers, nuts, seeds, acorns and buds on various trees such as; dogwood, maple, elm etc.

You can also find them eating the seeds from spruce, cedar, and hemlock trees as well. These opportunistic feeders won’t made raiding bird feeders and garbage can if they can’t find food easily in the wild.

Fox Squirrel

The Fox Squirrel is larger than it’s gray cousin, weighing in at an average of 28 ounces. They have bushier coats and tails with hair sticking up from their ears. Their color can vary from pale gray to a reddish brown color, with a lighter colored underbelly.

They can be find thriving in areas that offer savannah like habitats. These areas provide wide open spaces and abundant food sources. That said, like their cousin (the Gray Squirrel) they have learned how to acclimate to their environment and can be found in urban and suburban areas.

When looking for food, they will eat just about anything including; insects, bird eggs, fruits and vegetables from gardens, and even small reptiles.

Like their cousin, they have many preditors such as hawks, owls. Young squirrels can be eaten by snakes.

They can commonly be found living in trees with holes and cavities, such as oak, elm, and other hardwood trees. This enables them to build dens or nests for their young. In addition, they use the dens to hibernate during the winter.

Delmarva Fox Squirrel

The Delmarva Fox squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus) is larger than the gray squirrel. It is sliver in color with a fluffy tail that can reach 15 inches in length. This species can grow 30 inches long and weigh up to 3 pounds, making it the largest tree squirrel.

Unfortunately the species is on the endangered list with only an estimated 20,000 remaining. They are found on the Delmarva Peninsula which includes; Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

The primary threat to this species is habitat loss due to development and farming. Hunting of Delmarva fox squirrels is prohibited, so it’s important to know the difference between them and the eastern gray squirrels, which are legal to hunt during Delaware’s hunting season.

Final Word

The laws in Delaware are vague regarding the types of animals that can be considered pets. However, it is illegal to sell, breed, or import any wildlife without the proper permits.

If you have your heart set on owning a squirrel, your best bet would be to check the laws in the county you live in. You don’t want to get a pet squirrel only to find out that you’re breaking the law.

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