In most states, keeping a pet squirrel is illegal. Cute as they may be, they are considered in these states as free-roaming animals that should live in the wild and not with humans. Before you consider owning one, find out what the laws in your state say lest you risk getting fined heavily.
Can you have a pet squirrel in Florida? Yes, you can. Florida is one of the few states that allow you to keep squirrels as pets. It’s legal to own different squirrels, including red squirrels, flying squirrels, grey squirrels, and Prevost squirrels.
Is It Legal to Have A Pet Squirrel In Florida?
It is legal to have a pet squirrel in Florida. Squirrels are considered Class III wildlife, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Find the information on how to apply for a permit on their website.
Can You Keep All Types of Squirrels?
Florida is home to three main squirrel species; the eastern gray squirrel, fox squirrel, and flying squirrel. However, other exotic species exist too. According to Florida’s law, you can keep all squirrels, but you will require a license for one – the eastern gray squirrel.
Eastern Gray Squirrels
The Eastern Gray squirrel (Sciurus Carolinensis) is a bushy-tailed, medium-sized member of the rodent family. It typically weighs between 1 to 1.5 pounds and grows to 16 to 20 inches long with grayish-brown fur. The fur’s color on its underside is a lighter tone, and its tail fur is white-tipped.
Eastern Gray squirrels generally live in areas where they can access water, food, and shelter. They are common in woodland areas, mostly in hardwood trees like hickories and oaks. You can also spot them in residential areas and city parks.
Eastern Gray squirrels are most active in the early and late hours. They spend their busy hours hoarding food like seeds, hard nuts, berries, and bark under the ground in several places. They later use their sense of smell to find these food locations, even digging through the snow during winter.
The eastern gray squirrel’s diet typically consists of a mix of nuts, berries, and seeds. For example, wild grapes, hickory nuts, acorns, walnuts, pine seeds, beechnuts, and many others. Their feeding habits are seasonal.
They will also eat buds of woody plants like dogwood, tulip popular, black cherry, and maple during spring and summer. Eastern gray squirrels will start storing food towards the end of summer, especially seeds and nuts. They do this to prepare for winter when there’s no food.
They’ll feed on the cached food, acorns, seeds of pine and hardwood trees during winter. When there’s a shortage of their natural food, eastern gray squirrels will feed on baby birds, bird eggs, and insects.
When they reach 9-11 months, male eastern gray squirrels are ready to mate with 6-8 month females. It’s common for a male to mate with several females. Gestation lasts 40-45 days, and their litters usually have 2-6 hairless baby squirrels born in a tree cavity or leaf nest in the forks of trees.
The female eastern gray squirrels often move their litter from one tree cavity or nest to another to keep them safe from predators and bad weather. They have up to 2 litters each year and wean their young at about 50 days.
The flying squirrel (Glaucomys Volans) is 7 to 10 inches long with distinct large eyes. It has greyish-brown fur on top and white fur on its belly. Although it can’t fly like a bird, it glides for short distances through the air with the help of a special membrane that extends from its front to back legs.
Flying squirrels are commonly found in woodlands and coniferous forests with oak, maple, beech, and hickory trees. They also tend to make their homes in abandoned nests and woodpecker holes.
The flying squirrel is nocturnal, unlike other species. It’s normal to sight a flying squirrel gliding from tree to tree under the moonlight. They let out a high-pitched sound to keep track of and warn each other of impending danger.
It can make nests using bark, twigs, and leaves. The flying squirrel does not hibernate but keeps warm in the winter by gathering large groups of other squirrels for heat.
These omnivores have a diverse diet that includes seeds, nuts, fruit, buds, berries, insects, eggs, mushrooms, insects, fungi, moths, and young mice.
Breeding happens twice a year with 2-7 young squirrels per litter after 40 days of gestation. At birth, they are pink, blind, hairless, and 2.5 inches long. The mother weans her baby squirrels at 6-8 weeks old.
Female flying squirrels can identify their young even after traveling long distances. They are viciously protective of their offspring even when outnumbered. They also build many nests with bark and moss in different trees to take their young for safety.
This is the largest type, double the size of the gray squirrel. Also known as Sciurus Niger, the fox squirrel has a large bushy fox-like tail and weighs between 1 and 3 pounds. Its fur coat can be any color between gray and black.
Fox squirrels tend to make forest patches their home. Especially with mature trees like pine, oak, pecan, hickory, and walnut. They aren’t afraid of human proximity and can be seen in urban neighborhoods and golf courses, sometimes nesting in an attic if possible.
Fox squirrels are active in the daytime and start foraging in the mid-morning. They are not sociable except during the breeding season. They vocalize with high-pitched chatters, whines, and barks. Fox squirrels mostly sleep in tree cavities and build stick and leaf nests for their young.
Fox squirrels enjoy a wide diet including nuts, seeds, acorns, fruit, tree buds, insects, flowers, tubers, roots, bird eggs, and fungi. At the end of summer, they’ll feed on pine seeds, and during winter and fall, hard mast is their food of choice.
They love to eat what gives them the most energy and nutrients. These squirrels get water from succulent fruits and vegetation.
Fox squirrels don’t have a specific mating season, but the activity peaks in June and December. At 10 months old, male fox squirrels are ready to mate, while females start earlier at 8 months.
After a gestation period of around 45 days, they produce a litter of 1 to 7 baby squirrels that weigh a maximum of 18 grams. Their eyes open at 5 weeks, and by the eighth week, they are ready for weaning.
Do You Need A Permit Or License?
You only need a license to have a gray squirrel as a pet in Florida. It is considered a game animal, requiring you to have a game farm license from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The license costs $50 per year, and you can only apply for it if you’re 16 years old and older. Applicants below 18 years of age must have a parent or legal guardian as a co‐licensee.
Where to Buy Squirrels In Florida?
Buying a pet squirrel in Florida is not as easy as buying any domesticated pet like a cat or dog that you can easily find in a pet shop. Squirrels are wild animals and are usually sold by individuals who have rescued and looked after abandoned baby squirrels to the point where they can feed on their own.
Usually, you’ll find them for sale online, either on social media or websites that specialize in selling ‘wild’ animals. All you have to do is type ‘squirrels for sale in Florida’ in the search bar. The prices range from $250 for a flying squirrel to a whopping $2500 for the exotic Prevost squirrel.
Now that you know it’s possible to own a pet squirrel in Florida, it’s your responsibility to determine what guidelines you need to put in place to keep them safe.
Remember, they are inherently wild animals and can hurt people or other pets. They are also known to be destructive. However, many individuals have managed to keep them as pets for years.