Cute as they may be, keeping pet squirrels is not as easy as keeping a dog or cat. In most states, it’s against the law to have a pet squirrel. It is mostly because they are wild animals and animal experts believe the best place for them is the wild and not with humans.
A few states allow homeowners to keep pet squirrels, while others require you to have a special license first. So, can you have a pet squirrel in Georgia?
Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In Georgia?
No, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources prohibits people from keeping gray squirrels, fox squirrels, and flying squirrels, etc., as pets. Squirrels are considered nuisances, and Georgia allows people to kill and hunt them.
If you’ve acquired a squirrel in Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, and relocate to Georgia, you will need to consult with an attorney about your rights. Georgia prohibits its residents from owning several exotic animals, and you can check this website to find out which animals are on the list.
Is it Illegal to Have a Pet Squirrel in Georgia?
Yes, it’s against the law to keep a pet squirrel in Georgia. The Wildlife Resources Division in the Department of Natural Resources in Georgia states that the majority of native wildlife cannot be held for any reason without a license or permit. Moreover, these permits are not issued to hold them as pets.
The list of mammals that the department states on their site as prohibited may not be conclusive, but it includes the flying squirrel, fox squirrel, and gray squirrel.
What to Do When You Find an Orphaned/Sick Squirrel in Georgia?
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, suggests that you leave the squirrels where you find them.
Taking wildlife into your home denies them their ability to survive in their natural habitat. Unlike human babies, baby squirrels don’t need to be watched at all times, so don’t quickly assume that they are orphaned or abandoned.
If you find a kit on the ground, prepare a box with some leaves and grass cuttings, then gently place it in the box and leave it there. Most times, the mother squirrel is nearby, although you may not see her. If she hasn’t picked up her baby after 4 hours, it’s time to call a rehabilitator.
When the mother squirrel notices that a nest is falling apart, she will carry her young in her mouth one by one down the tree and place them on the ground. Then she will move them to another nest, one at a time. Thus, picking up a baby squirrel might be interfering with this process.
If the squirrel is visibly sick or injured, don’t attempt to care for it yourself. Call the Georgia Department of Natural Resources immediately. They have a list of qualified rehabilitators in the state and can direct you to the nearest one.
Can You Become A Wildlife Rehabilitator in Georgia?
Yes, you can. If you love squirrels that much and want to take care of them, your best bet in Georgia is to become a wildlife rehabilitator. You will be required to take a rehabilitator’s exam with 100 questions and score at least 80 points.
The questions are mostly about diagnosing common diseases, treating injuries, caring for orphaned wildlife, recommended diets, and facility requirements.
Make an appointment with the Department of Natural Resources Special Permit Unit office in Social Circle to take the exam.
Should you fail the exam, you can only attempt it again after thirty days. If you pass the exam, the authorities will inspect your facilities that must have holding, treatment, and rehabilitation areas. After approving your facility, the Special Permit Unit will issue your permit.
Wildlife rehabilitation permits are valid for one year, from April 1 to March 31 of the next year.
Types of Squirrels in Georgia
Squirrels are one of the most common wildlife found in Georgia. The four major types found in the state are the Fox squirrel, the Flying squirrel (Northern and Southern), the Red squirrel, and the most common Eastern Gray squirrel.
Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus Carolinensis)
It’s medium size, weighing 1 – 1.5 pounds and measuring 16 – 20 inches. The short grayish fur on its back features hues of cinnamon, while its belly side has whitish fur. The long fur on its bushy tail varies in color between white and pale gray.
The Eastern Gray squirrel is the most common species found in both urban and rural areas of Georgia. They are tolerant of humans and are a common sight in residential neighborhoods. Unfortunately, they are notorious for raiding food gardens and bird feeders.
Eastern Gray squirrels consume various foods, including hickory nuts, acorns, buds, fruit, mulberries, fungus, and sometimes baby birds and bird eggs.
They have two breeding seasons per year, and their gestation period lasts 40 – 45 days resulting in a litter of 2 – 6 young.
Fox Squirrel (Sciurus Niger)
This large species measures 19 – 29 inches long and weighs 1 – 3 pounds. This tree squirrel is twice the size of a gray squirrel. It has a long bushy tail and varies greatly in color. While its upper side fur is between gray and black, the belly area is orange-looking, extending to the tail edges, feet, cheeks, and ears.
Fox squirrels are a less common species with a patchy and sporadic distribution. They exist mostly in mature pine and hardwood forests, especially those in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain area of the state.
These squirrels love pine seeds but generally consume the same foods as gray squirrels, like hard nuts of hickory and oak trees, acorns. They also eat fruits, buds, fungi, and insects.
The breeding season peaks in summer (June) and winter (December). Their gestation period lasts 45 days. The females produce litters with 1 to 7 young.
Southern Flying squirrels are small in stature compared to other squirrel species. They vary in color from greyish-brown to dark-brown and feature a cream-colored underside.
This species enjoys acorns, hickory nuts, and sunflower seeds. They also feed on fungi, mushrooms, buds, insects, flowers, small birds, and bird eggs.
The Northern Flying squirrel population in Georgia has reduced significantly due to the increase in climate temperature and habitat destruction.
Their more aggressive counterpart, the Southern flying squirrel, has moved in and pushed them out of their shrinking habitat.
The Northern Flying squirrel enjoys nuts, seeds, insects, fruits, and berries. They are similar to Southern Flying species, except they breed once a year and do not hibernate.
Red Squirrel (Sciurus Vulgaris)
This small squirrel weighs 5 – 8.9 ounces and measures 11 -15 inches long. Its upper side is reddish-gray (so is its tail), while its underside varies between white and cream.
This species is found mostly at higher elevations in northeast Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Red squirrels are anti-social and hardly share their food, but they won’t mind sharing a den with other squirrels for warmth during winter.
Red squirrels feed on seeds, tree cones, tree sap, nuts, berries, fruits, buds, tender leaves, fungi, flowers, bird eggs, and mushrooms.
Red squirrels breed in mid-summer and late winter. The females produce 1 to 8 young per litter after a gestation period of about 34 days. They make their nests in tree cavities and ground burrows.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources considers squirrels in Georgia nuisance animals. It means they are destructive to human property and habitats, making them unfit to become pets.
The state also considers them game animals and allows civilians to kill them during a specific hunting season.
Many people will kill squirrels in their backyard because it’s legal, especially if they become a nuisance.