Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In Maryland?

can you have a pet squirrel in Maryland

Squirrels are fantastic creatures to watch, study, and photograph. Maybe you’ve thought of owning one as a pet so you can experience it first hand – not so fast. You need to determine whether it’s allowed in your state as most states won’t let you keep a wild animal. So, can you have a pet squirrel in Maryland?

Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In Maryland?

No, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Departments allow its residents to rehabilitate squirrels for 180 days, under special circumstances. However, squirrels are not allowed as pets and is considered illegal.  

Squirrels are considered nuisance wildlife in the state, meaning they interfere with human activities and destroy human property. 

For example, they are notorious for digging up gardens, gnawing on cables, walls, electric wiring, and timbers. Maryland laws prohibit its citizens from selling or acquiring them as pets. Let’s take a closer look at why. 

Is it Illegal to Have A Pet Squirrel in Maryland?

According to the state of Maryland law, you cannot possess, import, breed, sell, barter, or trade wildlife, including squirrels. Exemptions to this law include:

  • Animal sanctuaries
  • AWA licensed facilities
  • Veterinarians for treatment
  • Law enforcement officers for animal control

Why Is It Illegal To Keep Squirrels As Pets In Maryland?

The law aims to protect wildlife and their habitats. Another reason squirrels are prohibited as pets, is because they carry diseases such as; leptospirosis, tularemia, ringworm, etc, which are transmittable to humans.

Tularemia is a bacterial disease transmitted from a bite by an infected animal. When affected it can cause swollen lymph nodes, skin ulcers, and a fever. Ringworm is a fungal infection transmitted from coming into contact with an infected animal.

Most of the diseases mentioned above are not fatal, anyone suffering from them will need to see a doctor or use an over-the-counter anti-fungal product.

What if I Found An Orphaned or Injured Squirrel?

If you notice a juvenile squirrel approaching people and following them around, their mother is likely gone. Call a rehabilitator immediately as the kit is starving and needs attention.

However, not all baby squirrels you see on their own are orphaned. You may only intervene when:

  • A nest has fallen from a tree
  • baby squirrel has fallen from a nest
  • There’s an intact nest on a felled tree

Give the mother squirrel a couple of hours to reclaim her babies. She is capable of returning and taking them to a new nest. If the babies are not bleeding or injured, don’t touch them. Stay away from the area but watch from a distance to ensure that people and pets do not handle it.

If it’s cold outside, place a hot water bottle or heating pad in a shoebox, then cover with a t.shirt or other cloth. Once that’s set, carefully place the babies in the box. Do not cover the kits as the mother won’t find them.

If the mother doesn’t show up by dark, don’t leave them outside to predators. Instead, follow these steps:

  • With thick gloves on, place the squirrels inside a thick, soft cloth, like a cloth diaper.
  • Place a hot water bottle (or another heating device) under the cloth in a small box. Make sure to regulate the heating device’s temperature so that the babies are neither cold nor overheating. 
  • Call a wildlife rehabilitator

What Types of Squirrels Exist in Maryland?

Maryland harbors five species of squirrels: Eastern Gray, Red squirrel, Eastern Fox squirrel, Southern Flying squirrel, and Delmarva fox squirrel.

Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus Carolinensis)

The Eastern Gray squirrel is a common sight in Maryland with a gray fur coat and a large bushy tail. The color camouflages it within the woods, hiding it from predators. Some Eastern Gray squirrels are blonde, white, and black.

This species typically exists in open woodlands, especially hickory and oak forests. 

Their diet includes walnuts, hickory nuts, acorns, beechnuts, maple buds and bark, tulip blossoms, seeds, grapes, apples, fungi, black cherry, and grasses. When their typical food sources are depleted, they will eat insects, bird eggs, and baby birds.

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

The Red squirrel has a thick coat of reddish-gray fur on its upper side and a cream or white belly known as the Pine squirrel. They are less common than gray squirrels and smaller, weighing only 5 – 9 ounces and 11–15 inches long.

Red squirrels live mostly in Western Maryland and prefer evergreen trees and coniferous forest areas with high elevation. They love eating pine cones (hence the name pine squirrel) and various types of hard nuts, acorns, seeds, berries, and occasionally bird eggs. Red squirrels also enjoy sugary sap from sugar maple trees. 

Red squirrels are solitary and highly territorial. Thus, other squirrels cannot get into their habitat. Red squirrels build their nests in forks of branches, tree cavities, and ground burrows. After about 34 days of gestation, females produce 1-2 litters of 1 to 8 young per year. They wean them at about eight weeks.

Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys Volans)

The Southern Flying Squirrel is the smallest squirrel you’ll find state-wide in Tennessee, weighing 2-4 ounces and measuring 7-10 inches long. It is grayish-brown with a white belly and has a flat tail. Its large distinct eyes have a black ring around them.

A unique feature called a patagium (flying membrane) allows it to glide in the air from one tree to another. The flying membrane stretches from its wrists on the front legs to its ankles on the back legs. Its front feet have four digits while the hind legs have five digits.

Southern flying squirrels exist throughout Maryland, especially within mature woodlands with hickory and oak trees with cavities. They will generally build their nests in tree cavities but sometimes in abandoned nests, birdhouses, woodpecker holes, and your attic.

Acorns and hickory nuts are their primary food, but they also enjoy tree buds, fruits, berries, fungi, insects, and bird eggs. Southern Flying Squirrels produce two litters each year with 2-4 young each. The gestation period is 40 days, and the mother weans her babies at 6 – 8 weeks.

Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus Niger)

This squirrel is bigger than most species at a weight of 1 – 3 pounds and 19 – 29 inches long. The fur on its back ranges in color between black and gray, while its underside has an orange tone that stretches to its ears, feet, cheeks, and tail edges. Its long, bushy tail varies in color. 

The Eastern Fox squirrel is common all over the Piedmont and western region of Maryland. They enjoy staying in different mixed and hardwood forests as well as upland ridges. They use tree cavities of white oak or hickory trees as nests or build using leaves.

Fox squirrels typically feed on hard nuts of hickory, oak, walnut, mulberry, elm, and pecan. They also eat seeds, fruit, fungi, insects, bird eggs, field corn, and hard mast. Compared to other tree squirrels, they spend the majority of their time on the ground.

They breed twice a year and produce 1 -2 litters of young each year. After 45 days of gestation, the female fox squirrel will produce 1 – 7 blind, hairless young and wean them at eight weeks.

Delmarva Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus)

Its silver-gray fur coat gives it a resemblance to the gray squirrel. It has whitish feet, short round ears, and a bushy tail that measures up to 15 inches. It’s one of the largest species in the western hemisphere and can grow up to 30 inches long and 3 pounds.

Delmarva fox squirrels live in mature forests of pine trees and hardwood with ground cover and minimal understory. 

These squirrels are found in several counties on the Maryland Eastern Shore. They love eating acorns, pine nuts, sweetgum, walnuts, fruit, insects, fungi, and immature pinecones.

This species has a breeding season in late winter, and after a 44 day gestation period, the females produce 1-4 young and wean them at 9-12 weeks. They may birth a second litter in the summer if conditions allow.

In 1967, this squirrel was federally listed as a threatened and endangered species in Maryland. It was removed from the list in 2015 thanks to conservation efforts.

Final Word

If you live in Maryland and want a pet squirrel, you’re going to have to settle for being a squirrel watcher and feeding them from your backyard. 

After all, it’s not illegal to feed squirrels in Maryland. The only downside to this is that they may end up finding a way into your house, and you’ll need the professionals to get them out. 

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