The Garden State consists of two million acres of forested land, which is home to several types of wildlife, including tree and ground squirrels. Squirrels and other rodents have become increasingly popular as pets worldwide, but is it legal to own one in New Jersey?
Can You Have A Pet Squirrel New Jersey?
Possessing, capturing, or taking wildlife, including squirrels, is illegal unless you possess a wildlife rehabilitator permit. Ground squirrels, tree squirrels, flying squirrels, birds, and other mammals are not considered legal pets and are considered potentially dangerous as they can zoonotic diseases.
There are several reasons why owning a pet squirrel in New Jersey is illegal. First and foremost, they are considered wildlife. This means they are not domesticated and cannot be legally possessed as pets.
Yet according to the 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey, over 90 million people own a pet in the United States.
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably thinking about acquiring a squirrel and wondering what the legalities are. So, let’s look at some of the laws they have in place for people who own unique pets other than dogs and cats.
Squirrel Diseases That Can Spread In New Jersey
Squirrels are not as dangerous as mice and rats, but these small mammals transmit diseases to humans, which consist of the following:
- Monkey Pox
- Lyme Disease
Humans can catch any of these diseases through a squirrel’s scratch, bite, or contact with their feces.
According to the CDC, in 2003, the monkeypox virus was introduced to the United States when Texas imported a shipment of rope squirrels, tree squirrels, and other mammals from Ghana.
Which is one of the biggest reasons it is illegal to own wild animals in New Jersey.
Is It Illegal To Have A Pet Squirrel In New Jersey?
New Jersey is among several states that make it illegal to own wild animals as pets. Unfortunately, the laws are vague on the repercussions of owning a squirrel as a pet. In other states, residents can face harsh penalties and fines for breaking the law.
If you’re a New Jersey resident, you may also face harsh penalties, including a fine and/or imprisonment. The best thing you can do is to check with your local municipality before acquiring a pet squirrel.
They will be able to tell you what permits (if any) you’ll need to make it legal.
Can You Rescue A Squirrel In New Jersey?
According to the Department of Fish And Wildlife Department, sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife should be left undisturbed. But unfortunately, many people take wildlife away from its mother, thinking it needs rescuing when it doesn’t.
If you find a young squirrel needing assistance, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator instead of taking them yourself. They are licensed individuals who can treat sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals.
They have the proper equipment, knowledge, and care to help nurse the animal back to health before releasing them back into the wild. New Jersey, like other states, has a list of wildlife rehabilitators sorted by county.
Here’s the current list of rehabilitators according to the county. This list changes, so it’s best to call the Division of Fish and Wildlife at 609-292-2965 before taking action.
|Burlington County||Mammals and birds||856-366-4114|
|Gloucester County||Mammals and birds||856-983-3329|
|Hunterdon County||Mammals including rodents||908-200-1040|
|Mercer County||Mammals, birds, reptiles & amphibians||908-730-8300|
|Monmouth County||Mammals (chipmunks, squirrels, etc||732-775-5157|
|Morris County||Mammals: Raccoons only||201-709-0934|
|Ocean County||Birds only||732-255-9270|
|Passaic County||Mammals: rodents including squirrels and chipmunks||973-839-4597|
|Warren County||Mammals and rodents||973-800-2420|
Can You Obtain A Wildlife Rehabilitator License In New Jersey?
Becoming a wildlife rehabilitator in New Jersey requires a permit from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. Below are the steps required to become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in New Jersey.
- One-year apprenticeship (minimum of 200 hours) under a licensed New Jersey rehabilitator
- Basic understanding of common native wildlife species and zoonotic diseases
- Record keeping skills
- Secure and sufficient facility requirements
- Ability to abide by the NJDEP/DFW regulations and requirements
You may also be able to take a class or two at a local college to help with the application process.
Once you have met all the requirements, you can apply for your permit through the Department of Environmental Protection.
Can You Relocate To New Jersey With A Pet Squirrel?
If you’ve purchased a squirrel in a state where it’s legal and are getting ready to move to New Jersey, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to keep it.
That said, New Jersey offers a hobby permit and an exotic and nongame wildlife species permit.
The license makes it legal for you to have a wild pet. However, it does not make it legal to breed, sell or trade animals for profit.
The application states you must contact your local government office to determine whether keeping a squirrel or other wild animals in your area is legal.
Below are the fees for the individual hobby license:
- $10 for amphibians, reptiles, and mammals
- $20 for certain birds
Before completing the application reach out to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Fish And Wildlife and let them know you have a tame 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.
Types of Squirrels Found In New Jersey?
New Jersey is home to several species of tree squirrels, including red, gray, fox, and flying squirrels. However, the Eastern gray squirrel is the most commonly seen in the state’s suburbs and woodlands.
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 primarily of 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. These opportunistic feeders won’t raid bird feeders and garbage cans if they can’t find food easily in the wild.
The Fox Squirrel is larger than its gray cousin, weighing 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, with a lighter-colored underbelly.
They can be found 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 they 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 predators, such as hawks and owls. In addition, 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.
Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)
The Red Squirrel (Sciurus) is a native tree squirrel of the state. Today, it can be seen throughout a large area throughout the state, even in suburban areas.
This squirrel has reddish-brown fur on its upper body, while the belly and undertail are white. In addition, there is often a grayish or whitish band along the sides. The Red squirrel’s tail is also red with white edges.
The Red squirrel feeds primarily on tree seeds, buds, fruits, nuts, and fungi. However, when their food is in short supply, they can be seen feeding on bird feeders, gardens, and the generosity of humans.
The Red squirrel is the most vocal of all the squirrel species and will often chatter at perceived threats. They are most active in the early morning and late afternoon.
Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys Volans)
New Jersey is home to the flying squirrel (Glaucomys Sabrinus). These species live in coniferous forests found throughout the island.
The diet of both flying squirrels includes insects, nuts, berries, acorns, sap, and mushrooms.
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.
Can You Buy A Pet Squirrel In New Jersey?
No, the laws prohibit anyone from owning wild animals without the proper permits and licenses. Unfortunately, the law only grants permits and licenses to sanctuaries and zoos. However, several websites, such as this one, sell all kinds of exotic animals throughout the United States.
That said, be prepared to pay for a domesticated squirrel. Prices range from $300 – $800 or more. In addition, if caught using one, you could face legal issues.
Owning wild animals, including ground and tree squirrels in New Jersey is illegal. The only exception is if you have a state permit, which is usually only offered to wildlife rehabilitators.
If you’re in the market for a pet, the best option is to get a domesticated animal like a hamster, gerbil, or Guinea pig. These small animals make great pets and are legal to own in New Jersey.
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