Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In North Dakota?

can you have a pet squirrel in North Dakota

The Great Plains state is home to both tree and ground squirrels that can be seen frolicking in backyards, city parks, and rural areas. While it is legal to own a pet squirrel in North Dakota, there are some essential things to know before taking on such a responsibility.

Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In North Dakota?

North Dakota is one of the few states that allows ownership of squirrels and other non-domesticated animals. The state classifies exotic and non-traditional animals into three categories. Squirrels are classified as category 2, requiring owners to possess a non-traditional livestock license. In short, you can possess a grey, flying, fox, or red squirrel, but you must be aware of the regulations. 

While it is legal to own a squirrel in North Dakota, residents must understand the rules of permits, licenses, and care before taking on such a responsibility.

If you’re an animal lover and have considered owning a pet squirrel, this article will cover everything you need to know to ensure you abide by the laws.

What Type of Animals Can You Have In North Dakota?

North Dakota allows its residents to possess traditional and non-traditional animals as pets. Animals are classified into three categories based on whether or not they pose a hazard to the environment and the public.

Below are the animals and categories they fall under in North Dakota and whether or not a permit is required.

Category 1 Animals:

Category 1 species are not considered dangerous and exotic and therefore do not require a non-traditional livestock license. These animals consist of the following:

  • Chinchillas
  • Guinea fowl
  • Mules
  • Ducks
  • Pigeons
  • Wild Turkeys
  • Peafowl
  • Hedgehogs
  • Ground Squirrels
  • Prairie Dogs

Anyone possessing quail, chukar, and pheasants much obtain a permit of ownership from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. The Department of Agriculture issues the permit to ensure the protection of the health of the animals.

Category 2 Animals:

Category 2 animals are protected species that pose a threat to both the environment and humans. These animals include all pronghorns, zebras, deer, and certain non-domesticated cats.

Category 3 Animals:

Category 3 animals are those considered by the Agricultural board to pose a threat to the environment. Owners of these animals are required to possess both a non-traditional stock license and must meet the housing and care requirements for the following animals:

  • Any species of swine
  • Mountain Lions
  • Tigers
  • Cheetah
  • Wolves
  • Venomous Reptiles
  • Primates

Exempt Animals

These animals are considered non-traditional animals, but they are exempt from having to obtain a license or permit.

  • Sugar Gliders
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Arachnids
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Hamsters

North Dakota is extremely lenient on the types of animals one can possess as a pet. However, it is against the law to keep a raccoon or skunk in captivity. The only exceptions are licensed zoos, educational institutions, wildlife rehabilitators, or for medical research.

Is it Illegal to Have A Pet Squirrel in North Dakota?

No, it is not illegal to own a squirrel or other exotic and non-traditional animals in North Dakota. You must possess the proper licensing and housing requirements to do so.

You may be subject to criminal penalties if the squirrel causes damage, injures, or kills a person or another animal. 

You must also take precautions to prevent the escape of your pet squirrel. If your squirrel escapes and is found by someone else, they have the legal right to kill the animal. Like other states, North Dakota allows its residents to hunt squirrels. 

If caught with an unlicensed animal, you are subject to a civil penalty and up to a $5,000 violation.

What if I Found An Orphaned or Injured Squirrel?

According to the North Dakota Game and Fish, young animals (including squirrels) can appear to be abandoned, especially in the early spring and summer. However, these animals are likely not orphaned. Instead, the mother is likely close by, just out of sight.

You should only intervene if the animal is injured or in immediate danger. If you must take in an orphaned or injured squirrel, contact a wildlife rehabilitator for help.

Unlike other states, North Dakota is the only state that doesn’t have Wildlife Rehabilitation centers.

There are only two licensed wildlife rehabilitation centers in North Dakota: The Raptor Recovery Center and the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck.

Both of these facilities can take in sick, injured, or orphaned animals. In addition, the Raptor Recovery Center specializes in birds of prey.

If you have found an orphaned or injured squirrel, the best thing you can do is to contact one of these two facilities for help.

How to Become A Wildlife Rehabilitator In North Dakota?

Many people who love animals want to help when they see an orphaned, injured, or displaced animal. The best way to do this is by becoming a wildlife rehabilitator.

To become a rehabilitator in North Dakota, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Have at least 100 hours of hands-on experience with animals in the course of a year.
  • Possess a letter of recommendation from an experienced rehabilitator.
  • A letter of recommendation from a licensed veterinarian.

Each state has its own requirements, so be sure to check with your state’s fish and wildlife department for specific requirements.

You must also obtain a permit from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in North Dakota. This permit allows you to care for up to three animals at a time.

Wildlife rehabilitators are not paid positions, and you will be required to care for the animals at your own expense.

If you are interested in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator, volunteering at a rehabilitation center is the best way to get started. This will allow you to learn about the day-to-day care of animals and decide if this is the right career path for you.

What Types of Squirrels Exist in North Dakota?

North Dakota is known as the “Flickertail State” because of the abundance of ground squirrels found throughout the state. Like most other states, you can find both tree and ground squirrels such as; Eastern Gray, flying, red squirrels, and Southern fox squirrels.

However, North Dakota is home to another species of ground squirrel known as the Flickertail.


Richardson Ground Squirrels

The Flickertail is also known as Richardson’s ground squirrel and can be seen throughout much of the state. These squirrels reside in open grasslands, meadows, and along the edge of woodlands but can adapt to suburban environments.

Like tree squirrels, they can cause issues for homeowners by digging tunnels under driveways, sidewalks, and home foundations.

The rodents were named after the Scottish naturalist Sir John Richardson. At maturity, they weigh about 200 -275 grams, with the males weighing more than the females. Their tail is less bushy than other ground squirrels and acts similar to a prairie dog.

They were given the name Flickertail because their tail is constantly trembling, even when there is no danger present.

Their diet consists of grasses, seeds, insects, nuts, grains, and corpses of other ground squirrels.

In the wild, their life span ranges from 3-4 years, and they can live up to 5-7 years in captivity.

Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus Carolinensis)

The Eastern Gray squirrel is a common sight in North Dakota 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.

According to Edmund A. Hibbard, the species migrated into North Dakota from South Dakota and Minnesota. The Fox squirrel resides along the southeastern portion of the state, along the Missouri River.

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 (Sciurus) was first discovered on the Hudson Bay. It is the smallest tree squirrel and lives throughout the state.

This squirrel has reddish-brown fur on its upper body, while the belly and undertail are white. 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)

North Dakota is home to the flying squirrel (Glaucomys Sabrinus). The Northern flying squirrel is a bit larger and has a 10-12 inch wingspan at full maturity.

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. The Northern flying squirrel has a gestation period of 40 days. Their litters of offspring can range from 1-6, and the young are typically weaned two months after birth.

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. In addition, its long, bushy tail varies in color. 

The Eastern Fox squirrel can be seen foraging in bird feeders and people’s backyards. They can be seen throughout the state from Wahpeton (Richland County), Fargo (Cass County), and Valley City (Barnes County).

Today, forestland covers 450,000 acres of forestland, which is home to huge areas of native woodland. Squirrels and other habitat-generalists are found throughout these areas, while more specialized animals, such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, are found only in certain types of forestland.

The Eastern Fox squirrel is most active in the early morning and late afternoon.

Their diet consists of acorns, beechnuts, fruits, fungi, corn, and insects. During the winter, they have been known to eat tree bark when food is scarce.

The Eastern Fox squirrel is a loner except during mating season or when raising young. Mating season begins.

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.

Can I Relocate to North Dakota With A Pet Squirrel?

If you’ve acquired a squirrel while living in a state where it’s legal, there’s no reason you can’t move to North Dakota with your pet. North Dakota allows the ownership of most animals except raccoons and skunks.

You’ll want to reach out to the North Dakota Department of Game and Fish to 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.

You may be required to apply for a permit or license, but based on their laws, you shouldn’t have a problem keeping the pet.

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 Buy A Pet Squirrel In North Dakota?

Since it is legal to own all types of squirrels, it won’t be hard to find a breeder in the area. If you’re in the market for one, you can also use websites such as this one to find all kinds of exotic animals for sale throughout the United States.

That said, be prepared to pay for a domesticated squirrel. Prices range from $300 – $800 or more.

Final Word

North Dakota is one of the few states where it is legal to possess a squirrel as a pet. However, the state does have some regulations regarding the ownership of squirrels. So be sure to research the laws before bringing a pet squirrel into your home.

If you’re relocating to North Dakota with a pet squirrel, contact the state’s Game and Fish Department to inform them about your pet. All animals imported into the state must have a valid license and meet specific health requirements.

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