Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In Rhode Island? [What to Know]

can you have a pet squirrel in Rhode Island

Both tree and ground squirrels are a common sight in Little Rhody, also known as “The Ocean State.” Rhode Island is the smallest state in the United States, but it is home to a wide variety of wildlife. If you are considering getting a pet squirrel, it’s essential to understand the rules and regulations regarding pet ownership.

Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In Rhode Island?

According to Rhode Island Code § 3.17, owning, possessing, and capturing a squirrel to keep it as a pet is illegal. The red and gray squirrels are game animals, and the state allows citizens to hunt them during the hunting season. 

The gray squirrel is a protected furbearer, and killing is regulated.

Squirrels have become extremely popular as pets. It’s not hard to find a YouTube channel showing off a pet squirrel. Unfortunately, not all states allow residents to own wildlife as pets. However, according to the Fish and Wildlife Parks (FWP), owning squirrels is terrible. 

Small mammals such as squirrels, rabbits, and raccoons carry zoonotic diseases that can be transmitted to pets and humans.

Depending on when you read this, the laws may change. So you’ll want to contact the Rhode Island Fish and Wildlife Department to ensure the regulations have not changed. That said, here’s what we found regarding owning a squirrel as a pet in Rhode Island.

Is it Illegal to Have A Pet Squirrel in Rhode Island?

No one in Rhode Island is allowed to possess, sell, purchase, tame, neuter, or barter wild animals.

The only way you could get around this law is if you had a permit issued by the state’s Department of Environmental Management. Even then, the animal must be returned to the wild within 30 days. 

The possession of the following is restricted to institutions and prohibited as pets:

  • Eastern Chipmunk (Ondatra zibethicus)
  • American Beaver (Castor canadensis)
  • Fisher (Martes pennanti)
  • New England Cottontail (Syvilagus transitionalis)
  • Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
  • Woodchuck (Marmota monax)
  • Hoary Boat (Lasiurus cinereus)
  • Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)
  • Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
  • Small-footed Bat (Myotis leibii)
  • Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans)
  • White Tailed Deere (Odocoileus virginianus)
  • Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

Domesticated Legal Animals

Rhode Island considers domesticated animals are those bred to live with humans. The list below consists of some of the animals legal to own:

  • Alpaca (Lama pacos)
  • Domesticated Dog (Canis familiaris)
  • Common Pigeon (Rock Dove)
  • Mongolian Gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus)
  • Domestic Goat (Capra hircus)
  • Domestic Sheep (Ovis aries)
  • Guinea Pigs (Cavia porcellus)
  • Llama (Lama glama)
  • Hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) and (Phodopus)

You can view the entire list of animals that are prohibited and allowed to keep as pets, by clicking here.

Those caught violating the laws are subject to fines and/or jail time. Remember, it is always best to consult with the experts before making any decisions regarding pet ownership.

How to Become A Wildlife Rehabilitator In Rhode Island?

The Division of Fish and Wildlife allows qualified citizens to care for injured, displaced temporarily, or diseased indigenous animals, with the intent of releasing them back into the wild. To become a wildlife rehabilitator in Rhode Island, one must meet the following requirements.

  • Eighteen years of age or older.
  • Must be a Rhode Island resident and possess proper government-issued identification.
  • A signed letter from a veterinarian agreeing to treat the animals you rescue.
  • The agreement and signature of a sponsor from the RIDEM-permitted Level 2 rehabilitator, stating they will sponsor and guide you throughout your training.
  • One must complete the Wildlife Rehabilitators Council (IWRC) basic wildlife certification, with a passing score of 80% or higher.

Once the requirements are successfully met, someone will inspect your home to ensure you have the proper facilities, equipment, and space to care for the animals. If everything looks good, you will be issued a permit.

There is a $25.00 non-refundable fee for the RIDEM Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit, payable via check or money order only. The permit is valid for one year and must be renewed annually.

Caring for a wild animal is a big responsibility and not something to be taken lightly. If you are still interested in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator, we suggest contacting the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife for more information.

What Types of Squirrels Are Found In Rhode Island?

There are over 275 species of ground, flying, and tree squirrels worldwide, but only five species live in Rhode Island. All squirrels, regardless of species, have learned to adapt to various conditions and humans, making them pests in some areas.

Let’s take a closer look at the species of squirrels found in Rhode Island.

Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus Carolinensis)

The Eastern Gray squirrel is a non-native species of the state. These species inhabit areas with broad-leafed deciduous forests. 

One such area is known as Beaverhead-Deerlodge Forest. There are over three million acres of forest land.

It is home to deciduous trees, such as oaks, maples, and beeches. These trees are popular among wildlife, predominantly gray and flying squirrels. 

These opportunistic feeders will eat just about anything they can find. Including seeds, fruits, nuts, insects, and even bird eggs!

The Eastern Gray squirrel will also strip the bark from trees in search of food during the winter months.

The coat of an Eastern Gray squirrel is salt and pepper colored. With a gray fur coat and a large bushy tail. The color camouflages it within the woods, hiding it from predators.

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)

Rhode Island 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.

Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

The American Red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), also known as chickaree, is smaller than its gray cousin. Many people say the gray squirrel is more intelligent than the red squirrel. Both have learned to adapt to their environment, making them pests in some areas.

The Red Squirrel is mostly reddish-brown but can have a grayish tint. The underparts are white, and there is often a black stripe running down its back. It has a long bushy tail that is also red with white edges. They prefer to live in coniferous trees, but they will also inhabit mixed forests.

These opportunistic feeders will eat just about anything they can find. Including seeds, fungi, fruits, nuts, insects, and even bird eggs!

The Red Squirrel is the most vocal of all the squirrel species and often chatters at perceived threats. They are most active in the early morning and late afternoon.

Does Rhode Island Have Ground Squirrels?

Rhode Island may be small, but 59% (393,000 acres) of it is covered in forest. This makes it an excellent place for all sorts of animals to live, including ground squirrels.

Three different types of ground squirrels call Rhode Island home: the Eastern chipmunk and woodchucks. The Eastern chipmunk is a member of the squirrel family. They are small, ground-dwelling brown rodents with black and white stripes running down their backs.

Chipmunks are found in forests, fields, and backyards across Rhode Island. They eat various foods, including insects, nuts, fruit, fungi, baby mice and nestling birds.

Woodchucks (Marmota Monax) are herbivores that belong to the squirrel family. They are the largest member of the squirrel family in Rhode Island. Woodchucks have brown fur and can grow to be up to 20 inches long, not including their tail!

Woodchucks are found in fields, pastures, yards, and along roadsides throughout Rhode Island. Their diet consists mostly of grasses, alfalfa, dandelions, and other plants. They will eat snails and other insects if supply is scarce.

Can I Relocate to Rhode Island With A Pet Squirrel?

According to the laws, the squirrel will not likely be able to be kept as a pet. According to the R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 4-18-3 and 4-18-6, it is illegal to import or possess any wild animal without first obtaining a permit. That said, permits are limited to pet stores, animal care facilities, educational and research institutions, etc. Unfortunately, they are not available to individuals looking to keep a pet squirrel.

However, there have been many instances where the state Game Commission didn’t allow residents moving to different states to keep a pet squirrel. Finally, 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 Rhode Island?

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.

Final Word

Rhode Island prohibits the ownership of any wild animal, including squirrels. This is due to the dangers they pose to public health and safety. However, if you’re considering getting one, it’s essential to know the laws and regulations in your state. 

Otherwise, you could face severe penalties that can be costly and time-consuming. If you have any questions, it’s always best to consult with a qualified lawyer in your area.

Squirrels are fascinating creatures that are fun to watch. However, they are also very active and can be destructive if not properly cared for. If you’re considering getting a pet squirrel, make sure you do your research beforehand.

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