Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In South Carolina? What to Know

can you have a pet squirrel in South Carolina

You’ve found a squirrel nest in your backyard and you look inside. There’s a cute baby squirrel that needs your help. Your first thought is “can you have a pet squirrel in South Carolina?” The answer is not as clear-cut as you’d like it to be, but possession of wildlife is a complicated issue altogether.

Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In South Carolina?

Yes, but it is only legal if you’ve possessed the squirrel within 100 yards of your home. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) prefers people who rehab squirrels have formal training in nursing wildlife back to health. They may also require you to have a state wildlife rehabilitation permit, as well as an initial on-site inspection of your property.

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South Carolina can be a little more lenient (like Florida’s pet squirrel laws) when it comes to keeping wildlife as pets than some other states, but it’s not as easy as just grabbing one off of a tree and taking it home. Yes, you can own a pet squirrel, but they aren’t the easiest pets to care for.

South Carolina classifies squirrels as “game animals”. According to South Carolina law all the wild birds, wild game (ie. squirrels), and fish (except fish in private bodies of water entirely segregated from state waters) are the property of the state.

Thus a wild squirrel is a property of the state – so you can’t just catch and take one home, even if you really want to.

Do You Need A Permit to Own A Pet Squirrel In South Carolina?

What you can do, however, is apply for a permit to keep a squirrel as a pet to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Keep in mind though that the department will first conduct an investigation to ensure that the wild animal in question has been acquired lawfully.

If you’re importing the squirrel from another state then it has to be taken lawfully in the jurisdiction of the original state. The investigation should also prove that the possession (or importation and release) of the wildlife in question (in our case: squirrels) will not cause harm to the natural resources of South Carolina itself.  

Unless you can prove that you have not breached the law acquiring the squirrel, it’s likely that your permit application will not be approved.

Is A Permit Required?

The laws in South Carolina are unclear. Some say that you have to apply for a permit, while others say that it is legal to own a squirrel without a license.

It’s your responsibility to ensure you’re following the laws in the county you live in. This website will help you understand which permits are required and how to go about the process started.

Wildlife Rehabilitator Application

Anyone who wants to care for a squirrel as a pet, should complete this South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Rehabilitator Registry Application. This application is voluntary, but puts your name on a voluntary list of the state of South Carolina of people who are willing to rehab injured or orphaned wildlife.

If someone finds a baby squirrel, you may be contacted to care for them. Be sure to list the species of animals that you will care for.

This application does not pertain to caring for the following species:

  • Foxes
  • Coyotes
  • Deer
  • Fawn

On-Site Inspection Fee

There is also a one time-fee of $50 for an initial on-site inspection of your property. The on-site inspection ensures that you have experience in nursing wildlife back to health, as well as a clean, environment such as (holding pens) for the squirrel.

If you don’t have the proper space to keep a squirrel, your application may be denied. Squirrels should have plenty of space to move around freely.

Many people use a big cage for squirrels to ensure they have plenty of room to move around. Others have even made a cage for their pet squirrel.

The most important thing is you get a heavy-duty cage that can withstand their constant chewing.

Like dogs and cats, squirrels will require food, bowls, carriers, and other items that will cost quite a bit of money.

Is It Illegal To Own A Squirrel In South Carolina

If you still decide to get a pet squirrel while trying to circumvent the law, you need to keep in mind that a person who illegally buys, traffics, barters, trades, or sells any wildlife will be severely punished if discovered by the department of natural resources:

1. If its your first offense and the value of the wildlife (be it money or anything else) is $200 or less (this is where the squirrel will likely fall unless you’re getting yourself a hoard), then you will either be penalized (a fine should also be no more than $200) or – in some of the more extreme circumstances – imprisoned for up to 30 days.

2. For a second offense – in less than three years from your first offense, you face jail time of a minimum of 30 days and maximum of 365 days. Others have been charged a fine of $1000 up to $5000.

3. If it’s your third (or fourth, or fifth) offense – you’ll be fined with $5000, no part suspended, or receive a year-long prison sentence. Or BOTH.

So do not try to illegally obtain a squirrel, since circumventing the law will cost you quite dearly in this case.

Better get in touch with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and find out in more detail what you need to do to obtain a permit that will allow you to legally keep a squirrel as a pet.

List of Legal Pets In South Carolina

If you’re the type of person who loves rehabing or nursing wild or exotic animals back to life, you should know which animals are prohibited in South Carolina.

This table will show you examples of which animals are legal and illegal. You will want to do your due diligence to find out what permits are required.

Prohibited AnimalsAllowed Animals
Non-native bearMonkey


In summary, it is legal to own a pet squirrel in South Carolina. But, it is highly discouraged as squirrels don’t make the best pets.

Be sure you know what you’re getting into. Once you’ve taken one into captivity, you will have to keep it. Captive squirrels can’t go back out into the wild as they are no longer scared of cats, dogs, owls, hawks or people.

Most people are not properly trained to care and rehab squirrels or other wild animals. It’s best to leave the squirrels where they belong, in the wild and just put a squirrel feeder out so they can come visit you everyday.


47-2-10 et seq


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