Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In South Dakota?

can you have a pet squirrel in South Dakota

South Dakota is home to many different types of animals, including squirrels. While you may see these creatures running around your backyard, you might wonder if it’s legal to have a pet squirrel in South Dakota.

Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In South Dakota?

The answer is no. According to the South Dakota Legislature, a permit is required to import or possess non-domestic mammals, hybrids, etc. This includes members of the following families; Ursidae, Felidae, Hyaenidae, Canidae, and Mustelidae. 

In addition, according to Legislature Law 41-1-2, no South Dakota resident may acquire any game animal, game birds, or game fish to keep as a pet. Tree squirrels are considered game animals and can be hunted during the regular hunting season.

South Dakota, like other states, allows residents to hunt tree squirrels, meaning these rodents are considered game animals. As a resident, it’s essential to understand the laws of wildlife captivity to ensure you abide by the rules and regulations.

Unlike other states, the laws can be vague and confusing. Here’s how we interpreted the laws. However, if you’re considering getting a pet squirrel, you will want to consult the South Dakota Game Fish & Parks website to find out if it is legal.

What Type of Animals Can You Have In South Dakota?

South Dakota residents are allowed to have a variety of pets that don’t require registration, such as the following:

  • Rats
  • Hamsters
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Fowl
  • Reptiles
  • Mice
  • Birds

Exotic animals and endangered species such as; venomous snakes, pythons, elephants, etc. are strictly prohibited. However, in 2020, a law was passed allowing residents of Sioux Falls to care for bee colonies with the purchase of a $50 permit.

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

According to the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks website, owning any game animal is illegal. However, some families, such as the Tinch family, own more than 100 reptiles (some of which are considered exotic) and have had no issues.

Tinch registered her home as a business and uses the animals for education by taking them to nearby schools. She has acquired all the necessary permits and licenses and has had some issues with animal control.

While it’s possible to have a pet squirrel in South Dakota, it’s essential to research the laws and regulations before committing. Owning a pet squirrel comes with great responsibility, including providing them with proper food, shelter, and care.

It will also be much harder to own one if you live within city limits. If it gets loose, you could face problems with your neighbor. 

What if I Found An Orphaned or Injured Squirrel?

According to the South Dakota wildlife association, young squirrels can appear to be orphaned in the early spring and summer. However, most are not abandoned, and the mother is likely searching for food for herself and her young.

Bothering or taking the squirrels into captivity exposes them to stress, potential injury, and health problems. The best thing you can do is to leave them be and monitor them from a distance. If the squirrels are truly orphaned, they will need to be taken into rehabilitation.

If you see an orphaned animal, leave it alone and keep your pets away from it.

How to Become A Wildlife Rehabilitator In South Dakota?

If you love caring for injured, abandoned, or animals in need, consider becoming a wildlife rehabilitator. Those interested in rehabilitation must meet the following:

  • South Dakota residents at least 21 years of age.
  • Pass a written examination
  • Have access to a licensed veterinarian for animal care and evaluation when needed.
  • Must have adequate space and housing for the care of the animal.
  • Possess the ability to maintain proper records that need to be evaluated annually.

These positions are voluntary, meaning there is no compensation for the care you provide. All animals under temporary care remain the property of the State of South Dakota.

What Types of Squirrels Exist in South Dakota?

Mount Rushmore State has rolling plains, timbered hills, and wooded stream bottoms home to several birds and mammals. Residents will find the Eastern Gray Squirrel, Red Squirrel, and Northern Flying squirrel living in nature and visiting backyards.

Let’s take a closer look at the most common squirrels found in the Land of Plenty.

Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus Carolinensis)

The Eastern Gray squirrel lives along the eastern border of the state. This includes the suburban areas such as; Aberdeen, Brookings, South Sioux City, and Watertown. 

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.

This species typically exists in open woodlands, especially hickory and oak forests. South Dakota is home to over 1.5 million acres of forest land, with a variety of species of trees such as the Ponderosa Pine, Eastern Cottonwood, American Elm, etc., making it a great state to find trees and ground squirrels.

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. 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)

South Dakota is home to the flying squirrel (Glaucomys Sabrinus). The largest of the population can be found living in the Black Hills area. The Black Hills consists of 1.2 million acres of forested hills and mountains and borders the western part of South Dakota and Northeastern Wyoming.

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.

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 is the most common type of tree squirrel found in South Dakota. This species can be seen foraging in bird feeders and people’s backyards.

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.

Does South Dakota Have Ground Squirrels?

South Dakota is home to 13 species of squirrels, including ground squirrels such as; chipmunks, black-tailed prairie dogs, Richardson’s, and marmots. Ground squirrels hibernate during the winter months.

The most common ground squirrel in South Dakota is the 13-lined ground squirrel, also known as a striped gopher. This species has a light brown fur coat with 13 dark brown or black stripes running down its back.

Their diets include lizards, small birds, leaves, seeds, and insects.

Can I Relocate to South 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 South Dakota with your pet. South Dakota allows the ownership of most animals acquired in other states.

You’ll want to reach out to the South 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 South Dakota?

You likely won’t find a breeder since it is not legal to raise squirrels as pets. 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

Owning a pet squirrel in South Dakota is legal as long as the squirrel was acquired while living in a state where it’s legal. You’ll want to contact the South Dakota Department of Game and Fish to let them know you have a pet squirrel, as they may require you to apply for a permit or license.

Residents are not allowed to capture or acquire any type of game animals from the wild to keep them as a pet. So, if you find an injured or orphaned squirrel, your best bet is to take it to a wildlife rehabilitation center.

Every city has its own regulations, so you’ll want to check with your local authorities to see if there are any other laws you need to be aware of before getting a pet squirrel.

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