Can You Have a Pet Squirrel In Tennessee? What to Know


The exciting and entertaining activities of the squirrel in your backyard will not only make you want to start feeding it but own it as a pet. So, you’re probably wondering, ‘Can you have a pet squirrel in Tennessee?’ 

We’ve put together a huge database of pet squirrel laws, to help you determine whether it’s legal to have one as a pet in the state you live in.

Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In Tennessee?

Squirrels fall under the Class III law in Tennessee, which clearly states that animals such as chipmunks, squirrels, rats, etc., Tennessee residents are allowed to keep squirrels as pets. 

These rodents have become extremely popular as pets in Tennessee. At the time of this writing, Sinan the Squirrel is one of Tennessee’s most well-known squirrels. 

The owner rescued the baby squirrel and nursed it back to health. When he released it back into the wild, the little squirrel didn’t want to leave. He had become too friendly and wouldn’t be able to survive on his own in the wild.

In this article, we’ll answer your questions about permits, types of squirrels found in Tennessee, and where and how to get one. 

Do You Need A Permit to Have A Pet Squirrel in Tennessee?

According to the Animal Laws of Tennessee, squirrels are Class III wildlife that does not require permits to keep and maintain. However, you must note that the Commission of Agriculture may add or delete any species from this Class, so you must check with them just if it happens.

What types of Squirrels Can I Have as a Pet in Tennessee?

Tennessee is home to the Eastern Gray squirrel, Red squirrel, Fox Squirrel, and Flying squirrel. The law doesn’t mention anything about restrictions to owning any squirrel in Tennessee. However, the northern flying squirrel is an endangered species. Therefore, it might not be a good idea to keep it as a pet.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

The Gray squirrel is the most common species found statewide. The best places to see Eastern Gray squirrels in Tennessee are city parks, suburban backyards, and bird feeders.

Appearance

This medium-sized tree squirrel weighs between 1 and 1.5 pounds and is 16 – 20 inches long. It has short grayish fur on its upperparts with hues of cinnamon and a whitish coat on its underparts. Its bushy tail has much longer fur that ranges in color between pale gray and white. It has four numbers on its forefeet, while its hind feet have five numbers.

The Eastern Gray squirrel has a ‘dark side.’ Some of them appear entirely black, which may lead some people to believe this is a different species. Some sources say this results from interspecies breeding, while others say it’s melanism caused by a gene that produces more dark pigment.

Habitat

The Eastern Gray squirrel usually appears in city parks and backyards but prefers dense hardwood forests in urban and rural areas.

Diet

They eat various foods and mainly feed on nuts, corn, flowers, figs, and bulbs of hickory, oaks, and elm. Towards the end of spring and throughout summer, they feed on fruits, fungus, insect larvae, and sometimes eggs and baby birds.

Breeding 

It’s common for males to compete for a female to breed. There are two annual breeding seasons, May to June and December to February. The gestation period is between 40 – 45 days, at which point females deliver a litter of about 2 – 6 naked, blind young. 

In a few cases, litters of up to 8 have occurred. Weaning happens when they are about 7-8 weeks, and by 9 months, they have reached adult size.

Fox Squirrel

The Fox squirrel (Sciurus Niger) is also a popular game species.

Appearance

At 19 – 29 inches long and a weight of 1 – 3 pounds, this tree squirrel is twice the gray squirrel’s size. It has a long bushy tail and varies greatly in color. While its upperside fur is between gray and black, the belly area is orange-looking, extending to the tail edges, feet, cheeks, and ears.

Habitat

In Tennessee, you’ll find fox squirrels mostly in mature hardwood forests, especially hickory/oak forests, and also along upland ridges.

Diet 

Fox squirrels are omnivores but mainly enjoy hard nuts of oak, hickory, mulberry, walnut, pecan, and elm. They also feed on fruit, insects, bird eggs, pine seeds, and hard mast. They’ll gladly munch on field corn as well if they can find it. 

Breeding 

Males chase females to mate with them, and they also chase other males away in territorial dispute and competition. The mating season peaks in June (summer) and December (winter). 

Gestation lasts around 45 days, and females will produce litters that range between 1 and 7 hairless, blind young who will wean at eight weeks.

Red Squirrel

The Red Squirrel is also known as Sciurus vulgaris. This small tree squirrel is a game species mostly found in the higher elevations of eastern Tennessee.

Appearance 

This squirrel has a reddish-gray upperside and white/cream colored underside. Its tail looks similar to the back and is less bushy than its counterparts. It’s a small squirrel weighing only 5 – 8.9 ounces and 11–15 inches long. Males and females look the same.

Habitat

They mostly prefer coniferous forests in high elevation areas. However, you can also find them in mixed coniferous-hardwood forests.

Diet

They enjoy feeding on pine cones but can eat various nuts, seeds, acorns, berries, and sometimes bird eggs.

Breeding

Mid-summer and late winter are breeding seasons for red squirrels. Females produce 1 to 8 young litters in ground burrows, leaf nests, or tree cavities after a gestation period of 33-35 days. Weaning takes place at about eight weeks. 

Southern Flying Squirrel

The Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans) is the smallest squirrel you’ll find statewide in Tennessee.

Appearance

This small tree squirrel weighs in at 1.5 – 5.0 pounds and measures 7 – 10 inches long. It has a grayish-brown fur coat on its back and white fur on its belly. It has distinct large black eyes and a flat tail. 

The patagium on each side of its body enables it to glide through the air. This membrane extends from the wrist of the front legs to the ankles of the back legs. It has four digits on the front feet and five digits on the back.

Habitat 

Flying squirrels generally prefer mature woodlands with oak and hickory trees that have snags with cavities. Sometimes, they’ll make a home in a woodpecker hole, abandoned nests, birdhouses, and attics in humans’ homes.

Diet

Although they primarily enjoy acorns and hickory nuts, their diverse diet also includes berries, fruits, fungi, tree buds, eggs, insects, young mice, and bird eggs.

Breeding 

Southern Flying Squirrels breed twice a year and produce an average of 2-4 young after a 40 day gestation period. The baby flying squirrels are weaned at about 6 – 8 weeks.

Northern Flying Squirrel

The Northern Flying squirrels are similar to their southern counterparts except that they breed once a year and are a federally and state-listed endangered subspecies. This means that they exist in small populations and are at risk of extinction. 

According to the Endangered Species Act (ESA), it is illegal to have an endangered species as a pet. Criminal violation of this Act will result in a lawsuit and subsequent imprisonment. You will also pay a hefty fine of up to $50,000.  

How To Get A Pet Squirrel In Tennessee?

While it is legal to own one, you cannot capture a wild one and keep it as a pet. Capturing a wild squirrel and keeping it as a pet is illegal in every state, even South Carolina, Florida, or elsewhere. 

However, if you find a baby squirrel, it is legal to nurse it back to health and keep it as a pet. But there are several things to consider before you decide to keep a pet squirrel!

Where To Buy Pet Squirrels in Tennessee?

With all the excitement to own a squirrel, you must be wondering where to get one from in Tennessee? You can check with exotic animal breeders. Search for ‘exotic animal breeders in Tennessee’ on search engines and social media, and a list of them will come up. 

For example, Frazier Farms Exotics runs a TWRA state-licensed and USDA Federally licensed facility. They have black squirrels, grey squirrels, and grey squirrels with a black color morph on offer. The prices range from $175 to $500.

Final Word

Before you decide to purchase a pet squirrel, if possible, visit the breeder personally to see what goes into taking care of a pet squirrel. That way, you’re more prepared and equipped to look after it.

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