If you’re a fan of squirrels, you may be wondering if it’s legal to keep one as a pet in Virginia. The law doesn’t require any permits for domestic animals but has rules and regulations on the types of exotic animals that can be kept as pets. So can you have a pet squirrel in Virginia?
Can You Own A Squirrel In Virginia?
The Virginia Wildlife Rehabilitation states it is illegal to possess any type of wildlife in Virginia, without a permit, including squirrels. Additionally, Virginia prohibits residents from keeping or caring for injured, orphaned, or sick wildlife unless they are wildlife rehabilitators.
Squirrels are banned in many US jurisdictions. In addition, several states have outlawed the ownership of squirrels, and several require owners to obtain a license or permit before doing so.
Therefore, whether you can own a pet squirrel mostly depends on where you live. Find out which states allow squirrels as pets. Before deciding to get one, you should know whether squirrels are good pets.
Is It Illegal to Have A Pet Squirrel In Virginia?
Yes, Virginia classifies the rodents as small game, making it illegal to possess one as a pet. If you find an orphaned or injured squirrel, you must contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. There are several wildlife rehabilitators throughout Virginia.
Look for the closest office to you and contact the hotline. Leave a message, and a permitted rehabilitator will contact you. The messages are checked daily during the daytime hours only.
Below are the different regional association centers throughout the state:
- Richmond: Area Rehabbers Klub [ARK] 804-598-8380
- Northern Virginia: Wildlife Rescue League [WRL] 703-440-0800
- Hampton Roads: Wildlife Response Inc. [WRI] 757-263-4762
- Virginia Beach: Virginia Beach SPCA Wildlife 757-263-4762
- Winchester: Blue Ridge Wildlife Center 540-837-9000
- Roanoke: Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke 540-798-9836
You can also contact Animal Help Now, which is a rehabilitator resource center that assists with wildlife anywhere throughout the United States.
What Are The Consequences of Having A Pet Squirrel In Virginia?
The penalties for possessing a pet squirrel in Virginia vary depending on the situation. However, if caught with an orphaned or injured squirrel, you could face severe consequences from hefty fines, misdemeanor charges, and even jail time.
Unfortunately, the state is vague on the penalties one can face for possessing a squirrel. However, according to Virginia’s misdemeanor codes, the fines can result from fines and jail time. Here’s what you need to know about the different misdemeanor classes.
- Class 1: No more than 12 months of jail time and no more than a $2,500 fine.
- Class 2: Six months or less of jail time, a $1,000 fine, or both.
- Class 3: No jail time, but a fine of no more than $500
- Class 4: Fine of no more than $250
It’s just not worth the risk to try and keep a pet squirrel in Virginia. If charged with a misdemeanor in Virginia, you are facing criminal charges that will require you to get an attorney. The process is costly and can take a long time to resolve.
Can You Rescue A Squirrel In Virginia?
No, unless you have a valid rehabilitator permit. The state doesn’t tolerate private citizens from rescuing squirrels.
How to Obtain A Wildlife Rehabilitator License in Virginia?
Becoming a wildlife rehabilitator in Virginia is straightforward. The state requires you to fill out an application and apply. That said, Virginia offers two types of rehabilitation permits.
The first is hands-on training at the Wildlife Center. A student must devote no less than 600 hours of training during a 12-week period. During the one-year internship, you will work directly with the animals and learn about animal nutrition, capture and restraint methods, releasing techniques, and feeding methods.
The second type of permit consists of continuing education opportunities based on credits for renewing rehabilitation permits or those wanting to get more involved with helping wildlife. You will become a student of the Wildlife Care Academy, where you’ll have access to on-demand courses and live webinars to learn about wildlife medicine, rehabilitation, etc.
If you think you have what it takes to become a wildlife rehabilitator in Virginia, you’ll want to do your due diligence. It’s time-consuming and demanding, but if you love animals and have a passion for helping them, it’s definitely worth it.
However, it’s important to note that rehabbers are volunteers, meaning they don’t get paid for caring for animals. You will be responsible for paying for all the costs related to caring for the squirrel until it can be released back into the wild.
That said, programs such as POW and ReFurbish donate supplies such as; formula, bedding, enclosures, etc
Can You Relocate to Virginia With A Pet Squirrel?
If you’ve purchased a squirrel in a state where it’s legal and are getting ready to move to Virginia, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to keep it. As you can see, the Commonwealth state has strict rules regarding squirrels as pets.
You will want to reach out to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to let them know you have a domesticated pet squirrel. Since the squirrel is tame and won’t survive in the wild, they may allow you to keep it as a pet. That said, don’t be surprised if they give you a hard time keeping it.
There have been many instances in the past where the state Game Commission didn’t allow residents 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 Breed or Sell Squirrels In Virginia?
No, it is illegal to buy, sell, import, or export any wildlife without a permit in the Commonwealth state. Permits are only offered for animals used for Scientific or Educational Purposes.
Type of Squirrels Found In Virginia
You can easily find wide squirrel varieties in Virginia, as squirrels are abundant here. The most commonly found species in this area are the red squirrel, eastern grey squirrel, and eastern fox squirrel.
The Eastern Gray Squirrel is the larger of the two, measuring up to 20 inches long and weighing up to 19 ounces. They are easily recognizable by their gray fur and white belly.
It has a long bushy tail that is used to help them balance when dashing between tree branches. Their diet consists primarily of flowers, nuts, seeds, acorns, and buds on various trees such as; dogwood, maple, elm, etc.
You can also find them eating the seeds from spruce, cedar, and hemlock trees as well. These opportunistic feeders won’t pass up the opportunity of raiding bird feeders and garbage cans if they can’t find food easily in the wild.
The Fox Squirrel is larger than its gray cousin, weighing an average of 28 ounces. They have bushier coats and tails with hair sticking up from their ears. Their color can vary from pale gray to a reddish brown color, with a lighter colored underbelly.
They can be find thriving in areas that offer savannah-like habitats. These areas provide wide open spaces and abundant food sources. That said, like their cousin (the Gray Squirrel), they have learned how to acclimate to their environment and can be found in urban and suburban areas.
When looking for food, they will eat just about anything, including; insects, bird eggs, fruits and vegetables from gardens, and even small reptiles.
Like their cousin, they have many predators, such as hawks and owls. In addition, young squirrels can be eaten by snakes.
They can commonly live in trees with holes and cavities, such as oak, elm, and other hardwood trees. This enables them to build dens or nests for their young. In addition, they use the dens to hibernate during the winter.
Can You Buy A Pet Squirrel In Virginia
While it is possible to buy a pet squirrel from a breeder online, it is illegal to own a squirrel in Virginia, so it’s not recommended. That said, some people will still buy them and take their chances.
If you buy one, ensure you’re purchasing from a reputable breeder. A good breeder can provide you with all the necessary paperwork and a health certificate. Expect to pay around $300 – $1,000 for one.
In addition, you’ll always have to keep it in hiding, as Virginia’s wildlife laws strictly forbid owning a squirrel. If caught, you’ll face heavy fines, and the animal will be confiscated and most likely be released into the wild, where its chances of survival are slim.
As you can see, it’s not really worth the hassle to try and own a pet squirrel in Virginia. Instead, it’s best to admire them from afar.
If you reside in Virginia, owning or possessing any type of wildlife is against the law. This includes squirrels. You can own several other domesticated pets, such as a dog, cat, fish, or bird.
These are all legal, and you won’t have to worry about getting in trouble with the law.