If you have ever had the opportunity to interact with the squirrels in your back garden, you may have wondered what it would be like to have a squirrel as a pet. Well, if you live in the state of Colorado, you will have to make do with watching from afar because it is against the law to have a pet squirrel!
Is It Legal to Own a Pet Squirrel?
In the state of Colorado, it is illegal to own any wildlife. The state sees all wildlife as a state-owned public resource, and removing that wildlife from its natural habitat to take it home is against the law.
It is illegal in many states throughout the United States to own a pet squirrel. If you’ve been thinking about acquiring one, I suggest you check out this table to see which states allow squirrel pets.
Why You Can’t Have A Pet Squirrel In Colorado
According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, there are three main reasons why the state has made it illegal to keep wildlife as pets:
- Public health and safety.
- Protection of the state’s domestic livestock.
- Protection of the wildlife and wildlife resources of the state.
Public Health and Safety Concerns
Public health and safety are of particular concern because zoonotic diseases can be passed to humans from squirrels. Squirrels also carry fleas which can transmit disease to humans.
One such case was a squirrel found in Jefferson County, Colorado, in July 2020 that tested positive for the bubonic plague!
Other zoonotic diseases of concern include:
- Lyme Disease
Protection of the state’s domestic livestock
Many people assume that they can care for a pet squirrel, but when their pet turns out to be much more than they can handle, they release that squirrel into the wild. This has devastating consequences.
A squirrel that has come to rely on human care will seek out food sources that are easy to obtain – farms being an ideal location. Unfortunately, as squirrels feed on crops at farms, they also expose livestock to a variety of diseases.
Disease spread is not the biggest concern. However, as squirrel populations increase, they take away food sources for livestock. Reduced food availability for livestock means weight loss in cattle, directly affecting milk production and the ranching industry.
Protection of Wildlife and Wildlife Resources of the State
Allowing Colorado state residents to keep squirrels as pets also poses a significant risk to the wildlife and wildlife resources in the state. As mentioned above, more competition for food results in less food availability, which even affects natural squirrel populations!
Imagine if one-third of the households in the state of Colorado had pet squirrels and decided at one point or another that they couldn’t care for their pet anymore. The residents would release the squirrels into the wild. Those squirrels now compete for the resources that the state population of squirrels feeds on.
The state ecosystem is a very delicately balanced system, and throwing just one aspect of that balance off creates a ripple effect.
Squirrel populations boom due to irresponsible “pet” owners releasing their squirrels into the wild.
Those released squirrels compete for resources, so local wildlife populations have less access to food. Those natural populations of squirrels must then seek out alternate food resources – likely, your bird feeder!
As more squirrels are driven into closer contact with humans as they seek out food, humans are at higher risk of disease.
Even if there were enough natural resources to support a boom in the squirrel population, the effect on the ecosystem could still be drastic!
With more squirrels, seeds and nuts of local trees are being picked dry, interrupting the natural growth cycle of trees in the area.
Having more squirrels results in predators like coyotes and foxes now having bountiful food resources and breeding prolifically. More foxes and coyotes then lead to more food for bears, mountain lions, and wolves.
The cycle continues, while predators higher up in the chain become more of a problem.
What do you suppose those large predators will do when unable to find food to sustain their increased population? You guessed it – they will seek closer contact with humans, which spells almost certain disaster for the humans and the larger predators.
To look at the bigger picture, it is simply amazing that something as “harmless” as a pet squirrel could send the natural ecosystem into such a tailspin. If you have your doubts about just how serious this tailspin could be, look up the topic of rabbits in Australia and do a little research of your own.
Do You Need A Permit to Own a Pet Squirrel?
Even with a permit, it is illegal to own a pet squirrel in Colorado.
The only type of permit available in Colorado that concerns squirrel is the license granted to wildlife rehabilitation professionals. Even with this license, however, “wildlife rehabbers” are held to very strict protocols and are only allowed to nurse squirrels back to health and make every effort to return them to the wild once recovered.
If a rehabilitated squirrel in Colorado will not survive in the wild after rehabilitation, they may be kept by a licensed educational group or institution and used for educational purposes.
What Types of Squirrels are In the Area? (Grey, Fox, Flying?)
There are two categories of squirrels that are native to Colorado – tree squirrels and ground squirrels.
The three species of tree squirrel native to Colorado are – the fox squirrel, the Abert squirrel, and the pine squirrel.
The six species of ground squirrel native to Colorado – the thirteen-lined ground squirrel, the spotted ground squirrel, the white-tailed antelope, the grizzled brown rock squirrel, the Wyoming ground squirrel, and the golden-mantled ground squirrel.
How to Get A Pet Squirrel In Colorado
Because it is illegal to own pet squirrels in Colorado, there is no legal way to obtain a pet squirrel.
Can You Buy A Pet Squirrel In Colorado?
No. Squirrels cannot be taken from the wild or purchased within the state of Colorado. If you do find someone in the state willing to sell you a pet squirrel, know that they are committing a crime, and so are you if you follow through with the purchase.
Colorado is abundant with squirrels and other wildlife. If you love squirrels, the most you can do is set up a feeder in your backyard and feed them.
You can also visit the public parks and feed the squirrels. Although, you need to check the rules and regulations to see if you’re allowed to feed the squirrels in public!