Can You Own A Squirrel In Washington State? [Rules & Regulations] 


If you spend any amount of time in local parks out in Washington State, you may have noticed the free-spirited squirrel population and wondered what it was like to have a pet squirrel. Unfortunately, you will have to keep wondering because it is against the law to own a pet squirrel in Washington State!

Is It Legal to Own a Pet Squirrel?

In Washington State, it is illegal for residents to keep any wildlife that is native to Washington state as a pet. This includes squirrels, deer, and wild rabbits.

The only time it is not considered illegal to have one of these native species is if you are in the process of transporting sick or injured wildlife to a professionally licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

If you’ve been considering getting a pet squirrel, you need to know which states allow squirrels as pets.  

Although it is permitted to transport sick and injured wildlife to a licensed rehabilitator. It is not permitted for you to provide care to a sick, orphaned, or injured wild animal unless the state officially licenses you as a wildlife rehabilitator.

Suppose you do come upon a squirrel that needs veterinary intervention. In that case, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife offers an easy online search tool where you can find local certified wildlife rehabilitators. 

Before touching the animal in question (unless it is facing sure death – for example, in the jaws of a dog,) contact a licensed rehabilitator to ask for advice on handling.

Why Washington State Makes it Illegal to Own a Pet Squirrel

Like many other states, Washington State has made it illegal to own pet squirrels to protect the natural ecosystem and protect state residents.

Should Washington state make it legal to own pet squirrels, the state’s natural population would dwindle. Not to mention that happy animals in their natural habitat are being removed in favor of keeping them in a small enclosure!

Resident safety is always a concern. When any exotic or unusual pet is kept in captivity, there is a risk of spreading disease or residents getting injured.

Firstly, squirrels can carry several diseases that can be passed on to humans.

Secondly, wild animals are not domesticated and do not understand the concept of “correct” behavior in human society. So, those animals are going to perform instinctive behaviors that often become increasingly aggressive as they get bored or grow into adolescence. 

This can frequently result in biting, scratching, and general aggression.

Do You Need A Permit to Own a Pet Squirrel?

At the time of this writing, there is no permit in the state of Washington that makes it legal to own a pet squirrel. You can always stay informed by signing up for updates from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

If they update the regulations and make it possible to get a permit to become a wildlife rehabilitator, you’ll be the first to know.

What Types of Squirrels are In the Area? (Grey, Fox, Flying?)

There are six species of tree squirrel in Washington State – the Douglas squirrel, the red squirrel, the Western gray squirrel, the Northern flying squirrel, the Eastern gray squirrel, and the Eastern fox squirrel.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

The Eastern gray squirrel and the Eastern fox squirrel are not native to Washington state, but since their introduction into the state, they are common. Sadly, these non-native species pose a real threat to native squirrel species in Washington.

The Eastern gray was brought to Washington in the early 1900s and released. Named as one of the world’s top one hundred most invasive species, it didn’t take long for the Eastern Gray’s to begin developing a stronghold in the state.

The Eastern Gray squirrel is of particular concern to Washington’s ecosystem and poses a significant risk of eliminating the Western gray squirrel from Washington state altogether! The Western gray squirrel is already a protected species, and as Eastern gray’s increase in number, food resources and territory are becoming increasingly scarce.

Ground Squirrels

There are seven species of ground squirrel in Washington State – the California ground squirrel, the golden-mantled ground squirrel, the cascade golden-mantled ground squirrel, the Colombian ground squirrel, the Piute ground squirrel, Townsend’s ground squirrel, and the Washington ground squirrel.

Like the Eastern gray squirrel, the California ground squirrel is non-native species living in Washington state. Common in California and Oregon, this rapidly maturing species has recently expanded into Washington State and poses further competition for native species!

How to Get A Pet Squirrel In Washington State

Since it is illegal to own a pet squirrel in Washington State, there is no legal way to obtain a squirrel as a pet.

Although it is illegal to own a pet squirrel in Washington state, there is one way that you can work directly with them – become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator!

How to Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator in Washington State

To become a wildlife rehabilitator in Washington state, you must obtain a Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife license. Requirements to obtain a license include:

  • Applicants must be eighteen or older.
  • You must have at least six months of 1,000 hours of work with a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, and this must include at least three months in the summer or spring months.
  • You must be sponsored by a veterinarian who is willing to offer guidance in treating wildlife. This veterinarian must sign a Veterinarian Agreement Form.
  • You must complete the Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit Application.
  • You must pass a written wildlife rehabilitation exam with a score of 80% or above.
  • Applicants seeking to work with raptors must also complete a specialty raptor exam and achieve a score of 80% or above.
  • You must build enclosures of an appropriate size for the facility where you will be caring for animals, and this facility must pass inspection.
  • Applicants looking to work with birds must also have a Federal Migratory Bird Permit.

Being a wildlife rehabilitator is not the same as owning a pet squirrel, but it will allow you to work with squirrel species. You may also get personal satisfaction in knowing that the animals you rehabilitate are going to be released to live their life in a natural habitat!

Can You Buy A Pet Squirrel In Washington State?

Pet squirrels may not be bought or sold in Washington State as owning one is illegal! If anyone is caught selling one, they may be subject to fines and legal actions.

Final Word

It is illegal to own a pet squirrel in Washington. If you’ve acquired a pet squirrel because you lived in a state like South Carolina, etc., it’s legal to own one. You may not be allowed to keep it.

Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In Washington?

No, it is illegal to possess wild animals as pets. This includes squirrels, bears, bobcats, deer, falcons, quail, skunks, etc. If caught, you could be subject to fines and legal actions.

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