Can You Trap, Hunt And Kill Squirrels In California?

can you trap hunt and kill squirrels in California

California is a vast state that covers approximately 163,696 square miles. This means there are tons of wildlife, including ground and tree squirrels. Unfortunately, many people enjoy hunting these animals for sport. So, the question remains, can you legally hunt, trap and kill squirrels in California?

Is It Illegal To Trap Squirrels In California?

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Department, it is legal to hunt, trap, and kill tree squirrels during the regular hunting season. However, ground squirrels are classified as nongame animals, meaning it is illegal to hunt, trap, or kill them at any time.

Two types of squirrels live in California- ground squirrels and tree squirrels. 

Ground squirrels include the following species: Beechey ground squirrel, California ground squirrel, Nelson’s antelope squirrel, and the western pocket gopher.

Tree squirrels found in California are the American red squirrel, Douglas squirrel, eastern gray squirrel, western gray squirrel, and fox squirrel.

As a California resident, it’s essential to understand the laws regarding the killing, relocation, and trapping of these small rodents.

If you’re having squirrel problems, knowing the legalities, which species are protected, and how to protect your property from damage is essential.

Let’s find out how to get rid of these pests and the legalities, licenses, and penalties for residents.

Is Trapping Legal In California?

Trapping is legal in the state of California without a permit. That said, it is illegal to trap furbearing mammals such as; foxes, river otters, etc. When trapping squirrels for hire or profit, you must acquire a license from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

In addition, it is illegal to trap protected or endangered squirrels. 

At the time of this writing, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service classifies the San Joaquin antelope squirrel and the Mohave ground squirrel as threatened species.

Traping, hunting, or killing both species is against the law. If you do, you could face heavy fines and even jail time.

Does California Have Squirrel Hunting Season?

Tree squirrels are considered small game mammals and offer two types of hunting: general and archery. Below are the dates of the two types of tree squirrel hunting season.

General hunting season: September 10 – January 29

Archery hunting season: August 6 – September 9

This webinar discusses everything you need to know about hunting tree squirrels in California.

We discuss more in complete detail, so keep reading. 

California Counties Where Squirrel Hunting Is Allowed

Below is a table with the two types of squirrel hunting and tree squirrel hunting zone with the allowed counties.

General Hunting CountiesArchery and Falconry Tree Squirrel Season
ButteDel Norte
Contra CostaGlenn
GlennEl Dorado
San BenitoMadera
Del NorteTrinity
San LuisAlpine
El DoradoModoc

If you’re hunting squirrels, it is essential to understand when and the type of squirrel season is offered in your area.

Do You Need A License to Hunt Squirrel In California?

If you’re planning on hunting squirrels, you must have the appropriate license, which you obtain through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

Like most other states, California has a hunting license requirement for residents and non-residents who want to hunt small or big game animals.

A resident hunting license costs $54 dollars and the nonresident version costs $188.74. Applicants must be 16 years of age to apply.

What Are The Penalties for Trapping and Hunting Squirrels Illegally?

The penalties for trapping and hunting squirrels without a permit or out of season are harsh, especially if the animal is listed on the protected or endangered list.

Doing so can result in misdemeanor charges, fines, and expensive court costs. 

In addition, the department will revoke your hunting license if found guilty until the fees and sentencing are paid.

So before trying to hunt, trap or kill squirrels, make sure you understand which squirrels are fair game and which are protected.

Can You Shoot Squirrels On Your Property In California?

It is illegal for anyone other than the homeowner to shoot on personal property.

The only time it would be legal to shoot a squirrel on your property is if it was causing damage to your crops or home.

Before discharging a firearm, you must understand your area’s laws and regulations to avoid penalties. Every municipality is different and may have its own laws regarding shooting wildlife on personal property.

So the best thing to do is check the laws in your area.

How Do I Get Rid of Squirrels Permanently?

If you are in a situation where you need to get rid of squirrels on your property, the best action is to contact a wildlife control specialist who can help you safely and legally. 

These professionals will have the necessary equipment, knowledge, and experience to remove the animals without causing any harm.

If you decide to take matters into your own hands, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, it’s essential to know that lethal methods of control, such as snares, barbed wire, hooks, or fire in a squirrel den, are inhumane and illegal in California.

Second, even if you can trap and remove the animals from your property, they will likely just come back unless you take steps to prevent them from returning.

The most effective way to keep squirrels away for good is to eliminate any food sources that are attracting them to your property in the first place. 

This may include removing bird feeders, sealing up any holes or cracks where they get inside, and keeping your yard clean and free of debris.

Flying squirrels are the most common nuisance for attics. So, it’s crucial to identify the entry point and seal it with metal sheeting or wire mesh.

Can You Relocate Squirrels In California?

It is illegal in California to relocate wildlife without a valid permit. Therefore, if you’ve trapped a live squirrel, raccoon, or any other type of wildlife, it must be released on the same property where you trapped it.

If you believe it will be a nuisance and damage your property, the only other option is to euthanize it using humane methods approved by the American Medical Association. 

The humane methods consist of the following:

  • Asphyxiation by carbon dioxide is considered the most humane method for killing squirrels. 
  • Using blunt force: This is only considered humane if you can kill the squirrel with one blow.

If you don’t believe you can kill the squirrel humanely, the best option is to take it to your local vet so that they can do it for you.

What Are The Consequences For Illegally Trapping Squirrels In California?

According to Section 53.06.3, trapping is only legal for catching ground squirrels, moles, rats, mice, and pocket gophers. 

That said, ground squirrels are classified as nongame animals, but homeowners can take any legal manner to prevent them from damaging their crops or property.

The illegal use of inhumane traps will result in harsh animal cruelty penalties. For example, according to the California penal Code [CPC] §597, the intentional killing, torture, or mutilation of any living animal can result in a fine of up to $20,000 or three years in state prison.

Final Word

Squirrels can become a nuisance to homeowners in California. If you’re dealing with wildlife issues, it’s best to contact a wildlife control specialist to help remove them. Trying to do it yourself can be ineffective, dangerous, and illegal. In addition, it is illegal to catch and relocate wildlife in California without a valid permit.

Doing so can result in hefty fines and penalties.

California classifies tree squirrels as small game mammals, but it is illegal to shoot and kill any kind of ground squirrel. So make sure you understand the law and its potential consequences.

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