Washington State Squirrel Hunting Season? [What To Know]

Washington state squirrel hunting

Small game hunters look forward to the day that small game hunting season opens, as it allows them small game animals. While it is legal to hunt some species of squirrels in Washington, some species are protected. If you’re an avid hunter, here’s what you need to know about the hunting season in Washington state. 

According to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Game Management Plan, Gray and Fox squirrels are classified as “unclassified” animals, meaning they are unprotected and can be hunted year-round. That said, Most species of squirrels are protected, and it is illegal to hunt them. For example, Western gray squirrels are protected and cannot be trapped, killed, or hunted throughout the state. 

If you’re an avid squirrel hunter, it’s essential to understand the rules governing small-game hunting. Armed with this knowledge, hunters can approach squirrel hunting responsibly and ethically while ensuring the protection of endangered or threatened species.

Overview of Squirrel Species in Washington State

Washington State is home to a diverse range of squirrel species that reside in various parts of the state’s vast forested lands. I’ve written an in-depth of the squirrels that live in Washington State. You can read it here

Why Doesn’t Washington State Have A Squirrel Hunting Season?

Unfortunately, squirrels are not considered small game animals. However, below is a list of the small game animals you can legally hunt throughout the regular hunting season. 

Small Game Animals and Hunting Seasons

Small Game SpeciesHunting Season Dates
CoyoteYear Round
BobcatSeptember 1 – March 15
Cottontail and Snowshoe HareSeptember 1 – March 15
RaccoonSeptember 1 – March 15
FoxSeptember 1 – March 15

However, fox and gray squirrels are unclassified animals, meaning you can trap and hunt year-round with a valid hunting license. Depending on where you live, a trapping license may be required. 

So before you set a live trap, check the laws and regulations in your county.

Why Are Fox and Gray Squirrels Unclassified?

Washington classifies some squirrels and other wildlife species as unclassified because of the high population growth rates. This allows wildlife managers to ensure the diversity of species remains intact without having to regulate hunting seasons.

Fox and gray squirrels are native to the state. They live on college campuses, in parks, and in people’s backyards. 

These squirrels and other species have adapted to live in central and southeastern Washington.

No matter where you live, you’ll likely see fox and gray squirrels in your local parks or on hikes. Below is a table of the unclassified wildlife in Washington. Remember, unclassified means they can be hunted and trapped year round.

Ground SquirrelsUnclassifiedYesYes
Gray and Fox SquirrelsUnclassifiedYesYes
Spotted SkunkUnclassifiedYesYes
Virginia OpossumUnclassifiedYesYes

This list is subject to change, so you may need to check the WDFW website to make sure the animals are still unclassified.

Protected Wildlife 

It’s important to know which squirrels you cannot hunt. Killing or harming endangered species is subject to fines and possible jail time. 

Below is a list of the protected tree and ground squirrels you cannot hunt. 

SpeciesScientific Name
Washington Ground SquirrelUrocitellus Washingoni
Red SquirrelTamiasciurus Hudsonicus
Least ChipmunkTamias Amoenus
Golden-Mantled Squirrel Callospermophilus Lateralis
Cascade Golden-Mantled Ground SquirrelCallospermophilus Lateralis
Yellow-Pine ChipmunkTamiasciurus Hudsonicus
Humboldt’s Flying Squirrel Glaucomys Oregonensis
Hoary MarmotMarmota Olympus
Northern Flying SquirrelGlaucomys Sabrinus
Red-Tailed ChipmunkTamias Ruficaudus
Hoary MarmotMarmota Caligata
Townsend’s ChipmunkTamias Towensendii

Why Are Squirrels Protected In Washington State?

The WDFW protects certain squirrel species and other wildlife when threatened or endangered. Squirrels are essential to our ecosystem, especially in forest ecosystems. 

These rodents promote biodiversity through seed dispersal. They do this by burying nuts and seeds for food. They also help encourage the growth of new plants, grass, etc., by transporting the seeds far from the parent plant. 

This process helps to improve the genetic diversity of plant populations. In addition, it ensures new habitats for plants to thrive, providing vital steps toward preserving nature’s delicate balance. 

Additionally, squirrels are prey for many predators, contributing to the food chain. 

Hunting Regulations and Licenses

License Requirements

In Washington, squirrel hunting is regulated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Individuals seeking to participate in squirrel hunting must possess valid licenses and permits.

Below is a table of the license fees and information for residents and non-residents. 

License TypeResidentNon-Resident
Small Game License$40.50$183.50
3-Day Small Game LicenseN/A$68

Fees are subject to change, so consult the WDFW website before ordering your hunting license. When you’re ready to buy a hunting license, visit the WDFW online licensing system, or contact them via phone at 360-902-2464.

Legal Hunting Methods

It is crucial to follow defined regulations to protect wildlife resources. 

Some squirrel species, such as the Western Gray, Douglas, red, and flying squirrels, are protected in the state, and it is illegal to hunt, trap or kill them.

Hunting with artificial light, spotlight, or night vision equipment is prohibited in Washington State.

Best Hunting Locations

In Washington State, public hunting lands and private properties offer opportunities for squirrel hunting. To enjoy a successful squirrel hunting experience, you should consider several factors, such as habitat density and accessibility.

Areas rich in squirrel populations are found across Washington, including the northeastern and southeastern parts of the state.

Public Hunting Lands

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) provides a comprehensive list of hunting locations for various game species. 

Some of the districts within Washington State known for squirrel hunting include Ferry, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Lincoln, Spokane, Whitman, Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, and Walla Walla counties.

Public lands in these regions offer diverse habitats for squirrel populations, making them prime locations for hunting.

Private Property Hunting

Accessing private lands for squirrel hunting can present unique opportunities. However, obtaining permission from the landowner before embarking on a hunting trip is essential. 

Some private properties in Washington are part of the Pheasant Enhancement Program, which promotes habitat enhancement on both public and private lands, benefitting a variety of wildlife species, including squirrels.

Respect for private property and adherence to hunting regulations will ultimately result in a more enjoyable and fruitful hunting experience.

Hunting Tips and Techniques

Spotting Squirrels

When hunting squirrels in Washington State, locating their activity areas is essential. 

According to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, squirrels live in areas with fir, pine, cedar, and other conifers in the Cascade Mountains and western parts of the state.

Look for signs like tree nests, chewed bark, and fallen pine cones.

It is crucial to take advantage of squirrel behavior. Observe their active hours, usually around dawn and dusk, for the best chance at a successful hunt.

Best Time to Hunt

The ideal time for squirrel hunting in Washington State largely depends on weather conditions. Favorable weather for hunting includes mild temperatures and low wind conditions. 

It is best to avoid hunting on cold, windy days when squirrels are more likely to stay hidden.

Additionally, hunting during early morning or late afternoon hours is recommended due to squirrels’ increased activity during these times. 

This will increase the likelihood of a successful and enjoyable hunt.

Safety and Conservation

Following safe hunting practices and being aware of squirrel conservation efforts is essential when engaging in squirrel hunting in Washington State.

Since some squirrel species in the state are protected, understanding local regulations and conservation initiatives is crucial for a responsible hunting experience.

Safe Hunting Practices

Before heading out to hunt squirrels in Washington, ensure you have the appropriate hunting license and know the legal hunting seasons. As mentioned above, you can legally hunt the fox and gray squirrels. 

Make sure you understand how to distinguish the Eastern gray squirrel from the protected Western gray squirrel. 

There are no daily bag limits or set hunting season. If you have a valid hunting license, you can hunt them year-round. 

Consider your surroundings, ensure proper target identification, and practice firearm safety to avoid accidents.

Squirrel Conservation Efforts

Squirrel conservation is an important aspect of wildlife management in Washington State. That’s why several species are protected. 

The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife classifies Western Gray Squirrels as a protected species, making it illegal to hunt, trap, or kill them.

Other species like Douglas, red, and flying squirrels are also protected.

Public assistance in reporting sightings of these species is appreciated and helps maintain accurate records of their distribution.

By respecting the hunting seasons and conservation efforts, hunters contribute to the protection and sustainability of squirrel populations in Washington State.

Final Word

Washington state does not classify squirrels as small game animals. Instead, the fox and gray species are classified as “unclassified,” which means they are unprotected because of the high population. 

So the state allows licensed hunters to shoot, trap and kill them year-round. 

As with any hunting activity, responsible practices are vital to preserving the environment and the squirrel populations. 

By adhering to the guidelines established by the WDFW, hunters can continue to enjoy squirrel hunting in Washington State for years.

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