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better place one squirrel at a time

Laws & Regulations related to wildlife

Summary of Pacific Northwest Ordnances

Both Washington and Oregon have protections in place limiting what the public can do with wildlife. It is illegal in both Washington & Oregon to keep wildlife unless you hold special permits.  The penalties for  being found to break these laws are steep! Permits are usually restricted to zoos, research facilities, educational institutions, and wildlife rehabilitators.    In neither state is it legal for a member of the public to keep a squirrel as a pet  unless,1) purchased through legal means with documented proof that the animal has been inspected, imported and sold through legal channels or 2) granted special dispensation or permitting through written approval from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

In both states, it is unlawful to relocate squirrels from the property where it was trapped to anywhere in the state without a permit or written approval from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.  In Oregon, pest and animal control operators must euthanize wildlife that must be removed from the property (ie. attic, crawl space, etc.).

Transporting wildlife between Washington and Oregon is banned with the exception of migratory birds protected under the Migratory Bird Act (reference the Protected Bird link for a complete list of birds).  These may be taken from Washington into Oregon for the purpose of surrender to a licensed rehabilitation facility with a permit to rehabilitate federally protected migratory birds.  The intake facility will usually complete the necessary import paperwork.  This is a vital service that these facilities provide completely voluntarily and without compensation for residents for Clark County. Without their voluntary acceptance of these birds, they would need to be transported by the finder over a hundred miles away to the nearest Washington rehabilitor with a Federal Migratory Bird permit - as space availably allowed!  Please consider donating when dropping off any bird to a rehabilitator in Oregon!


In Washington, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator may keep squirrels for the purpose of rehabilitation for up to six months. The Western Gray Squirrel is classified as a threatened species and cannot be hunted, trapped, or killed. The Douglas squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) and Northern flying squirrel (Glaugomys sabrinus) are protected species and can only be trapped or killed under special conditions where damage to property or domestic animals is at issue. Special permits must be obtained in advance.

Other squirrel species protected under Washington law include: the least chipmunk (Tamius minimus), yellow-pine chipmunk (Tamius amoenus), Townsend's chipmunk (Tamius townsendii), red-tailed chipmunk (Tamius ruficaudus), the hoary marmot (Marmota caligata), Olympic marmot (Marmota Olympus), Cascade golden-mantled ground squirrel (Spermophilus saturatus), golden-mantled ground squirrel (Spermophilus lateralis), and the Washington ground squirrel (Spermophilus washingtoni).

Washington does allow the sale of some species of ground squirrel, such as Prairie Dogs, in pet stores as exotic pets. Always ask for and verify breeder information when selecting a pet to ensure the animal came from a legitimate captive breeding program and is legal

for you to own. Never support the sale of wild caught squirrels such as communal ground squirrels and prairie dogs which rarely

breed in captivity. These rely on their communities for normal mental development and will go insane when torn from their

communities as babies and sold into a life of solo confinement. Please don’t support the inhumane business practice of

abducting baby wildlife for sale in the exotic pet industry!


Non-Native Tree Squirrels, specifically the Eastern Gray squirrel and Fox squirrel, while the most common squirrels found in urban settings, are not protected under any legalislation and must be euthanized if trapped. In other words, all Oregon rehabilitators and pest control companies must euthanize Eastern Gray and Fox squirrels on intake or risk losing licensure as these are designated as invasive.  See Oregon Euthanasia Policy below for more information and ODFW contact information.

It is illegal to keep squirrels in Oregon with the exception of those permitted under OAR 635-044-0005 which allows for holding certain species of squirrels. These include: the Northern Flying Squirrel, Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel, Douglas Squirrel, Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) or chipmunk with a holding permit. At last check this permit was under review and may no longer be available as a legal course for squirrel ownership in Oregon. Contact the ODFW for information on changes in status.

It is illegal to transport into the state or own Prairie Dogs in Oregon.

If I contact Squirrel Refuge, will  you confiscate the squirrel?

No. Squirrel Refuge is licensed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. This licensure ensures that we follow the laws related to how we manage wildlife in our care. This does not  convey any legal powers of enforcement.   Only a police or wildlife officer may legally confiscate wildlife. We are a public service with the fundamental dictate to first and foremost ensure qualified care is provided to injured and orphaned wildlife and to assist the public in helping them to make informed decisions in the best interest of public safety and wildlife care.



Washington Wildlife Laws

Oregon Wildlife Laws

Protected Birds

Oregon Euthanasia Policy

Oregon requires that all species designated as ‘non-native’ wildlife -- whether prey or predator; newly introduced or resident for over a century; vital to the food chain, beneficial, or redundant; old, young, infant, orphaned, injured, or otherwise-- be euthanized on admittance to Oregon wildlife rehabilitaton centers.  

For Squirrels, this generally covers most found in urban settings; as well as, little eastern cottontails and opossums. If you take wildlife to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or center and they inform you that the animal is non-native and will be euthanized, you do not have to relinquish it to them for the purposes of euthanasia - even if you are informed that it is illegal for you to possess the animal.  Wildlife rehabilitation centers, individual rehabilitators, veterinarians, humane societies are not endowed with enforcement responsibilities or powers. Only police or authorized department of fish and wildlife enforcement agents can compel you to relinquish wildlife.  

It is important to note, many Oregon wildlife centers and the rehabilitators that do this work at great sacrifice do not relish this policy and do it under the enforcement and duress of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife or lose their license to help any wildlife at all.  They make an understandable choice, so please do not be disrespectful of their position.  Instead work to educate and to change laws that are harmful to both native and non-native urban wildlife, and the public whose sensibilities are  often offended at being forced into an untenable position of choosing between their conviction and the law.  As the primary proponent of this law,  you should direct all comments or concerns regarding Oregon’s euthanasia policy to Mr. Rick Boatner, Terrestrial Invasive Species and Wildlife Integrity Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Wildlife  at 503-947-6308 or   Hopefully with enough public outcry he will revisit the need to treat all non-native animals with such a broad brush and disregard.  Unlike invasive predator species, these prey animals support our ecosystem and native predator populations which would be decimated without them.  There is no evidence that the actions of rehabilitating these animals has any impact whatsoever on Oregon's Native wildlife populations.  This is an arbitrary law enacted for the purpose of ease and consistency to align with wildlife control officers who must euthanize nuisance animals.    Until the public becomes a larger nuisance than taking the time to write laws that solve more problems then they create, this lethal law will stand. Please speak out for those who cannot.

When euthanasia is the right thing. If the animal is mortally wounded, in extreme  uncontrollable and long term pain, or has a severe injury (such as a broken back), then bringing the animal to a veterinarian, humane society or wildlife resource for euthanasia is the humane thing to do - even when it causes you stress to do it.  There are few things more heart breaking than a crippled wild animal living in a small cage in its own filth with no hope of a normal life or future in the wild. Do not take any part of this fate.  For both you and the animal, unless you are knowledgeable and have the proper tools, do not attempt to perform euthanasia on any animal  without proper supervision.

Never euthanize a federal or state threatened or endangered species without first contacting your local state fish and wildlife authority. Severe federal and state penalties may apply.  Washington state and federal species list

Laws change without notice

Legal status, wildlife holding and trapping restrictions; as well as, other information related to the treatment of native squirrels are subject to change, information should be verified through your local Departments of Fish and Wildlife or Conservation organization.