Straight from TWRA: it is illegal to keep wild squirrels as pets in Tennessee

Sometimes the internet just steers you wrong.

A search for “are squirrels legal pets” highlights an answer that is misleading or false. According to squirrelenthusiast.com “Squirrels fall under the Class III law in Tennessee, which clearly states that animals such as chipmunks, squirrels, rats, etc., Tennessee residents are allowed to keep squirrels as pets.” But, they are wrong. This is not true for wild squirrels.

Some people don’t want to believe this, so I asked Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Captive Wildlife/ADC Coordinator, Captain Rusty Bowles, for the official answer. (Spoiler alert: it’s not legal to keep wild squirrels as pets.) Here’s what he wrote:

The public gets confused when they think squirrels and chipmunks are legal to own in TN because they are listed as Class III animals.  They only are considered Class III when the squirrel or chipmunk is non-native (or exotic).  Class II Animals are native to TN.  The grey squirrel is native.  To possess the grey squirrel, you must obtain the animal from a permitted propagation source (captive bred, not taken from the wild).  Once the Class II animal is proven to be captive bred, it becomes a Class III animal in the “eyes of the law” so to speak.  Those animals are treated the same as a gerbil, boa constrictor, dog or cat…they are pets.  If a squirrel is taken from the wild, it is a Class II animal.  NOT A CLASS III ANIMAL

If you have more questions, Rusty says you are welcome to call or email him! His info is:

rusty.boles@tn.gov
(615) 934-7505