What You Need To Know About the California Ground Squirrel

The California ground squirrel is a curious creature. Initially, one could only find these squirrels in Oregon and California. The Columbia river on the northern part of Oregon created a natural boundary through which these squirrels couldn't cross. However, in recent times, the California ground squirrel made it across the river to reside in some parts of Washington. This small creature also lives in the northwestern part of Nevada.

Many people think the California ground squirrel looks cute or playful. As such, people sometimes want to take them home as pets. If you're interested in these fun-looking creatures, let's dive straight into what you need to know!

What Is a California Ground Squirrel?

If you're not from California or the western United States, you may not have seen a California ground squirrel before. These squirrels are a lighter gray and reach up to 12 inches in length, minus the tail. On its own, the tail can reach an impressive 6 inches in length, meaning that this creature is approximately 1.5 feet in length, from the nose to the end of the tail.

These squirrels are fascinating animals as they build burrows underground. Sometimes, the squirrels share these underground tunnels, although each squirrel gets its own most of the time. In the northern climates, they hibernate underground for several months. In warmer temperatures like those in southern California, these squirrels are active all year-round.

Can California Ground Squirrels Be Pets?

The short answer to this question is, no, they cannot be pets. The long answer is a little more involved.

There is nothing legally stopping people, in most jurisdictions, from having a California ground squirrel as a pet. These animals have no protection, so, in theory, if you had a pet squirrel cage, you could try to keep it as a pet. Some local city ordinances may prevent you from doing this, but generally-speaking, keeping a ground squirrel pet is permissible.

The problem is that California ground squirrels do not thrive in domesticated conditions. These animals love having the big outdoors to explore and roam! They're not used to cramped, confined environments like those you would find in a typical cage.

Therefore, even if you could keep the California ground squirrel alive, it would almost invariably be unhappy. Furthermore, there wouldn't be much chance of you picking it up or bonding with it meaningfully. The domesticated ground squirrel pet would wind up being reasonably boring!

If you have some local California ground squirrels, you can pick out some pet squirrel names for them, but leave them in the great outdoors where they're happiest!

What Do California Ground Squirrels Eat?

Many farmers call these squirrels pests because they will eat the plants. They're mostly herbivores. As such, you can find them snacking on fruits, seeds, grains, nuts, and sometimes even plant roots. These animals aren't incredibly picky about what they eat, so long as it doesn't have meat in it.

Does this Squirrel Have Predators?

As with most creatures in the animal kingdom, the California ground squirrel does have predators. Eagles and raccoons prey on the California ground squirrel.

One of the most significant predators of the California ground squirrel is the rattlesnake. To avoid succumbing to these deadly snakes, the squirrels have devised ingenious ways to escape unharmed. University of California Davis researchers uncovered how the squirrels used discarded snake skins to avoid detection by the rattlesnake. 

California ground squirrels also wag their tails as a way of making them seem larger than they are. This action helps to fend off rattlesnakes who look at their larger motion and decide not to go in for the pounce because the creature is too fast. 

In the urban environment, rattlesnakes are far less of a concern for the California ground squirrel than the eagles and raccoons. However, in the woods and wilderness, the rattlesnake poses a substantial threat.

What Is the Lifespan of a California Ground Squirrel?

Surprisingly, California ground squirrels don't live incredibly long. Their maximum lifespan is six years old, and many of the squirrels don't even reach that because they fall victim to a predator. While there's no data on how long the squirrel can live with those predators taken into consideration, it would not be unreasonable to think that the average life of a California ground squirrel could be half its maximum life. All in all, they're on this planet for a reasonably short time.

What do ground squirrels eat?

Ground squirrels are primarily herbivores. So, they will eat fruit, nuts, vegetables, seeds, and other non-meat products. They can also consume grains.

What is a ground squirrel?

There are three primary types of squirrels: flying squirrels, tree squirrels, and ground ones. Flying squirrels are a little bit misnamed as they cannot fly as bats and birds can. However, they can glide from tree to tree. They don't have wings to fly. Tree squirrels cannot fly, but they make their homes in the trees. You'll frequently find these squirrels when you walk outside of your home. They'll be the ones scurrying across the yard to climb a tree. Finally, a ground squirrel cannot fly, and it doesn't climb up in the trees. Instead, these squirrels build burrows underground and live in them. 

Can you keep ground squirrels as pets?

Technically, no. Practically, yes. In many jurisdictions, no laws are prohibiting the keeping of ground squirrels as pets. However, that isn't generally the wisest idea. Ground squirrels love the outdoors, and it's hard to imagine being able to build a ground squirrel cage big enough to keep them happy. Even if you do somehow get your squirrel to be alright within captivity, you won't likely have a bond with your squirrel the same way that you might have one with other domesticated pets - like cats! So, while you can keep ground squirrels as pets, doing so is frequently inadvisable. If you want to enjoy these squirrels, leave them in nature where they belong and find some other way to watch these adorable creatures from afar!

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Written by Nenitta Suzon


I had found a baby on the trail eyes closed still. I dropper fed him and he ran the house. I called him Charlie and we had a wonderful bond, he would climb up my legs and he would let me love him for short periods of time. I came home on my bike ride this Monday and found him on the ground lifeless. I picked him up and nothing looked wrong with him. I just don’t get what happened he was inside the house at all times. He passed away that same day and I’m devastated about this he was my baby. I don’t understand why? Do they have heart attack easy? I also want to add a round tail ground squirrel is not something I’d recommend as a pet because they do destroy your home and furniture. I only had him because he would have died and I’d do it all over again but wouldn’t buy one or purposely get one as a pet. I just want answers why did he just die? I found him june 4th 2021 and had him April 11th 2022 he almost had his 1 year birthday again I’m devastated because I loved him so much and he always came to me for everything. I miss my Charlie

sherry zullo on May 06, 2022

Wow what a cool story! I myself have been fascinated with squirrels since a kid and always wanted to raise one as a pet. What state are you in? I’m in California so my chance of fostering one is slim unfortunately.

Rachel on May 16, 2021

Hello, my names Jonathan Garcia I’m a tree worker and I have a couple questions, unfortunately I found a baby squirrel I waited for it’s mother but nothing for over two hours and nothing so I took her home and 5 months later she’s still around with friendly behavior, I had an accident with her tail and she can’t be released, I’m willing to keep caring for her but I don’t want to run into trouble in the long run what do you recommend, any permits I can file?

Jonathan Garcia on Jan 17, 2021

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