Is it Legal to Shoot Squirrels in Backyard?

Perhaps you have noticed damage to your garden plants or a hole in the side of your home. 

You might consider shooting squirrels in your backyard if you have had issues with furry rodents chewing and wreaking havoc.

It all depends.

First, confirm that they are on your property. Next, find clues as to where they live.

Squirrel Problem Signs

Woodpeckers and other animals can cause damage to your siding. Squirrels can leave signs in your yard that they are causing trouble. These signs include:

  • You can find a lot of shelled nuts, such as walnuts and acorns.
  • Bird feeders for raided birds
  • Droppings
  • There are trails leading to your home
  • Strange noises coming out of your attic
  • Garden plants can be damaged
  • Frequent sightings throughout the day
  • They’ve found their winter stash in the holes

One thing you can be certain about squirrels is that they don’t seem to be subtle. You’ll be able to tell if they are on your property. Squirrels can eat anything from nuts and insects to dead animals. 

This makes them more opportunistic, which increases their survival chances.

It may be noticeable that the rodents don’t appear every year. White oak, for example, produces every other year leaving squirrels searching elsewhere for food.

Life as a protected species

Squirrels are protected in many states throughout the country, whether you like it or not. This is not the same as an endangered or threatened animal. It means they are game animals and there is a hunting or trapping season.

The Department of Conservation or DNR in your state manages species such as squirrels. There will be specific regulations regarding when and how to take them. This usually includes a permit.

You can legally carry a firearm if you also add shooting. To possess a gun, or to purchase ammunition, you will likely need a license.

It is important to double-check before you fire off around. If you are caught, the penalties can be severe.

The Second Level of Protection

Another caveat to be aware of is the shooting of squirrels in your backyard.

There are some mutations of the common grey squirrel in certain areas of the country. These include all-black and albino versions. These animals are unique and some places have adopted them.

Marysville in Kansas has made black squirrels its official town mascot. There is even an annual parade. 

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Kent State University honors them in a similar manner. You can’t shoot or take the gray-colored gray squirrels by any other means if you live in these areas.

Nuisance Wildlife

You may still be able to shoot squirrels in your backyard, particularly if they are causing harm. 

You should document it with photos and other evidence, as you could be fined for taking one outside of season.

If you are granted a permit, some areas may allow you to remove nuisance wildlife. There may be a small fee to dispose of the animal.

Use of a Firearm

Even if the gun is in your backyard, it’s still a crime to use a firearm. There are restrictions in most states and cities on where you can fire weapons. 

These restrictions typically include a minimum distance from a residence or road.

There will likely be additional regulations regarding the type of gun and ammunition you can use to shoot squirrels in your backyard. 

This is not a matter of firing away like Annie Oakley at the bird feeder.

We recommend that you stick with a firearm in the shortest range possible if it is allowed. You have a greater chance of hitting an animal or other person if your firearm can fire for a longer time.

A word on gun safety

Before you start thinking about shooting squirrels, make sure you are safe using your firearm. Although you may be familiar with how to use a firearm, we recommend that you take some precautions when shooting at small targets.

  1. Before you start shooting, make sure no one is nearby. You want to make sure your family, friends, and pets are away from the area you will be using to eliminate pests. Tragic accidents can happen. This simple precaution can help you avoid tragedy.
  2. Photograph during daylight hours. You’ll be able to see squirrels better during daylight hours. You will also be more aware and able to avoid accidentally shooting anything you shouldn’t.
  3. You should not point your gun at anyone you regret killing. Pay extra attention to where your gun’s barrel is pointed. It is best to not point your gun at it, or anywhere near it, if you don’t intend to shoot it.
  4. Safety does not mean anything. This is the same as the last gun safety tip: even if you have your gun on safety, never point it at anything that shouldn’t be there. You can also put your gun on safety once you have killed the nuisance squirrels.

Tips for Shooting Squirrels if Permitted

There are some things you can do if you have done your research and are certain it is legal. Squirrels can be seen most often in the morning and late afternoon.

  • You can start where you see signs, such as piles of shells and trails that lead to hiding spots.
  • Tap two quarters together to lure them.
  • Attract them with bait if they are allowed in your area.
  • For a higher kill rate, let them come close to you.
  • Always photograph squirrels seated on the ground.
  • Avoid going after them in windy conditions, as this can affect the trajectory of your ammunition.
  • Blaze orange is a great color to signal your presence to others.
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You should also check to make sure the pelt has any value. It is possible to make some extra cash to pay for the ammunition. The best time to shoot squirrels is when their fur looks its best.

This is usually around the beginning of the fall season. They are likely to be healthy and well-fed thanks to a diet high in nuts and other treats.

It’s also a better idea to kill the squirrels with as little damage as possible. Also, practice target shooting before you go after squirrels.

Alternatives to Shooting Squirrels

You still have options for getting rid if you don’t want to shoot squirrels in your backyard. You can also try these other options:

  • Poison
  • Traps and Snares
  • Live Trapping
  • Use of a different weapon

Each has its own pros and cons, which you should consider before embarking on your hunt.


This is only possible if your pets don’t roam outside of your home. These poisons are made by manufacturers to attract their quarry. This can also refer to a curious cat, dog, or other animals.

They offer an easy solution. Place the poison wherever you see activity and let nature take its course. You can use poisons that are specifically designed for squirrels, but they will still be effective. You won’t find enough potency to kill your nemesis if you use mice products. It is also against federal law to use these products any other than the one printed on the label.

However, poisons can be broad-spectrum and pose a danger to anyone who ingests them. It can sometimes be difficult to avoid non-targeted animals. There is also the possibility of poisons being present in your home. Keep children and pets away from open products. Also, you should use gloves to protect them.

Not to mention the unpleasant smell that a squirrel can get from poisoned food and go to their attic to die. 

The proper placement is the best way to use poisons. You should observe the activity patterns of squirrels before you place them in areas they frequent.

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Snares and traps

You might be able to use traps or snares to capture marauders even if you are unable to use a firearm. You run the same risks if you catch a non-targeted creature, so it is important to place your traps correctly.

Some traps are capable of doing the job and avoiding discomfort. Some will not work, so you’ll have to do the job.

Because of the size differences that can make traps for squirrels ineffective, we recommend they be used.

Live Traps

You can use a live trap to keep the animal from being killed if it is allowed in your area. This method involves you releasing the animal somewhere else, but not near your home.

It is likely that you will find regulations that dictate where this place is. You could be fined if you don’t follow the regulations.

There are some serious drawbacks to this method. The cage must be handled with an angry squirrel trapped inside.

It won’t be easy.

Many cages come with handles that keep your hands out of reach of any animal. To ensure they trip the trigger correctly, you should also get one for squirrels.

Always wear gloves when handling live traps.

A live trap requires more work. Remember how prolific squirrels can be with gray ones having at least four pups per litter twice a year.

This is a lot of trapping.

Another weapon

You might be able to fire an arrow or pellet gun if you are unable to shoot a gun. Most states have the same rules regarding where and how you can use your bow, as they do for firearms.

This means you should not shoot too far from your home, your neighbor’s house, or the road.

The Final Answer

Given the potential damage that squirrels can cause and the diseases they can transmit, we understand how annoying a squirrel problem is. It is important to do your research in order to be on the right side.

Shooting squirrels in your backyard is therefore legal but safer if you live in suburban areas. You have more options and space to control your pest problem if you live in the country. 

There are many other ways to keep squirrels away from your home than using a gun. You can trap squirrels or take them out using another method if you are unable to shoot them.

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