Shooting squirrels in your backyard? Check if it’s legal

Let's talk about shooting squirrels in the backyard, the legality of it, and everything you need to know about the practice.

Quick Summary — Squirrels are game animals. Yes, you can shoot them. But only during hunting and trapping season and you need to have a permit. Shooting squirrels in your backyard just because you want to get rid of them is at best risky and illegal at worst.

Squirrels can be taken by hunting or trapping because they are game or quarry animals. It’s a great way to get outdoors. Some people hunt them for their meat as it can provide some delicious table fare. Others hunt them for recreation or trophies.

But others shoot squirrels for a different reason: they want to get rid of them. People want to get rid of these furry rodents eating just about anything, gnawing, and wreaking havoc in the backyard.

Whether you’re shooting squirrels because it’s an open season or just want to get rid of them, here’s the first thing you should remember:

Squirrels are protected species

Hunting squirrels — small game hunting — is also an excellent way to learn how to hunt and sets the stage for pursuing bigger game or quarry like turkeys or deer.

Shooting squirrel - Pretty Backyard
A gray squirrel is being targeted. Source: Pexels.

However, most states across the country consider squirrels a protected species. Only during hunting season that hunters are permitted to hunt and trap these protected animals.

It is the state that has the authority over the hunting of squirrel species within their boundaries. In Texas, for example, you are only allowed to hunt gray squirrels (cat squirrels) and red squirrels (fox squirrels). Same thing in Chicago.

But some cities took it to the next level.

You probably have heard — or seen — an all-black squirrel or albino/white squirrel.

The city of Olney, Illinois which is known as the “White Squirrel Capital of the World” will fine motorists for $500 who accidentally run over an albino squirrel. Intentionally trapping or killing an albino squirrel would cause icy relations with neighbors at best and arrest on criminal charges at worst.

The city of Marysville, Kansas made black squirrels their official town mascot, complete with an annual parade. Kent State University also honors black squirrels in the same fashion.

If you happen to live in any of these places, you probably can’t shoot these types of squirrels.

Get a hunting license or permit first

Whatever your reason for shooting squirrels, the first thing you need to get to make it legal for you is a permit.

Getting a permit to shoot squirrels differs from state to state. But in general, there are two (2) types of permits:

  • hunting permit
  • nuisance wildlife permit

You need a hunting permit if you simply want to shoot squirrels during open season or hunting season for their meat, recreation, or trophy.

If squirrels are becoming a nuisance and have done damage to your property and it’s a closed season, then you can apply for the nuisance wildlife permit.

Just check your state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) website on how to get the appropriate permit.

Shooting squirrels in the backyard - Pretty Backyard
A trio of grey squirrels ambushed around the pheasant feeders. Source: ShootingUK

Is it legal to use an air rifle to shoot squirrels

Squirrel nuisance may appear, trivial but for a person who has endured years of these creatures killing priceless bulbs, bird eggs, blossom buds, etc., their final recourse is to shoot them.

But assuming you already have the permit or license to kill a gray squirrel, what legal firearm is best to use? If an AK-47 is unacceptable, how about an air rifle?

The legislation governing the use and control of firearms is complicated and you should consider the potential consequences of owning and using an air weapon.

It is against the law to have an air weapon in a public place without a reasonable excuse.

The first thing to do is check the exact specifications of the weapon. Air weapons that use a self-contained gas cartridge (such as a Brocock gun) are prohibited.

Furthermore, air rifles with a muzzle energy greater than 12ft-lbs (or 6ft-lbs in the case of air pistols) are also prohibited.

If you are in any doubt, ask your local police force’s firearms licensing team.

Perfect guns for shooting squirrels

Shooting squirrels without wounding requires a perfect gun. Some guns wound squirrels instead of killing them which is unlawful and you will be charged if found.

If you’re using an Airsoft or BB gun, you’re more likely to injure a gray squirrel than to kill it. In urban areas, there are certain rules and instructions to follow to prevent disturbing, offending, and scaring squirrels. If they are scared or come to know about it, they will make different sounds to alert others.

Remington does an excellent job of making squirrels dead. Even survival firearms like the Nagant M1895 Silencer, Caldwell Conversion Uppercut, and Nagant 1895 Officer.

If you can use legally your air weapon, use it only on your private land and vermin control. Also, note that discharging your firearm in your garden could still cause you difficulties.

It is a criminal offense to fire a pellet beyond the boundaries of your garden, for example. You may cause a road user to be injured, endangered, or even alarmed.

Whatever firearm it is that you will use, make sure that it’s legal and do it with the least amount of shot.

Other ways to kill squirrels

If you live in the city’s center, shooting squirrels doesn’t look realistic. You don’t have to kill squirrels to get rid of them. There are other humane ( & fast) ways to do it.

But if you decide to kill squirrels running around your yard or garden, do it in a way that is quick and painless for these species. You may try the following methods:

  • Lethal and snap traps
  • Live trapping
  • Use a different weapon
  • Poison

Lethal and snap traps

If you can’t use a firearm, you can still use a trap or snare to catch the marauders. Traps are one of the most popular and most used ways to kill a squirrel.

But trapping squirrels may cause you a whole new set of problems. If you catch them alive, you are responsible for their welfare and must not cause unnecessary suffering.

Odd as it may seem, it is also a criminal offense to release the squirrel once you catch one. Your best option, in this case, might be just calling a pest control expert to take the problem off your hands.

That’s why it’s very important to use a lethal trap meant for squirrels. Because of the variation of the squirrel’s size, using the wrong trap could render it useless.


Another viable option that also has a risk to it especially if you have other pets and children.

Manufacturers make these poisons with smell and taste to attract their quarry. But that can also include a curious dog or cat.

On the positive side, poisoning squirrels is a hand-off solution. You place the poison where you’ve seen squirrel activity and wait for nature to take its course.

Poisons are effective as long as you use one specifically made for squirrels. Mice products won’t likely be potent enough to get the job done.

On the downside, poisons spell trouble for anything that ingests it. Sometimes, it’s hard to avoid non-targeted animals.

Then there’s the idea of having poison in your home. It’s imperative to keep the product out of the reach of children and pets. You’ll also need to take precautions when handling them such as wearing gloves.

And need we mention the smell if a squirrel eats the poison and goes to your attic to die? Rotting corpses of squirrels in walls and crawl spaces can be difficult to remove without requiring major repair jobs and may cause terrific stench for weeks or sometimes months.

Bow & arrow, pellet gun

Similar to traps, arrows, and bows are also proven ways to kill squirrels but require a bit effort of in targeting the perfect place just like guns.

You can use this with the simple trap. Once a squirrel is trapped, you can then shoot in the head. That’s the easier way.

Just take note that most states have the same restrictions in place for how and where you can use a bow as exist with firearms.

That means shooting far from the road, your house, and your neighbors.

Final thoughts

Considering all the damage that squirrels can potentially do to your place and the diseases that these species may carry, killing them using firearms is an understandable solution.

Shooting squirrels is the fastest, (probably) painless way for them to die — unless you miss. However, it’s essential to stay on the right side of the law.


  1. Wikipedia contributors. (n.d.). Hunting season. In Wikipedia. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from
  2. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. (n.d.). Squirrel hunting: Small game, big opportunity. Retrieved from
  3. Roadside America. (n.d.). Squirrel hunting capital of the world. Retrieved from
  4. Roadside America. (n.d.). Squirrel bridges. Retrieved from
  5. Visit Marysville. (n.d.). Black squirrels on parade. Retrieved from
  6. Kent State University. (2013, October). The Origina of the Black Squirrel. Retrieved from
  7. Infection Control Today. (n.d.). Rodent infestations spread infectious diseases. Retrieved from