The 2018-2019 general tree squirrel season will be open from Saturday, Sept. 8 through Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. Tree squirrels may be taken only in the open zone during the open season, from between one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset. A map of the state’s tree squirrel hunt zones can be found on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website, along with the full tree squirrel regulations.
Four types of tree squirrels are game species and can be hunted in California. The Western gray squirrel and the Douglas squirrel are both native to California while the Eastern fox squirrel and the Eastern gray squirrel are introduced and not native to the state. These tree squirrels can be hunted in the open zone during the open season under authority of a hunting license in California. No other validations are required.
A fifth species of tree squirrel, the Northern Flying Squirrel, is not a game species and may not be taken. Flying squirrels are small, native tree squirrels that are seldom encountered due to their nocturnal nature and preference for mature forest habitats with complex canopy structure.
Tree squirrel population levels fluctuate from year to year based on prevailing weather conditions and the annual production of nuts, acorns and seeds for forage.
“Given favorable mast (acorn) production years in 2016 and 2017, we anticipate that population levels and opportunities for hunting should be good in 2018,” said Matt Meshriy, an environmental scientist with CDFW’s Upland Game Program. “We continue to see numbers of invasive Eastern fox squirrels and Eastern gray squirrels increasing as these species have expanded their range in and adjacent to urban centers. The native Western gray squirrels and Douglas squirrels are often displaced where they overlap with invasive eastern species, but the native squirrels are better adapted to California’s forest and woodland habitats.”
In recent years, approximately 10,000 to 15,000 hunters have reported hunting tree squirrels annually and their combined statewide bag has ranged from 50,000 to 75,000.
National forests provide some of the best opportunity to hunt tree squirrels in California. Bureau of Land Management lands and CDFW wildlife areas may also provide opportunity for squirrel hunting. Please note that nonlead shot is required when taking tree squirrels and all resident small game mammals anywhere in California. Please plan accordingly. For more information, please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition page.