California’s squirrel hunting season is from mid-August through to late January, and only tree species can be taken. Harvesting of squirrels takes place in the open zones set aside by California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Hunting squirrels in California is legal. You can harvest squirrels between ½ hour before sunrise and half an hour after sunset.
Squirrels Species Harvested During California’s Hunting Season
Four types of squirrel species are considered small game animals by California’s CDFW. Two of these, the Douglas and the Western Gray Squirrels, are native to the state.
The Eastern Gray, and the Eastern Fox tree squirrel species were introduced into California.
With just a California hunting license, you can hunt these squirrel species during the archery and falconry season and in general season. Hunting squirrels in this state happens inside the Open Zone, and you don’t need any other permits.
Keep in mind that there is a fifth tree squirrel species; the Northern Flying Squirrel. This is a nighttime species, and you’ll not normally encounter it during the legal hunting hours.
It’s a small native to California squirrel species that prefers mature forest habitats with good canopy structure. The Northern Flying Squirrel is a protected animal species and may not be harvested.
Climate and Vegetation That Determines California’s Squirrel Density
The population of California’s squirrel species will fluctuate year from year. This depends on food availability and weather conditions that previous year. Squirrels feed on nuts, seeds, and acorns for which they forage.
In California, the average rainfall is above that of neighboring states like Nevada. This state also has particularly wet spring seasons.
The last couple of California’s squirrel seasons have been preceded by favorable weather with good acorn production. This has seen opportunities for bagging tree squirrels increase. The small mammals have presented themselves around the state for hunters.
A statewide bag of between 50,000 and 75,000 squirrels by around ten to fifteen thousand hunters has been reported around California’s hunting fields.
Many of the best tree squirrel hunting opportunities are in the state’s national forests. The CDFW and bureau of land management areas also provide ample tree squirrels for hunting.
Habitats and Open Zones Where California Tree Squirrels Can Be Hunted
A new hunter, such as a novice or youth, will find tree squirrel harvesting an excellent way to start hunting. This is because squirrels taken during the hunting season are evenly and widely distributed throughout the state.
When hunting tree squirrels, you can use a small caliber firearm, such as a .22 caliber rifle or pellet gun. Short bore shotguns like the 20, 28, or .410 gauges are appropriate for youth hunters.
You can also use these guns to harvest squirrels in California.
With tree squirrel hunting, a young hunter can also master all the factors which contribute to good game harvesting. These include cleaning and preparing the easy to handle squirrels for the table.
Knowing where to look for squirrels is a crucial contributor to the success of any hunter’s small game bagging endeavors.
You can bag squirrels during hunting season on private, public, and BLM or Bureau of Land Management areas. These include forests, wilderness areas, ecological reserves, wildlife areas, and recreational areas.
The open zones, commonly referred to as CDFWs six geographical regions of California, include;
- Northern California is region one
- North-central California is the second region
- The Bay Delta is region three
- Region 4 is central California
- The south coast is region 5
- Region 6 is the inland California deserts
California allows squirrel hunting in all of its 44 ecological reserve and Type C wildlife areas. Harvesting tree squirrels in state recreation parks such as the Providence Mountain State Recreation Area or Picacho SRA will involve firearm restrictions for pistols and rifles.
Where to Find Tree Squirrel by Species in California
Regardless of your experience hunting tree squirrels or your age as a hunter, you’ll find squirrels distributed according to species in California.
The Douglas Tree Squirrel:
These are present in riparian areas, hardwood conifer, and conifer forests of the Warner Ranges, Sierra Nevada, Klamath, Cascade, and North Coast. Douglas tree squirrels inhabit California counties that are more than 11,000 feet above sea level.
The majority of counties where you’ll find Douglas tree squirrels include; Mariposa, Humboldt, Mono, Amador, Kern, Plumas, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Fresno, and surrounding areas.
Western Gray Squirrels:
You can find them everywhere in California except in San Francisco, King, Imperial, and Contra Costa counties. Western Grays prefer mature conifer stands, riparian lands, and mature hardwood or mixed hardwood conifer forests.
This includes areas in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Peninsular, Klamath, Transverse, Central Valley, and Cascade.
Eastern Fox Tree Squirrels:
One of the tree squirrel species introduced in LA County more than 100 years ago. The Eastern Fox squirrel has been expanding its range through redwood, valley foothill hardwood, valley, and valley riparian habitats.
Thanks to their broader food preferences, Eastern Fox squirrels are able to compete with the native Gray tree squirrels. Eastern Fox squirrels also exist in areas altered by humans. This squirrel species tolerate urbanized, open areas.
The Eastern Fox species of California tree squirrel produces two litters annually compared to the native Gray’s one litter.
You’ll find their populations around rural and urban settings. This includes orchards, vineyards, and the surrounding metropolitan areas along California’s coast.
These areas include Contra Costa, Santa Cruz, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Clara, Sacramento, Alameda, and their surroundings.
Eastern Gray Tree Squirrel:
This is the other squirrel species that was introduced into California. Like the Eastern Fox tree squirrel, Eastern Grays have expanded their habitats to prefer urban parks, heavy woods, and coastline.
In places where they exist alongside each other, the Eastern Gray tree squirrel competes and displaces its Eastern Fox cousin. You’ll find them in the Central Valley, as well as in the San Francisco bay area.
The general squirrel season in California starts from the second Saturday in September through to the last Sunday of January. An archery and falconry season falls before this, seeing as it’s from the 1st Saturday of august.
The daily bag limit for hunters harvesting California tree squirrels is four, with the same figure as the possession limit.