The 2019-2020 California General Tree Squirrel Season will be open from Saturday, September 14 through Sunday, January 26, 2020. Tree squirrels may only be harvested in the open area during the open season, from one-half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset. A map of the state’s tree squirrel hunting areas can be found on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website, along with the complete tree squirrel regulations.
Four types of tree squirrels are game species in California. The western gray squirrel and Douglas squirrel are native to California, while the eastern fox squirrel and eastern gray squirrel are introduced and not native to the state. These tree squirrels may be hunted in the open area during the open season under the authority of a California hunting license. No other validations are required.
A fifth species of tree squirrel, the northern flying squirrel, is not a game species and cannot be taken. Flying squirrels are small native tree squirrels that are rarely 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 depending on prevailing weather conditions and annual production of nuts, acorns, and seeds for fodder.
California received above average rainfall during 2018-19, with a particularly wet spring season. “With a return to favorable weather patterns and good acorn production, there should be ample opportunity to hunt tree squirrels this year,” said Matt Meshriy, environmental scientist with CDFW’s Upland Hunting Program.
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 tree squirrel hunting opportunities in California. Bureau of Land Management lands and CDFW wildlife areas may also provide opportunities for squirrel hunting. Please note that non-lead shot is now required when bringing wild animals with a firearm anywhere in California. Please plan accordingly. For more information, see the CDFW Lead-Free Ammunition page.
Matt Meshriy, CDFW Upland Game Show, (916) 322-6709
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988