Are groundhogs legal as pets? Not that the movie "Caddyshack" would lead you to believe that groundhogs aren't adorable, but each state has its own specific laws about what kind of rodents you can legally possess as pets.
For groundhog enthusiasts and those clamoring to cuddle with a woodchuck this Groundhog Day, let's burrow deeper into the issue with a general overview of groundhog pet laws.
Groundhogs Are Wild Rodents
State laws are extremely specific on the types of non-domesticated animals which people can possess as pets, and groundhogs are by most accounts are still considered wild animals.
More specifically, groundhogs are rodents, closely related to squirrels, and are subject to state laws regarding wild rodents. Here are a few examples:
- In California, state fish and game law bans the possession of any rodents except golden hamsters, mice, rats, and domestic guinea pigs. Much like ferrets, groundhogs are a no-go.
- In Pennsylvania, the state that celebrates Punxsutawney Phil every February 2, taking wild animals and keeping them in captivity is illegal in most cases. So unless you have a handle on groundhogs raised in captivity, keeping a wild one as a pet is probably against the law.
- In Georgia, state law explicitly bars the possession of groundhogs as pets. Permits can be obtained to possess groundhogs, but not for pet purposes.
As you can see, the general rule seems to be that groundhogs are wild, non-domesticated animals which are unlikely to be legal as pets -- and definitely not without a permit.
What If You See a Groundhog in the Wild?
There is currently no federal protection for groundhogs like there might be for other more endangered animals, so federal law says very little about groundhogs. This means that each state can more or less define how people interact with groundhogs in the wild.
In Virginia, for example, groundhogs are designated as a "nuisance species" -- probably because they dig hazardous holes. Virginia law even allows property owners to kill groundhogs without a permit.
If questions about legal and illegal pets are giving you "paws" for concern, feel free to contact a lawyer knowledgeable about your state's laws.