Killing squirrels in your backyard is legal, Denver Animal Shelter says

“Denver does not have any law that restricts people from killing nuisance wildlife on their property. The state allows you to kill nuisance wildlife.”

Kammie feeds this sassy squirrel. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
Kammie feeds this sassy squirrel. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
There are a number of ways to remove squirrels that don’t involve weapons. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

Athmar Park resident Momčilo Uzunović filmed a video Sunday that includes footage of a person firing a weapon into a cage that contains a squirrel. 

And it appears that his neighbor killed a squirrel with a gun. The killing part is legal — because squirrels are considered nuisance wildlife.

“Denver does not have any law that restricts people from killing nuisance wildlife on their property. The state allows you to kill nuisance wildlife,” said Denver Animal Shelter Spokesperson Meghan Hughes.

“It would be a different situation if it was a companion animal, like a dog or a cat, so that would be illegal,” Hughes said. “Even though we don’t have an ordinance that restricts it, it’s not something that we would encourage, from a humane perspective.”

But what about the gun? Here’s what city code says:

“It shall be unlawful for any person, except a law enforcement officer in the performance of duty, to fire or discharge a revolver or pistol of any description, machine gun, shotgun or rifle which may be used for the explosion of cartridges, or any air gun, gas operated gun, spring gun, or any instrument, toy or weapon commonly known as a ‘peashooter,’ ‘slingshot’ or ‘beany,’ or any bow made for the purpose of throwing or projecting missiles of any kind by any means whatsoever, whether such instrument is called by name set forth herein or by any other name; provided that nothing in this section contained shall prevent the use of any such instruments in shooting galleries or in any private grounds or residence under circumstances when such instrument can be fired, discharged or operated in such a manner as not to endanger persons or property, and also in such a manner as to prevent the projectile from traversing any grounds or space outside the limits of such gallery, grounds or residence.”

Denver District Attorney’s Office Communications Director Ken Lane says that two state statutes may be relevant, depending on the circumstances: In essence, you can’t aim a gun at another person or fire a gun recklessly or with criminal negligence.

We’ve reached out to the City Attorney’s Office for comment and will update this story when we hear back.

For neighbors concerned about animal welfare, Hughes recommended calling 311 regardless, so that an officer can at least provide alternate solutions to whatever animal is causing a problem.

“We all live with urban wildlife and any measures that we can do to avoid situations like this and that can be installing fencing, putting up netting, whatever it is to help resolve the issue rather than resulting in this and having something more humane is what we encourage,” she said.


Correction: The headline and story have been changed to reflect that the Denver Animal Shelter said there is not a law against killing nuisance wildlife — they did not comment on the shooting of nuisance wildlife specifically.