First, let’s get to know our little neighbor friends. There are about twenty five species of squirrels in the Pacific Northwest. Of the twenty five, there are five native species which consist of the Western Gray, the Douglas Squirrel, the California Ground Squirrel, the Northern Flying Squirrel and Townsend’s Chipmunk. The Western Gray Squirrel is currently on the list of protected species as they were once a flourishing species but have almost completely disappeared due to development and competition from non-native species. Fox Squirrels, which originally came from the Eastern United States are some of the species that have contributed to the Western Grays diminishing existence. This particular established species is reddish brown in color with large bushy tails and undersides and are the most common tree squirrel found in the Portland area.
Most Common Non-native Squirrels Species
Two of the most common non-native squirrels in this region are the Eastern Gray and Fox Squirrel. Eastern Grays are small grayish-brown squirrels with a white under belly that are believed to have been introduced to Oregon and Washington by man from the Eastern United States. Eastern Grays are the most common squirrels found in most urban settings as they have adapted well to human habitation. They can be distinguished from Fox Squirrels by their silver tipped tails and white bellies though both the Eastern Gray and Fox Squirrel have a brownish tint throughout their gray fur.
Next, the Fox Squirrels are usually larger in size from Eastern Grays with a rounder face. Their under belly is a tanish color and can even be considered orange in color like their tails. Just like their co-habiter the Eastern Gray, Fox Squirrels have adapted well to urban environments and have been brought to the Pacific Northwest by man.
Most Common Native Squirrel Species
Western Grays, which are larger than the Eastern Gray Squirrel, do not have a brown-orange tint to their fur. Instead, they are like a black and white version of their cousin the Eastern Gray. They are shy in populated environments and prefer their natural habitat, away from humans. This species is a threatened species and is protected.
Another, the California ground squirrel, is considered a native species because they are believed to have come to the Pacific Northwest on their own accord. They are distinguished from the Gray Squirrel by their shorter tail, spotted appearance and white coloring across their shoulders. Unlike most ground squirrels, they have a long, bushy tail and still climb trees. People often consider them pests because they like to dig holes.
The Pacific NW Squirrel…Cute Furry Creatures or Pesky Rodent?
To sum it up, squirrels are more pesky than they are cute. They are often found digging in lawns and gardens, chewing on electrical wiring and power lines, gnawing holes in siding, building their nests inside homes and structures outside of their environment and damaging home interiors like insulation. They feed off of fruit trees, dig up flower bulbs, raid bird feeders and will even eat the young of birds. From a human perspective you can see why these pests may not be favorable. From afar they seem cute and sweet but their activity is often unintentionally mischievous. Not only is their busy-ness considered invasive at times, they are also carriers of disease and insects like ticks and fleas. Even with efforts to contain their activity around urban environments like providing specific squirrel feeders, these pests will always be invasive to some degree as their main objective is to feed and provide for their young. They are resourceful and will do whatever is needed to fulfill their purposes. The Eastern Gray Squirrel, specifically, has even made it to the Top 100 Invasive Species of the World list as they are out competing their native relatives for food and habitat since they eat nine times more than native squirrels. Now that’s saying something!
If you’r dealing with unwanted critters in your home or business and looking for a humane method to handle them, our solution is to “evict” them. This is done by gently disrupting their current living situation through the use of unpleasant sounds and smells. Things like bright lights, blaring speakers and rags soaked in cider vinegar make the residence unappealing and will cause the animal to look for another space to dwell. Get a sneak peak at a live squirrel eviction in the video below.
Learn much more about native and non-native tree squirrels and their management at: wdfw.wa.gov/living/tree_squirrels.html#conflicts and https://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/squirrels.asp