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Jeffrey J.

Jackson
Extension Wildlife Specialist
Warnell School of Forest Resources
TREE SQUIRRELS
University of Georgia
Athens, Georgia 30602

Fig. 1. Fox squirrel, Sciurus niger

Damage Prevention and Plastic tubes on wires may prevent Fumigants


access to buildings.
Control Methods None are registered.
Cultural Methods
Trapping
Exclusion
Remove selected trees or their
Leghold traps.
Install sheet metal bands on isolated branches to prevent access to
trees to prevent damage to structures. Box and cage traps.
developing nuts. Repellents Rat snap traps.
Close external openings to buildings to Naphthalene (moth balls), Ro-pel, Box choker traps.
stop damage to building interiors. capsaicin, and polybutenes are
Shooting
Place an 18-inch (46-cm) section of registered for controlling tree
4-inch (10-cm) diameter plastic pipe squirrels. Effective where firearms are permit-
or a one-way door over openings to ted. Use a shotgun with No. 6 shot
Toxicants
allow squirrels to leave and prevent or a .22-caliber rifle.
them from returning. None are registered.

PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF WILDLIFE DAMAGE 1994


Cooperative Extension Division
Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
United States Department of Agriculture
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Animal Damage Control
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Great Plains Agricultural Council
Wildlife Committee
Identification
In this chapter tree squirrels are
divided into three groups: large tree
squirrels, pine squirrels, and flying
squirrels. Large tree squirrels include
fox (Sciurus niger), eastern gray (Sciurus
carolinensis), western gray (Sciurus
griseus), and tassel-eared (Sciurus
aberti) squirrels.
Fox squirrels (Fig. 1) measure 18 to 27
inches (46 to 69 cm) from nose to tip of
tail. They weigh about 1 3/4 pounds
(787 g) to 2 1/4 pounds (1,012 g). Color
varies greatly, from all black in Florida Fig. 2. Range of the fox squirrel (dark) and
Fig. 3. Range of the eastern gray squirrel (dark)
to silver gray with a white belly in and western gray squirrel (light) in North
tassel-eared squirrel (light) in North America.
America.
Maryland. Georgia fox squirrels usu-
ally have a black face. Ohio and Michi-
gan fox squirrels are grizzled
gray-brown above with an orange
underside. Sometimes several color
variations occur in a single population.
Eastern gray squirrels are also variable
in color. Some have a distinct reddish
cast to their gray coat. Black ones are
common in some northern parts of
their range. Eastern gray squirrels
measure 16 to 20 inches (41 to 51 cm).
They weigh from 1 1/4 pounds (567 g)
to 1 3/4 pounds (794 g).
The western gray squirrel is gray Fig. 4. Range of the red squirrel (dark) and Fig. 5. Range of the northern flying squirrel
above with sharply distinct white Douglas squirrel (light) in North America. (dark) and southern flying squirrel (light) in
underparts. Size is similar to that of North America.
the eastern gray squirrel.
Two species of flying squirrels occur in where they have been introduced
Tassel-eared squirrels are similar in North America. The southern flying (Fig. 2).
size to gray squirrels and have several squirrel (Glaucomys volans) is 8 to 10
color phases. The most common is Eastern gray squirrels have a similar
inches (20 to 25 cm) long. The northern
gray above with a broad reddish band range to that of fox squirrels but do
flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)
down the back. Black tufted ears are not occur in many western areas of the
averages 2 inches (5 cm) longer. It can
their most distinguishing characteristic fox squirrels range. They have been
be difficult to distinguish between the
(the tufts are larger in winter, about 1 introduced in several locations in the
two; both may be various shades of
inch [2.5 cm]). West (Fig. 3).
gray or brown above and lighter
There are two species of pine squirrels: below. A sharp line of demarcation Western gray squirrels are confined to
the red squirrel (Tamiasciurus separates the darker upper color from west coast states and a small portion of
hudsonicus) and Douglas pine squirrel the lighter belly. The most distinctive western Nevada (Fig. 3).
(Tamiasciurus douglasii). Pine squirrels characteristics of flying squirrels are
Pine squirrels occur across northern
are 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 cm) in total the broad webs of skin connecting the
North America south into the Appala-
length and weigh 1/3 to 2/3 pounds fore and hind legs at the wrists, and
chians and Rockies, and on the west
(151 to 303 g). Red squirrels are red- the distinctly flattened tail.
coast.
brown above with white underparts.
Douglas squirrels are gray-brown Range Red squirrels are often associated with
above with yellowish underparts. Both coniferous forests. The Douglas squir-
species have small ear tufts and often Fox squirrels occur in much of the rel is restricted to the west coast from
have a black stripe separating the dark eastern and central United States, as southwestern British Columbia south
upper color from the light belly. well as in several locations in the West, through the Sierras to northern Baja
California (Fig. 4).

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The tassel-eared squirrel is restricted Pine squirrels are often heavily depen- During fall, squirrels may travel 50
to Ponderosa pine forests in the South- dent on coniferous forests for cones miles (80 km) or more in search of bet-
west, usually at altitudes above 5,000 and buds but will also eat a variety of ter habitat. Squirrel populations peri-
feet (1,500 m). It occurs in portions of other foods common to gray and fox odically rise and fall. During periods
Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, squirrel diets. Douglas squirrels of high populations, squirrelsespe-
Arizona, and Utah (Fig. 2). depend largely on Ponderosa pine for cially gray squirrelsmay go on mass
food. Flying squirrels food habits are emigrations. At such times many
The northern flying squirrel occurs
generally similar to those of other animals die.
across northern North America. Its
squirrels. However, they are the most
range extends south into the Appala- carnivorous of all tree squirrels. They Fox and gray squirrels are vulnerable
chians and Rockies. The southern fly- eat bird eggs and nestlings, insects, to numerous parasites and diseases.
ing squirrel occurs in the central and and other animal matter when avail- Ticks, mange mites, fleas, and internal
eastern United States (Fig. 5). able. Flying squirrels often occupy bird parasites are common. Squirrel hunt-
houses, especially bluebird houses. ers often notice bot fly larvae (called
Habitat wolves or warbles) protruding
from the skin. These fly larvae do not
Fox squirrels and gray squirrels
General Biology, impair the quality of the meat for
inhabit the same kinds of forests, both Reproduction, and eating.
hardwood and coniferous, over much Behavior Squirrels are a food source for hawks,
of their range. Gray squirrels are more
owls, snakes, and several mammalian
abundant where a high percentage of Fox and gray squirrels breed when
predators. Predation seems to have
land is forested. In areas with 10% for- they are 1 year old. They breed in mid-
little effect on squirrel populations.
est cover, fox and gray squirrel popu- December or early January and again
lations may be equal. Fox squirrels in June. Young squirrels may breed Typically about half the squirrels in a
prefer oak-hickory habitat over much only once in their first year. The gesta- population die each year. In the wild,
of their range, especially in the West. tion period is 42 to 45 days. squirrels over 4 years old are rare,
In Georgia and Florida, fox squirrels while in captivity individuals may live
During the breeding season, noisy
seem to prefer pine timber. The west- 10 years or more.
mating chases take place when one or
ern gray squirrel prefers mixed hard-
more males pursue a female through The biology of other North American
woods and conifers and dry open
the trees. squirrels has much in common with
hardwoods. Tassel-eared squirrels are
that of fox and gray squirrels, although
strongly associated with Ponderosa They nest in tree cavities, human-
most other species have one breeding
pine. Pine squirrels prefer coniferous made squirrel boxes, or in leaf nests.
season per year. Flying squirrels are
forests but also occur in mixed conifer Leaf nests are constructed with a
unique in that they are active at night.
and hardwood forests, or sometimes frame of sticks filled with dry leaves
All other species are active during the
in hardwood habitats. and lined with leaves, strips of bark,
day.
corn husks, or other materials. Sur-
Food Habits vival of young in cavities is higher
than in leaf nests. Cavities are the pre- Damage
Fox and gray squirrels have similar ferred nest sites.
food habits. They will eat a great vari- Squirrels may occasionally damage
About 3 young comprise a litter. At forest trees by chewing bark from
ety of native foods and adapt quickly birth they are hairless, blind, and their
to unusual food sources. Typically, branches and trunks. Pine squirrels
ears are closed. Newborns weigh damage Ponderosa pine, jack pine,
they feed on mast (wild tree fruits and about 1/2 ounce (14 g) at birth and 3 to
nuts) in fall and early winter. Acorns, and paper birch. In the Southeast, fox
4 ounces (84 to 112 g) at 5 weeks. squirrels damage loblolly and other
hickory nuts, walnuts, and osage Young begin to explore outside the
orange fruits are favorite fall foods. pines.
nest about the time they are weaned at
Nuts are often cached for later use. In 10 to 12 weeks. At weaning they are These species and others may eat
late winter and early spring they pre- about half of their adult weight. cones and nip twigs to the extent that
fer tree buds. In summer they eat they interfere with natural reseeding of
fruits, berries, and succulent plant Home range size depends on the sea- important forest trees. This is a par-
materials. Fungi, corn, and cultivated son and availability of food. It may ticular problem in Ponderosa pine
fruits are taken when available. During vary from 1 to 100 acres (0.4 to 40 ha). forests where pine squirrels may
population peaks, when food is scarce, Squirrels move within their range remove 60% to 80% of the cones in
these squirrels may chew bark from a according to availability of food. They poor to fair seed years. In forest seed
variety of trees. They will also eat often seek mast-bearing forests in fall orchards, such squirrel damage
insects and other animal matter. and favor tender buds in elm and interferes with commercial seed
maple forests in the spring. production.

B-173
In nut orchards, squirrels can severely Prevent squirrels from traveling on however, because it can cause severe
curtail production by eating nuts pre- wires by installing 2-foot (61-cm) sec- distress to people. Supplement this
maturely and by carrying off mature tions of lightweight 2- to 3-inch diam- method with lights. A cat in the attic
nuts. In New England fruit orchards, eter (5.1- to 7.6-cm) plastic pipe. Slit may discourage squirrels.
pine squirrels may eat ovaries of the pipe lengthwise, spread it open,
Ro-pel is a taste repellent that can be
cherry blossoms and destroy ripe and place it over the wire. The pipe
applied to seeds, bulbs, and flowers;
pears. Pine, gray, and fox squirrels will rotate on the wire and cause trav-
trees and shrubs; poles and fences; sid-
may chew bark of various orchard eling squirrels to tumble.
ing and outdoor furniture. Capsaicin is
trees.
Close openings to attics and other also a taste repellent, registered for use
In residential areas, squirrels some- parts of buildings but make sure not to on maple sap collecting equipment.
times travel powerlines and short out lock squirrels inside. They may cause a
Polybutenes are sticky materials that
transformers. They gnaw on wires, great deal of damage in their efforts to
can be applied to buildings, railings,
enter buildings, and build nests in chew out. Place traps inside as a pre-
downspouts, and other areas to keep
attics. They frequently chew holes caution after openings are closed. A
squirrels from climbing. They can be
through pipelines used in maple syrup squirrel excluder can be improvised by
messy. A preapplication of masking
production. mounting an 18-inch (46-cm) section of
tape is recommended.
4-inch (10-cm) plastic pipe over an
Squirrels occasionally damage lawns
opening. The pipe should point down Toxicants
by burying or searching for and dig-
at a 45o angle. A one-way door can also
ging up nuts. They will chew bark and None are registered.
be used over an opening to let squir-
clip twigs on ornamental trees or
rels out and prevent them from return-
shrubbery planted in yards. Often Fumigants
ing.
squirrels take food at feeders intended
None are registered.
for birds. Sometimes they chew to Close openings to buildings with
enlarge openings of bird houses and heavy 1/2-inch (1.3-cm) wire mesh or Trapping
then enter to eat nestling songbirds. make other suitable repairs.
Flying squirrels are small enough to A variety of traps will catch squirrels,
Custom-designed wire mesh fences including No. 0 or No. 1 leghold traps,
enter most bird houses and are espe-
topped with electrified wires may the Better Squirrel and Rat Trap, box
cially likely to eat nesting birds.
effectively keep out squirrels out of traps, and cage traps. Regular rat-sized
In gardens, squirrels may eat planted gardens or small orchards. snap traps will catch flying squirrels
seeds, mature fruits, or grains such as and small pine squirrels. Glue traps for
corn. Habitat Modification rats will catch small squirrels.
Trim limbs and trees to 6 to 8 feet (1.8 Since squirrels are classified as game
Legal Status to 2.4 m) away from buildings to pre- species in most states, trapping per-
vent squirrels from jumping onto mits may be required from your local
Fox and gray squirrels are usually clas- roofs. state wildlife agency or municipal Ani-
sified as game animals in states where In backyards where squirrels are mal Control office. Wire cage traps
they occur. The tassel-eared squirrel is causing problems at bird feeders, and box traps can be used to capture
normally a protected species. Check consider providing an alternative squirrels alive. Tie trap doors open for
with local or state authorities to deter- food source. Wire or nail an ear of corn 2 to 3 days to get squirrels accustomed
mine legal status of squirrels in your to a tree or wooden fence post away to feeding in the traps. Then set the
area. from where the squirrels are causing traps and check them twice daily.
problems. Inform your neighbors of your trap-
ping activities. Translocation of tree
Damage Prevention and In high-value crop situations, it may squirrels is a questionable practice
Control Methods pay to remove woods or other trees because of the stress placed on trans-
near orchards to block the squirrel ported and resident squirrels and con-
Exclusion highway. cerns regarding the transmission of
Prevent squirrels from climbing iso- diseases.
Repellents
lated trees and power poles by encir- Good baits are slices of orange and
cling them with a 2-foot-wide (61-cm) Naphthalene (moth balls) may tempo-
apple, walnuts or pecans removed
collar of metal 6 feet (1.8 m) off the rarily discourage squirrels from enter-
from the shell, and peanut butter.
ground. Attach metal using encircling ing attics and other enclosed spaces.
Other foods familiar to the squirrel
wires held together with springs to Use of naphthalene in attics of occu-
may also work well, such as corn or
allow for tree growth. pied buildings is not recommended,
sunflower seeds.

B-174
Shooting Squirrels caused 177 power outages in Davison, V. E. 1964. Selection of foods by gray
squirrels. J. Wildl. Manage. 28:346-352.
Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1980, which was
Where firearms are permitted, shoot-
24% of all outages. Estimated annual Dolan, P. G., and D. C. Carter. 1977. Glaucomys
ing is effective. A shotgun with No. 6 volans. Mammal. Species 78:1-6.
costs were $23,364 for repairs, public
shot or a .22-caliber rifle is suitable.
relations, and lost revenue. In Omaha, Flyger, V., and J. E. Gates. 1982a. Fox and gray
Check with your state wildlife agency squirrels. Pages 209-229 in J. A. Chapman
in 1985, squirrels caused 332 outages
for regulations pertaining to the spe- and G. A. Feldhamer, eds. Wild mammals of
costing at least $47,144. After squirrel
cies in your area. North America: biology, management, and
guards were installed over pole- economics. The Johns Hopkins Univ. Press,
Other Methods mounted transformers in Lincoln in Baltimore.
1985, annual costs were reduced 78% Flyger, V., and J. E. Gates. 1982b. Pine squirrels.
Often several control methods used to $5,148. Pages 230-238 in J. A. Chapman and G. A.
simultaneously are more successful Feldhamer, eds. Wild mammals of North
than a single method. For example, to America: biology, management, and
remove a squirrel from an attic, watch Acknowledgments economics. The Johns Hopkins Univ. Press,
Baltimore.
squirrels to determine where they
enter. Then use repellents and lights to References by Boggess (1980) and Flyger and Hall, R. E., and K. R. Kelson. 1959. The
Gates (1982a,b) were particularly useful in mammals of North America, Vol. 1. The
drive them out. After squirrels appear preparing this publication. The manuscript Ronald Press Co., New York. 546 pp.
to have left the building, use appropri- was read and improved by the comments of
ate exclusion methods to keep them Elizabeth McGhee. Hamilton, J. C., R. J. Johnson, R. M. Case, and M.
W. Riley. 1988. Assessment of squirrel-
out. One or more baited traps will Figure 1 from Schwartz and Schwartz (1981). caused power outages. Vertebr. Pest Control
catch squirrels that are accidentally Manage. Mater. 6:34-41.
Figures 2 through 4 adapted from Flyger and
closed in. This last step is very impor- Gates (1982a,b) by Jill Sack Johnson. Madson, J. 1964. Gray and fox squirrels. Olin
tant because locked-in squirrels may Mathieson Chem. Corp. East Alton, Illinois.
Figure 5 adapted from Burt and Grossenheider
cause damage when they try to chew (1976) by David Thornhill.
112 pp.
their way out. Nash, D. J., and R. N. Seaman. 1977. Sciurus
aberti. Mammal. Species 80:1-5.
Squirrel damage in yards, gardens,
forests, and orchards is often very dif-
For Additional National Pest Control Association. 1964. Tree
ficult to control. During population Information squirrelsa fact sheet. Nat. Pest Control
Assoc. Tech. Release 20-64.
highs, new squirrels arrive quickly to
replace those shot or trapped. Baumgartner, L. L. 1940. Trapping, handling Schwartz, C. W., and E. R. Schwartz. 1981. The
and marking fox squirrels. J. Wildl. Manage. wild mammals of Missouri, rev. ed. Univ.
4:444-450. Missouri Press, Columbia. 356 pp.
Economics of Damage Boggess, E. K. 1980. Tree squirrels. in F. R.
Henderson, ed. Prevention and control of
and Control wildlife damage. Great Plains Agric. Council
and Kansas Coop. Ext. Serv. Kansas State
Squirrels cause economic losses to Univ., Manhattan.
Editors
homeowners, nut growers, and forest Burt, W. H., and R. P. Grossenheider. 1976. A Scott E. Hygnstrom
managers. The extent of these losses is field guide to the mammals, 3d ed. Robert M. Timm
Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston. 289 pp. Gary E. Larson
not well known.

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