Squirrel 101

Squirrels are some of our most visible mammalian neighbors. Their bushy tails and cartoonish antics endear them to many people, but their adaptability and resourcefulness can bring them into confl ict with others.

Douglas Squirrels, Red Squirrels and Northern Flying Squirrels are three of the native tree squirrels present in Washington State.

Both Douglas and Red Squirrels prefer fi r or pine forests, while Northern Flying Squirrels are common in evergreen and mixed forests as well as neighborhoods with tall trees, but they are seldom seen by humans due to their nocturnal habits. The native Western Gray Squirrel, a threatened species, is only found in a few isolated patches of the state.

The squirrel you’re most likely to see is the Eastern Gray Squirrel, a species that thrives in the urban landscape.

From fruit trees to bird feeders, urban and suburban landscapes are rich in food sources that Eastern Gray Squirrels love. They also contain expansive parks and lawns in which Eastern Gray Squirrels can hide their food in a behavior known as “scatter hoarding.” In times of abundance, the squirrels bury hundreds of food items over a wide area, returning to eat them when resources become scarce. Some of the nuts or seeds that they bury are never retrieved, and many a flower or tree has grown with a squirrel to thank for its planting. Unfortunately, the squirrels’ digging activity can bring them into confl ict with property owners attempting to maintain pristine lawns.

Eastern Gray Squirrels will also find a home in attics, crawlspaces, or other openings in your home. We receive hundreds of phone calls during the spring and summer months from homeowners who have unwittingly become landlords to a growing family of squirrels.

Without conflicts, squirrels add a welcome touch of the wild to your property, but these tenacious tree dwellers can also try a homeowner’s patience.

Follow these tips to avoid conflicts with squirrels on your property:

Don’t feed squirrels. Hand feeding squirrels will reduce their fear of humans and increase the chances of conflict. Most squirrel bites occur while someone is hand feeding them.

Prevent squirrels from entering attics or crawlspaces. If you leave them an opening, squirrels will use it. Repair holes and replace rotting boards or siding to ensure that you do not have out the welcome sign for your furry tailed neighbors. Even a quarter-sized hole is enough for squirrels to check-in.

Cap metal stovepipes or chimneys. Exploring these openings as potential den sites, squirrels fall to the bottom and are unable to escape. A wire mesh cap will prevent such accidents.

If you do come into conflict with squirrels, contact PAWS for advice on humanely solving the problem. Our wildlife center can be reached at 425.412.4040.

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