Where public opinion has been polled regarding suburban and
urban wildlife, squirrels rank first as problem makers.
Vancouver Island has two types of squirrels. The red
squirrel (our native species) and the gray squirrel (an introduced species). When
it comes to homeowner/wildlife conflicts, of the two, the gray squirrel is the
Eastern gray squirrels were introduced to Vancouver Island
in the late 1970's. Their diet consists of acorns, nuts, fruit (such as apples,
pears, plums, and berries), and many ornamental plants including tulips. Of all
these food sources, only a few are native to Vancouver Island. Our native trees
are mostly coniferous and provide little nutrients for them. Just as man has
introduced them, we now must learn to live with them. On Vancouver Island, gray
squirrel populations have only spread to where there is a significant
urban/suburban setting. All of their food sources are grown in the gardens we
plant. This creates the illusion that we are being completely
"invaded" by these creatures, but in reality their population depends
directly on what we plant in our gardens and neighborhoods. Have you ever seen
a gray squirrel deep in the forest? Likely not. In the forest they are out of
the "norm" and are a direct target for any of our natural predators. Not
to mention they have very little food sources in the forest. This limits gray
squirrels to urban/suburban settings.
Gray squirrels have two litters per year. The first breeding
period usually begins in December or early January, and after a gestation
period of little more than forty days, the young are born between February and
April. A second breeding period begins in early summer. This second litter is
usually born between August and September. This late litter can make for a
confusing exclusion (not knowing if young are present). Not all gray squirrels
have two litters a year. Some have an early litter, some have a late litter, and
some have both. Plugging holes randomly is a gamble. A female gray squirrel not
able to reach her young can cause significant damage to your home (far worse
than the original damage).
·If attempting an exclusion on your own, winter or early spring
will ensure you are not separating mother from young.
·Two excellent deterrents are to prune trees bordering your home
and to install a squirrel guard on your hydro wires.