two species of tree squirrels that are native to California.
In addition, there are two species of introduced tree
squirrels that now inhabit our state. The tree squirrels
that are most likely to be encountered in Los Angeles
County are the Western Gray Squirrel and the Eastern Fox
How Do I Know If I Have Tree Squirrels?
The Western gray squirrel is about 22 inches in length
with a large bushy tail edged in white. The coat can
run from a "salt and pepper" to a silvery
gray above to white below. They weight in at between
1.5-2 pounds and lack any stripes, spotting, or flecking
common to ground squirrels.
Eastern fox squirrels are the largest
of the North American squirrels and can grow to 29 inches
in total length. It too has a bushy tail, but with a
somewhat square head and weights in at 3 pounds. They
can vary greatly in color, but commonly have a light
brown coat above to a reddish or orange underside.
As is the case with all true tree
squirrels, both of these species lack internal cheek
pouches and when frightened climb trees to take shelter.
Tree squirrels as their name implies are primarily found
in trees, but can spend a considerable amount of time
foraging on the ground as well. All are only active
during the day, and do not hibernate. Tree squirrels
like to nest in the cavities of trees, often enlarging
the old holes of woodpeckers or flickers. They may also
construct nests of twigs, shredded bark and leaves in
a crotch or on a large tree branch.
Tree squirrels damage green and ripe walnuts, almonds,
oranges, avocados, apples, strawberries, tomatoes, and
grains. Telephone and electrical lines are sometimes
gnawed and they also chew on buildings or invade attics
through knotholes or uncovered roof vents. Eastern fox
squirrels can become some what aggressive and antagonize
dogs and may frighten the elderly.
Homeowner options are limited when it comes to the management
of tree squirrels. Before you start any control program,
it is critical to identify which species of squirrel
is damaging your property. In some cases, it may actually
be roof rats that are causing the damage or a combination
of both roof rats and tree squirrels. In either case,
a little "detective" work can save you time,
money, give more successful results and keep you out
of possible legal problems.
Trapping for Western gray squirrels can only
be done under permit issued by the California Department
of Fish and Game. In order to apply for a permit, the
owner or tenant of the land must prove that their property
is being damaged or is in danger of being damaged by
gray squirrels. Once the Department is satisfied that
such damage has or will occur the Department will issue
a revokable permit and it will specify the manner in
which the animals can be controlled. If a trapping permit
is issued it will specify the type of trap to be used
and may require that the squirrels be relocated in parks
or other non agricultural areas.
Trapping for Eastern fox squirrels
is similar to that employed to control ground squirrels.
All of the methods are described in detail in the PEST
INFORMATION SERIES on Tree Squirrels available from
Tree squirrels have a number of natural enemies that
feed on and place pressures on squirrel populations.
However, experience has shown that in many environments
that have been altered by humans, natural predation
does not control the squirrel population to levels that
will prevent unacceptably high damage to property.
Tree squirrels are good climbers and can be difficult
to exclude. Hardware cloth and sheet metal can be used
to close entrances into buildings. Squirrels can be
prevented from climbing isolated specimen trees, bird
feeders and power poles by encircling them with a two
foot wide collar of sheet metal at least six feet off
the ground. Trees should be trimmed back to prevent
squirrels from jumping on to roofs.
Western gray squirrels are classified as game
mammals under the Fish and Game Code and can be controlled
only as provided by the hunting regulations or if causing
damage to crops or property under special permit.
Eastern fox squirrels are
also classified as game mammals, but if they are injuring
crops or property can be controlled using traps and
other means by the owner or tenant of the property or
their employees, except that poisons may not be used.
For detailed information on tree squirrel control, contact
the office of the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner/Weights
and Measures Department, Pest Management Division at
(626) 575-5462 and request a copy of the PEST INFORMATION
SERIES on Tree Squirrels. That document can also be
downloaded in PDF format by clicking here.