How Did the Eastern Grey Squirrel Come to Canada?
The eastern gray squirrel is one of the most notorious alien species. The World Conservation Union ranks it among the top 100 most invasive species. Its presence is a major issue for everyone, including the native species. Studies indicate that invasive species cost the global economy about US$1.4 trillion per year in economic costs, not to mention the damage they cause to ecosystems. So how did this invasive species come to Canada?
Origin of the name Sciurus
The meaning of the name Sciurus is not completely clear, but it has its origins in Greek mythology. The name ‘Sciurus’ is derived from a Greek word meaning’squirrel’. Originally native to the eastern U.S., this species is now widely distributed throughout the western United States. In the Middle Ages, the name was also spelled’squyrel,’ and it was derived from Old French and Anglo-Norman forms of the name. The name scuriolus was a diminutive of ‘Sciurus’, and is believed to be a Latinized form of the Greek word skiouros.
The Eastern Grey Squirrel is a diurnal rodent that has adapted well to urban environments. Their peak activity hours are between two and five hours after sunrise and before sunset. This allows them to avoid the hot afternoon sun and stay cool and active. While males and females spend the majority of their time chasing rodents, females are more active during the winter months. Because of their social and cultural importance, they are often found near human dwellings.
It is hard to believe that this little creature can communicate with humans, but it can! Grey squirrels use their incredible sense of smell to find food under the snow. They contribute to the tree planting initiatives and countless other conservation efforts in the United States and Canada. You can often spot squirrel activity by spotting small holes and scrapings in the ground. If you see these signs, don’t be surprised! It’s not just chance that these tiny animals can communicate with humans, either.
The diet of the Eastern Grey Squirrel is somewhat mysterious. According to a Journal of Mammalogy article by Dennis A. Riege, the main foods that this squirrel consumes are nut and tree seeds. The grey squirrels also occasionally take insects, including ground-nesting bumblebees. However, there is no evidence that the greys are significant bird predators. One report shows that the greys have removed an abandoned kitten named Red from a nest, while other evidence suggests they will consume live slowworms.
The eastern gray squirrel is a small rodent native to North America. While it has a life expectancy of up to thirteen years, it can live longer in captivity. In the wild, the gray squirrel can live up to twelve years, but in captivity, the lifespan is closer to twenty years. Life expectancy can vary between species, so it is important to learn about your local population’s life expectancy.
Threat to humans
The Eastern grey squirrel is an invasive species that is threatening the health and well-being of native mammals. Introduced into Stanley Park in 1909, they have since spread to deciduous woodlands throughout the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. While a valuable part of the ecosystem, their invasive nature is also a concern because they compete with native squirrel species for food and habitat. They may also pose a threat to human health as they are a carrier of the parapoxvirus, which can infect humans and livestock.
Invasive status in BC
Invasive status of the eastern grey squirrel is a concern for both homeowners and the environment. They damage lawns, gardens, and structures such as attics and chimneys. These animals are also destructive to fruit trees and ornamental plants. Fortunately, there are several ways to control the number of eastern grey squirrels in your yard. Here are a few common methods. Listed below are just a few of the most common ways to control these rodents:
Jessica Watson is a PHD holder from the University of Washington. She studied behavior and interaction between squirrels and has presented her research in several wildlife conferences including TWS Annual Conference in Winnipeg.