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Everything About American Red Squirrels and How to Eliminate them From your
Home or Business

Squirrels:
Family: Sciuridae: (Fox Squirrel, Flying Squirrel, Chipmunk, Marmots, Prairie Dog, Tree Squirrel, Ground Squirrel)

Squirrels are members of the family Sciuridae, a family that includes small or medium-size rodents. The squirrel family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots (including woodchucks), flying squirrels, and prairie dogs amongst other rodents. Although native to Southern Ontario, squirrels in Toronto and other urban environments are frequently understood to be pests when they invade dilapidated structures, your attic, or the exterior walls of your home. Squirrels are also known to disrupt vegetable gardens and to take advantage of your neighbour’s birdseed feeder. On the reverse, as scatter-hoarders, 10-20% of seeds and nuts stored in squirrel caches remain uncovered, making squirrels responsible for quite a lot of tree propagation in the city. The two species of squirrel commonly encountered in Toronto are the Eastern Grey Squirrel and the Red Squirrel. Occasional flying squirrels can also be seen. Squirrels are adept surviving in the city, the omnivorous rodents even have biological controls that inhibit breeding in years of food scarcity, so although no one is tracking the number of squirrels in Toronto when populations in a particular area markedly increase, it typically indicates the presence of an artificial food source. To avoid nuisance numbers of squirrels in Toronto, the City’s Wildlife Department advises you not to feed them. Squirrels eat a broad range of foods including tree bark, tree buds, berries, wild mushrooms, nuts, corn, strawberries and tomatoes. When food is scarce, they’ve been noted to hunt insects, frogs, birds and their eggs, even other squirrels, occasionally gnawing on bones as a source of minerals that may be scarce in their diet. Although not known to be vectors of Rabies, squirrels in the City will chew through metal for food and can become a serious fire hazard, using electric cable as branches and gnawing on electrical insulation. If squirrels on your property become a nuisance, contact Addison Pest Control for an ethical, physical control system tailored to your property and particular pest population.

Red Squirrel (American Red Squirrel)
Latin name: Tamiasciurus hudsonicus

General/Physical Description:

Copper fur, white underbelly, bushy ears, shorter tails, and typically weighing in at 200-250 g, the Red Squirrel is more territorial, and often more solitary, than the Eastern Grey. Only somewhat larger than a chipmunk, red squirrels are a bit harder to find in the city centres, but can frequently be located close to ravines on properties with tall evergreen trees. Although their preferred food source is from seeds found in coniferous cones, an adaptive and opportunistic granivorous diet allows them to survive in urban environments quite readily. In addition to bark, buds, seeds, nuts, fungus, berries, sap, insects, young birds and mammals, when food is scarce they also feed on a variety of mushroom species, including some that are deadly to humans. Red Squirrels can be considered a pest in urban environments when they invade and nest (or drey) in attics, the exterior walls of the home or elsewhere on private properties. If an appropriate, unoccupied nest structure is present near an available food supply, Red Squirrels will occupy and defend their appropriated territory and perhaps even bequeath it to their young. Prone to traversing distances on utility cabling, Red Squirrels are a potential fire hazard and can cause structural damage to built structures on your property if left unchecked. The most efficient approach to curb population explosion is a well-maintained property and the removal of artificial food sources, after all, red squirrels are adept at survival and can manage just without dipping into your birdfeeder. The American Red Squirrel is not the same species as the Eurasian Red Squirrel currently experiencing population decline in Europe due to competition with the introduced Eastern Grey Squirrel.

Life Cycle/Reproduction:

American Red Squirrels typically encounter two mating periods each year, February/March and June/July. During this time, polygynandrous females will ovulate spontaneously, entering estrus for only a single day and mating with 4-16 males (including related males). Again, not all females breed twice a year, younger squirrels, which reach sexual maturity after their first year on earth, are more likely to mate once and, in a year of food shortages, reproduction is usually skipped altogether. After a gestation period of 38 days, a litter of 3-7 kits are typically born, naked and blind. Female American Red Squirrels make protective and invested mothers, and they will sometimes establish and bequeath territories to their kits for occupation. Kits open their eyes after about 30 days, and will stay with their mother for several works, or through their first Winter as they learn to forage, hunt, and avoid predators. The rate of survival for Red Squirrel kits is low, but their chances increase once they’ve reached adulthood.

Behaviour:

The often boisterous Red Squirrel is a diurnal mammal which means that it is the most active during the day. An adept forager and hoarder, Red Squirrels will gather hundreds of nuts and cones in central caches called, middens. Middens may be built in tree cavities or cool and moist locations underground to prevent cached cones from opening prematurely. Foraging and hoarding reaches its peak in the Fall, although Red Squirrels do not hibernate, they will often hole up in the winter in territories with several covered nests

Predators:

Hawks, owls, weasels, large fish (Red Squirrels have the propensity to swim)

Control Measures:

Mixed and Hardwood forests abundant with nuts are the natural habitats of squirrels, so logically, the common use of birdfeeders in urban centres provides an ample supply of food for Toronto’s as yet undocumented population of squirrels. Removing these artificial food supplies is perhaps the most effective strategy for controlling rampant squirrel populations when they spring up.

To control or prevent squirrels from inhabiting a structure on your property, physical control measures must be put into place in tandem with humane squirrel removal by Addison Pest Control. The property should be checked for holes in structures where they may be able to create a drey. If squirrels have already created a drey within a structure, they must be removed before permanent seals are installed, especially between the months of April and October when blind and vulnerable kits are being reared who may not be mobile. Overhanging tree limbs can be cut back from the property, ammonia and other deterrents can be spread around entryways to the den or talk radio can be loudly played, sources of food should be removed and open holes in the roof and chimney stuffed with easy to remove newsprint. Once all squirrels have confidently been evicted from the structure, entry points to the structure should be permanently sealed to prevent reoccupation. More tips and information, including municipal rules for wildlife trapping and removal, can be found on the City of Toronto’s website here. Addison Pest Control complies with all Municipal, Provincial and Federal regulations concerning the safe removal of wildlife pests.

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