Having covered the main types of squirrels in Ontario – the eastern gray squirrel and its pigment gene mutant variation the black squirrel, and of course the red squirrel, there are a few interesting facts about both species that are worthy of note.
Interesting Facts about Grey/Black Squirrels
- Some scientists suggest that black squirrels have higher levels of testosterone than their grey counterparts. This would give them an edge when breeding since females choose the most dominant male to mate with. The higher testosterone may also make the black squirrel more aggressive and better able to get food and shelter if resources are scarce.
- Black and grey squirrels interact freely. None shows an obvious preference over the other when breeding.
- Two grey squirrels rarely give birth to a black baby. It is not uncommon for two black squirrels to have a mixed litter.
- Grey squirrels are known to cannibalize their species especially when food is scarce.
Are There Red Squirrels in Ontario?
The rusty red-coloured squirrel, also called Tamiasciurus hudsonicus, usually can be found in forests alongside their more common siblings, the grey Squirrel.
Being roughly half the size of the grey Squirrel, red squirrels are more territorial and usually can be found alone, unlike grey squirrels that like to hang out in groups. Because of the red squirrels’ more solitary and territorial nature, they are usually more spread out and can be found scavenging or making nests in both urban and rural areas.
They are most commonly found in Northwestern Ontario; their most common habitats near pine and spruce trees, although they can also be found near swamps, marshes, and even in the city.
Since red squirrels don’t like the company of others, it may be hard to see red squirrels. They can often be heard chattering away, clucking their mouths, and making various other noises to alert nearby creatures of their presence.
They are also commonly seen during fall, collecting pine cones and various other seeds and nuts. They will store their food in central caches called middens, usually inside tree cavities or in cool, dark underground spaces.
They are also usually found year-round unless harsh weather prevents them from being outside. And while their numbers aren’t as numerous as grey squirrels, they command a larger area with their aggressive, territorial attitude. So if it’s a solitary squirrel in a large area, it’s more than likely going to be a red squirrel.
Interesting Facts about Red Squirrel
- Although smaller than the grey squirrels, the red squirrel is very territorial. It is rare to see a group of red squirrels together unless they are of the same family.
- Unlike the grey squirrels that hides its nuts in many different pits; red squirrels take a communal approach and hide their food together.
- Red squirrels are extremely picky eaters compared to the grey species. This may explain their relatively low numbers, especially in urban areas.
- Grey squirrels carry squirrel pox virus that is fatal to red squirrels. Red squirrels don’t have immunity against the disease while the grey can carry the virus without showing any symptoms. An infected red will die within a few days or weeks of the infection.
Can Red Squirrels Mate With Grey Squirrels?
Red and grey squirrels are common in Ontario, Canada, and some people may believe that all squirrels are the same and can mate with each other.
However, this is not true. Although red and grey squirrels are similar, they are entirely different species (Sciurus vulgaris and Sciurus carolinensis, respectively). Red squirrels and grey squirrels also have entirely different behaviors and personalities.
Red squirrels are very territorial, aggressive, and loners. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a red squirrel near a grey one. Grey squirrels, on the other hand, are commonly found together in large groups.
Furthermore, grey squirrels can actually be very deadly to red squirrels. It’s not that grey squirrels will kill red squirrels, but grey squirrels carry a deadly pox which causes distinctive ulcerations on their eyes and nose. This disease also causes respiratory problems and prevents red squirrels from eating enough food. Normally, the pox kills red squirrels within five to seven days.
It is also thought that gray squirrels compete for food with red squirrels. Since gray squirrels scavenge for food in large groups, the loner red squirrels have a hard time finding enough food. This causes population decline in red squirrels.
There are even efforts in the United Kingdom and Scotland to help repopulate the red squirrel species. Here in Toronto, red squirrels are not as common as the grey squirrel, however they are still a common sight in forests and suburban areas.
So while red squirrels and grey squirrels cannot mate with each other, they can still live in harmony— that is, if the grey squirrel can learn to respect the red squirrel.
Can I Shoot Squirrels in My Backyard?
Squirrels can be a nuisance, and many residents in Ontario consider squirrels a pest. The problem is, though, can squirrels be removed legally? What if I see a squirrel in my backyard and decide to kill it?
To fully understand Canadian law, you must familiarize yourself with the Ministry of Natural Resources’ Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, which states that squirrels are protected and are illegal to kill without a proper license.
Under this act, the common gray squirrel and less-common red squirrel are classified as Schedule I and Schedule II animals, respectively. Killing these animals in your backyard means you will be violating this law. In fact, you can be fined thousands of dollars if you are caught killing protected wildlife on your property.
Consider using other humane ways of getting rid of squirrels instead, such as using traps or deterrents. However, keep in mind that relocating squirrels after trapping them is also illegal. It is advised to not try to get rid of squirrels yourself and get external help instead.
Hire a Professional to Remove Squirrels from Your Property
Trapping is not a humane way to remove wildlife from your property. The caged animal is exposed to the elements, harassment from pets and is an easy target for predators. It may also die of exhaustion, starvation or dehydration. It is illegal to harm wildlife in Ontario and you could get charged with animal cruelty for having the squirrel suffer while trapped.
Professional squirrel removal services cover more than just the removal. The expert also cleans and disinfects squirrel feces and urine which carry a host of disease-causing organisms. Additional tasks may include repairing damage caused by the animals and sealing the house with galvanized steel mesh or metal flashing to keep wildlife out in future. Make sure you get a warranty of at least 2 years before work begins.
Article Updated: April 29, 2020