The eastern grey squirrel, whose scientific name is Sciurus carolinensis, is the most common and largest tree squirrel in eastern Canada. These primarily feed on nuts and play a crucial role in planting trees as they bury food for winter and forget or misplace thousands of nuts and acorns.
Squirrels including the eastern grey squirrels are protected wildlife in Canada. You could be charged for animal cruelty for injuring or killing these animals or incur a fine for transporting squirrels for more than a kilometre without a permit. There a few eastern grey squirrel facts that may prove both interesting and practical.
They Aren’t Always Grey
If you have ever spotted a black squirrel, this is exactly the same species as the eastern grey squirrel except with a pigment anomaly. As the squirrel develops into adulthood, it grows both black and grey hair intermittently, a function that is regulated by pigment hormones. Black squirrels are unable to alternate between the colours thus appearing completely black. Some researchers believe that black squirrels have more testosterone than their grey counterparts.
Their Tails Are Multi-functional
Eastern grey squirrels use their tails for a wide range of functions including as a rudder in water or when jumping from great heights, as a signal to other squirrels depending on its mood or to warn against predators and as a warm coat during the winter.
An interesting fact is that this squirrel deliberately increases its tail’s temperature when threatened by rattlesnakes. Pit vipers such as rattlesnakes have pits in their face that gives them a kind of infrared vision that they use to track prey. Experts believe that by increasing its tail temperature and wagging it furiously, the squirrel confuses the rattlesnake which assumes that the prey is a vicious animal other than a rodent. Squirrels appear to do this only with rattlesnakes and not any other kind of snake. The squirrels may even sometimes kick dirt at a snake just to see if it rattles.
They Aren’t Strictly Vegetarian
Eastern grey squirrels subsist largely on a vegetarian diet but this is not always the case. The rodents will typically feed on buds of trees such as maple in early spring but the diet can vary from season to season. The squirrels will feed on tree seeds in summers such as elm seeds and maple mixed with wild berries, fruits and nuts.
They eat hard nuts such as hickory nuts, acorns and walnuts during autumn. They will feed on meats during winter when the ground is frozen and they cannot access their cache of nuts. These include bird eggs, insects and carcasses of dead birds and animals.
Caching is Actually Complex
Caching is when the squirrels bury nuts for the winter. This process is far more complex than simply collecting nuts and burying them and shows how intelligent these rodents are.
For one, squirrels sometimes crack the nuts open before burying. This has the benefit of preventing the nut from germinating. A squirrel may also separate nuts based on type, size and nutritional value and hide each type in a separate location. Squirrels will also sometimes pretend to bury a nut but actually hide it in its mouth to bury in another location especially if it is being watched by other squirrels.
Recent studies show that squirrels find their hidden nuts more from memory than from smell as it was previously assumed. The Princeton University study showed that squirrels were more likely to un-earth nuts that they had buried even if nuts buried by other squirrels were in the same general area.
They Have a Long Lifespan
Squirrels have a long lifespan compared to other comparable species like chipmunks. Chipmunks live for three to eight years while the average squirrel can live up to 12 years in the wild under perfect conditions and up to 20 in captivity.
If you suspect that there are different types of squirrels in Toronto; you are right. The grey squirrel is by far the most populous so there is a good chance this is the one you have spotted. The black squirrel is the second most common variety.
Identification: The grey squirrel is obvious for its grey fur. A genetic mutation results in black fur so the black and grey squirrels are in fact the same species. Albino grey squirrels are far less common have all-white fur.
Diet: Grey squirrels are omnivorous and mainly feed on hickory nuts, acorns, grapes, berries, beechnuts, walnuts, maple bark, bird seed and fungi. They will also occasionally eat larvae, adult insects, bird eggs, frogs and toads especially if food is scarce.
Predators: The main predators of grey squirrels in Toronto include humans, outdoor pets such as cats and dogs, hawks, owls and raccoons. Squirrels are excellent swimmers and have a keen sense of sight, hearing and smell which they use to escape predators. Their agility also makes them difficult prey.
Behaviour: Grey squirrels descend from trees head first and with lightning speed. They can scale vertical walls with surprising agility and seem to defy gravity. Its teeth continue to grow throughout its lifetime which is why squirrels gnaw on just about anything. This filing down can take up to an hour a day. Grey squirrels are most active between early morning and early evening. They do spend more time indoors in winter but they do not hibernate.
Breeding: Grey squirrels mate twice a year and have a gestation period of about 60 days. Males impress females by jumping on trees, slapping tree barks with their paws and making loud noises. The female chooses the most dominant male to mate with although she can mate with multiple partners.
Dominating Red Squirrels: It appears that grey squirrels may be dominating red squirrels and scientists have a few suggestions why this may be the case. Red squirrels are very picky eaters which may limit their survival in urban environments where their favourite foods may not be readily available. Red squirrels are also smaller than their grey counterparts and may be easily dominated. Finally, grey squirrels carry a pox that the red is not immune to and die shortly after getting infected.
How to Remove Grey Squirrels From Your Home
Grey squirrels can be a nuisance especially if they are nesting in your house or under structures such as the deck or shed. These animals are noisy, their feces carry a host of diseases and they chew on just about anything causing great structural and fixture damage to the property.
Hire a squirrel removal company in Toronto to remove the wildlife safely and humanely. Trapping the animals is not a humane way to remove them. Traps expose the critters to the elements, exhaustion, dehydration and starvation and make them easy targets for pet harassment and prey.
Hire a professional to remove the animals. Baby squirrels need to be removed by hand and reunited with their mother before sealing off the home. A squirrel removal expert can guarantee that the animals are removed safely and your property sealed with galvanized steel mesh or metal flashing to keep the wildlife out for good.
Hire a Wildlife Removal Expert to Remove Squirrels from Your Property
Squirrels in and around your property can be a nuisance. Keep in mind that transporting squirrels for more than a kilometre without a permit is illegal and so is killing or harming them in any way.
An expert goes through a multi-step process to guarantee that the animals are removed safely and permanently. The work begins with an inspection to find and block all potential entry points into your home. Next, the technician installs a one-way door that allows the squirrels to leave but keeps them from entering the nest from the outside.
The technician repairs damage such as torn or soiled insulation cleans and disinfects to remove dangerous pathogens found in squirrel feces, urine and nests and seals the home permanently to prevent a future invasion.
Trapping or attempting to evict wildlife without proper training may block litters in their nest where they die without care from their mother. Hire a wildlife removal expert in Canada to remove the squirrels safely, responsibly and permanently.