Lezlie Sterling / Bee file

An Eastern fox squirrel on the UC Davis campus.

Garden dectective: Squirrels

Published: Saturday, Mar. 2, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6CALIFORNIA LIFE

I was once told of the invasion of an unwanted squirrel into my Carmichael orchard/forest. But I can't remember which – gray or red?

Which squirrel should I not dispatch? And why?

– Marion Gribskov, Carmichael

First, know the difference between tree squirrels and ground squirrels.

According to UC Master Gardeners Annie Kempees and Mary Griggs, four species of tree squirrels are active in California. All are classified as game mammals with the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife. None is listed as endangered in California.

Douglas squirrels and Western gray squirrels are native and not considered major pests. The Douglas squirrel is also known as "chickaree" or "pine squirrel."

The other two – the Eastern fox squirrel and Eastern gray squirrel – are introduced species.

The Eastern fox squirrel is also known as the "red squirrel," the "fox squirrel" and the "red fox squirrel." This redhead is the one considered a major pest in California.

The Eastern gray squirrel is a pest for only a limited range. Originally introduced into Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, they also are established in areas of Calaveras and San Joaquin counties in California and may be expanding their range.

Tree squirrels are classified as game animals, so in general, a permit is required to hunt, take or control them. However, if the Eastern fox squirrel is damaging a person's property or crops, they may control them any time and by any legal means.

But if the Eastern gray squirrel is the pest, a person must still obtain a permit from Fish and Wildlife.

For information on identifying which tree squirrels you are seeing in your yard, detailed information is in the "Tree Squirrel Pest Note" that is available online at www.ipm.ucdavis. edu. This pest note also includes extensive information on management of the squirrels using such methods as habitat modification, exclusion and trapping (when appropriate).

For a hard copy of this pest note, please send a self-addressed, stamped business-size envelope to: PN 74122, UC Cooperative Extension, 4145 Branch Center Road, Sacramento, CA 95827.

Ground squirrels are another matter.

Although ground squirrels look similar to tree squirrels and can climb trees, when frightened they will retreat to a burrow, whereas tree squirrels will climb a tree or tall structure and not use a burrow.

Tree squirrels are distinguished from ground squirrels by their long bushy tails and lack of flecklike spots or stripes. Ground squirrels can create havoc by digging lots of holes.

If ground squirrels are a problem in your yard, additional information on their control can be found in the "Ground Squirrel Pest Note" at www.ipm.ucdavis.edu. For a copy of this pest note, please send a self-addressed, stamped business-size envelope requesting PN 7438 at the above address.


Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties.

Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to h&g@sacbee.com. Please put "Garden Detective" in the subject field and include your postal address. To contact your UC Extension directly, call:

• Sacramento: ((916) 875-6913; 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. weekdays

• Amador: ((209) 223-6838; 10 a.m.-noon Monday through Thursday; email ceamador.ucdavis.edu

• Butte(: (530) 538-7201; 8 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. weekdays

• El Dorado: ((530) 621-5512; 9 a.m.-noon weekdays

• Placer:( (530) 889-7388; 9 a.m.-noon on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays or leave a message and calls will be returned

• Nevada:( (530) 273-0919; 9 a.m.-noon Tuesdays through Thursday or leave a message

• Shasta, Tehama, Trinity:( (530) 225-4605

• Solano:( (707) 784-1322; leave a message and calls will be returned

• Sutter, Yuba: ((530) 822-7515; 9 a.m.-noon Mondays and Tuesdays and 1-4 p.m. Thursdays

• Yolo: (530) 666-8737; 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, or leave a message and calls will be returned

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