Invasive species experts are sounding the alarm after a grey squirrel was caught in Revelstoke.
John Meade spotted and trapped the squirrel at his home on Track Street, and then then brought it into the Review office. We contacted the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS), who brought the animal to the attention of the provincial experts.
“They’re a little omnivore, so they eat just about anything,” said Karl Larsen, a professor of wildlife ecology & management at Thompson Rivers University. “They can have an impact on plant communities for sure, but they can also impact bird communities because they eat nestlings and eggs.”
The eastern grey squirrel, as it is known, is either grey or black in colour, and about eight inches long from the tip of the nose to the start of the tail. They are about twice the size of the native red squirrel.
According to the Invasive Species Council of BC website it is regarded as one of the top 100 invasive species in the world. They can displace red squirrels by out-competing them for food, and can have an impact on birds and small mammals like mice and voles. They can also affect property, by getting into homes, digging up gardens, and damaging fruit and nut trees.
The grey squirrel is native to central and eastern North America and came to B.C. in the early 20th century when they were introduced to Vancouver’s Stanley Park. They eventually spread to Vancouver Island and, most recently, the Okanagan and Kamloops.
Larsen said they are likely spread by people either moving them intentionally, or by them hitching a ride on a vehicle.
“The last time we had a grey squirrel on our university campus here it coincided with a large athletic meet, where there were trailers and buses around,” he said.
He said the squirrels aren’t viewed as a threat because they’re cute and fuzzy, but they are an issue.
“You have to get on them early,” he said. “If you have two or three, they can found a successful population.”
Robyn Hooper, a program manager with CSISS, said they are interested in hearing about any more sightings in Revelstoke.
“At this time we have to figure out what the problem is,” she said.
She noted it is illegal to trap the squirrels.
Sightings can be reported by calling 1-855-785-9333 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.