Tree Squirrels

Photo by CJ Baldwin

There are three species of tree squirrels found in this area:  Western gray, eastern gray and eastern fox squirrel.  Of these, only the western gray squirrel is native to California and is usually found in more mountainous regions.  Eastern fox and eastern gray squirrels are commonly found in your backyard and suburban parks.  Eastern gray squirrels are either a grayish tan with white on their tails and stomachs or solid black.  Eastern fox squirrels are usually reddish in color with a red and black tipped tail.  A full grown fox squirrel is larger in size, weighing about three pounds, while a gray squirrel only weighs one and a half pounds.  A tree squirrel’s diet consists of nuts, seeds, fruits, insects, greens, fungi and grains. Also, squirrels are not known to carry the rabies virus.

Tree squirrels will typically have two litters of three to six young each year.  The first batch arrives around March and the second sometime in July.  The babies are fully weaned at about three months and don’t leave their mother until they are almost full grown.

A mother squirrel will build her nest out of leaves and sticks and will sometimes strip the bark from trees.  What may look like a pile of dead leaves to you is actually a home for a mother squirrel and her babies.  Local squirrels have found that palm trees and their large fronds make good nesting sites but oak trees are the best.  Squirrels make good mothers and are very good caretakers of their young.  She will retrieve babies that have fallen out of the nest and will move her infants to an alternate site if she feels that they are in danger.  If you happen to find a young squirrel, put it at the base of the tree where the nest resides, keep an eye out for cats, and most likely the mother will pick it up.  If she does not, place it carefully in a ventilated shoebox with a soft t-shirt and bring it to the Wildlife Center.

Preventing a Problem

In the attic or roof:

  • Squirrels prefer natural habitat for nest building.  However, on occasion, they will utilize man-made structures to raise their young.  To eliminate this possibility, close off any entrances to the foundation of your house or attic.  However, do not do this if there might be babies, as they will be trapped.  Cut tree limbs that provide access to your roof.  Install a spark arrester on your chimney or cap it with heavy wire mesh.  Again, be sure there are no babies in the chimney.

In the yard:

  • Axle grease or sheet metal can be used on or around tree trunks to prevent climbing.
  • Sprinkling perfumed soap chips or spraying the area with hot pepper spray (recipe attached) should deter them from digging.
  • You can also purchase a plastic hawk or owl from a hardware store to scare them away.  Place the look-a-like in a tree and make sure to move it at least once a week or the squirrels will catch on.
  • Visit your local bird feeder store for squirrel deterrent baffles, poles and feeders.
  • Mylar ribbon or Irri-Tape can be tied into trees to scare away squirrels that might be interested in fruit trees.
  • Motion detector sprinklers can also be purchased to deter squirrels and other wildlife from your yard/garden.

I found a baby squirrel.

  • The baby is not injured:
    Do not handle or feed. Leave on the ground where you found it for 2-4 hours. Mothers often return to young that have fallen from the nest, to carry to the same, or an alternate nest. Please call WCSV at (408)929-9453 if you have specific questions.
  • The baby is injured:
    Do not feed and avoid over-handling. Gently put the injured squirrel into a small box with ventilation holes and close the lid. Bring to WCSV during operating hours

I found an injured squirrel.
USE CAUTION. Wear thick leather gloves and place a box with ventilation holes on top of the squirrel. Get help from another person if possible.

  • Option 1: Use the box top to gently scoop the injured squirrel into the box, and quickly secure the box with the lid.
  • Option 2: Gently shimmy a piece of cardboard underneath the box and underneath the injured squirrel until the piece of cardboard is completely under the box. Secure this in place before lifting up the box. If need be (and with a firm hold on both the box and piece of cardboard), slowly and gently rotate the box until the piece of cardboard becomes the top. Secure in place.
  • Bring the injured squirrel to WCSV during operating hours.