Invasive Squirrels in Oregon: The Dangerous Cost of Squirrel Feeding

by | May 11, 2022 | Pest, Squirrel Control, Urban Wildlife

When it comes to squirrels in Oregon, we love to go nuts. Daydreaming while watching squirrels can be a welcomed distraction. Many folks even feed squirrels to get a better glimpse. But there’s a few reasons why we shouldn’t feed squirrels in Oregon. Let’s take a look —

Squirrels in Oregon

What Types of Squirrels are in Oregon?

Native squirrels in Oregon are Western gray squirrels, Douglas squirrels, red squirrels and Townsend’s chipmunk.

But native squirrels are extremely rare in Portland.

There are 2 species of invasive squirrels in Oregon; Eastern gray squirrels and fox squirrels.

Sadly, the squirrels we see bouncing around Portland and the towns & suburbs of Western Oregon are most commonly the invasive ones.

Eastern gray squirrel juvenile with a peanut in it's mouth

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) were introduced to Oregon over 100 years ago. 

It was precisely their playful behavior and “cute” appearance that caused someone to think it was a good idea to transplant Eastern gray squirrels to Oregon.

According to Living with Wildlife: Tree Squirrels by ODFW, Eastern gray squirrels were introduced to the capitol grounds in Salem in 1918.

It probably seemed like a harmless thing, even fun at the time.

The fun is over.

Since then, Eastern gray squirrels have spread throughout Western Oregon like a virus, where they outcompete native species, cause widespread damage to buildings and landscapes, and spread pathogens, weeds and disease.

close up of an Eastern fox squirrel

Eastern Fox Squirrel

Eastern fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) are another invasive squirrel in Oregon.

Originating from the Southeast US, they are more common in warmer, drier climates. In Portland, fox squirrels are found near parks and forest edges, where they commonly invade attics.

Although Eastern gray squirrels and fox squirrels appear to be cute & cuddly to some, they are a destructive pest to others.

How Much Does it Cost to Remove Squirrels From the Attic?

It depends on how many, but to remove squirrels from the attic it typically costs between $348 — $700, plus the cost of exclusion (sealing squirrel entry points).

Since squirrels can live in families of 6 or more, and multple families can sometimes occur, you should make sure your squirrel pest control professional is prepared with an abundance of traps & equipment.

Ask what their exclusion plan is, so once the squirrels are removed, another squirrel or rodent doesn’t move right back in.

Feeding Squirrels

Feeding invasive gray squirrels can cause their numbers to expand beyond what the natural habitat can support.

When this happens, new adult squirrels are forced to chew into attics for shelter, or stay and fight other squirrels for limited nesting habitat.

So although you may be hooking squirrels up with a free meal ticket, it contributes to overpopulation and will probably end up making squirrels’ lives —and your neighbors— harder in the long run.

Feeding Wildlife

In fact, feeding wildlife of any kind can be risky for the environment.

Bird feeders can spread salmonella and other diseases and attract rats.

Pet food dishes & peanuts left for stray cats & squirrels only supports more aggressive, opportunistic animals, which disadvantages smaller, timid native mammals and threatens biodiversity.

In fact, we may be even be changing the course of evolution; selecting for more aggressive, less fearful wildlife in our cities.

Squirrel Removal Portland.   

Western Gray Squirrel Conservation

Understandably, it may seem abstract that backyard bird feeders can be affecting biodiversity. 

But since so much habitat has been destroyed to make room for OUR homes, it is critical we return as much space back as possible.

This means using integrated pest management to control invasive species, and habitat restoration to encourage native ones.

Western gray squirrels are associated with the endangered oak savannah habitat. It’s estimated only 1-3% of this habitat remains.

According to Washington’s Western Gray Squirrel Recovery Plan, there is a very immediate threat to their existence:

“…The [Western Gray Squirrel] species now occurs as separate populations in the Puget Trough, Klickitat, and Okanogan regions that are estimated to total between 468 and 1,405 individuals. These three populations are genetically isolated from one another, and have been isolated from those in Oregon and California for at least 12,000 years. None of the three current populations seem to be large enough to avoid a decline in genetic diversity and at least two may suffer from the negative effects of inbreeding…”

Gray Squirrel Invasive Species

Takeaway points to consider:

  • Invasive gray squirrels are a problem worldwide; replacing native squirrels in Britian, South Africa, Ireland and Italy.
  • Besides outcometing native species, they damage homes and wiring, destroy seedlings in gardens, can damage trees with scent marking & bark stripping, and can spread pathogens, weeds, and disease.
  • Invasive gray squirrel species should never intentionally be fed or relocated.
  • Native Western gray squirrels are becoming increasingly rare and require a comprehensive strategy to recover.

Trapping Gray Squirrels

If you’re one of the unlucky ones wondering how to get a squirrel out of your attic, it’s always best to consult a wildlife control professional

We will assess the situation to determine if you’re dealing with native or non-native species, and come up with the most humane squirrel removal strategy.

Contact us today.

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