Both gray and red squirrels are common and abundant in Massachusetts. Gray squirrels are found everywhere, including Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. However, red squirrels are absent from both islands. Red squirrels are sometimes called “pine squirrels” or “chickarees”. The gray squirrel is also known as the “eastern gray squirrel”. Both are members of the squirrel family (Sciuridae), along with flying squirrels, chipmunks, and woodchucks.
Gray squirrels have diverse diets and feed on those items which are seasonally available. However, nut crops, such as oak acorns, hickory nuts, beechnuts, and walnuts, may comprise ¾ of their annual diet. Berries, fruits, seeds, buds, and flowers, as well as cultivated grains, are also eaten. Red squirrels are opportunistic, eating fungi, buds, and the inner bark of trees. They also occasionally eat nuts and seeds, fruits and grains, and insect larvae and bird nestlings.
Yearling gray squirrels usually only one litter per year, while adults may breed twice annually, depending on food availability. Winter breeding occurs in January-February, and summer breeding from May to July. The 2-3 feeble young are born after a 44-45 day gestation period and are weaned at 8-10 weeks. Red squirrels typically have a single litter with 1-7 young born during March-May after a 31-35 day gestation period.
Gray squirrels are active at dawn and dusk in spring, summer, and autumn, but are active only in midday in winter. These squirrels may be especially active in fall, when nuts are available and squirrels cache food items. Young squirrels disperse from spring through fall, usually traveling no more than two miles from their birthplace. Gray squirrels are not territorial, but may defend the immediate area around a nest site. Red squirrels are active during the daytime, but may rest up during intense midday heat. In severe winter weather, they may remain inactive in their nests. Juveniles establish home ranges on or adjacent to that of their mother. They are territorial and defend their areas against other red squirrels.
Gray squirrels are responsible for more problems than are red squirrels, especially in urban or suburban areas. Squirrel damage to home vegetable or flower gardens, or to orchards, is often difficult to control. When populations are high, and food sources are abundant, new squirrels will quickly replace any that are removed. To avoid or reduce damage and make your property less attractive to squirrels, consider these options:
- Plantings: Electrified netting or other small electric fences may be useful in keeping squirrels out of gardens and small orchards. A small dome or cage of chicken wire placed over individual plants or small rows can protect individual plants until they are large enough to be ignored by the squirrels.
- Buildings: Gray squirrels will enter attics, crawl spaces, or sheds for nesting or shelter. In doing so, they may damage the structure, pull apart insulation, or chew electrical wires. Inspect your property regularly to be sure that squirrels have not entered, or attempted entry. Close openings with heavy-gauge ½-inch wire mesh or other appropriate carpentry repairs. Trim branches and trees within 6-8 feet of the building, to prevent squirrels from jumping on your roof. Prevent squirrels from walking on wires by installing 2-foot sections of 2-3 inch plastic pipe over the wire. The piping will rotate on the wire, causing the squirrels to fall off. Do not place pipes on utility wires without permission from the utility company.
If you have a problem with squirrels in your home contact A1 Exterminators today to help control the situation. https://www.a1exterminators.com/