If you have seen one of these creatures, an eastern grey
Petruk - Kamloops This Week
They might look cute and harmless, but don’t be fooled — an invasive
squirrel species new to the
The eastern grey squirrel has recently found its way to the Tournament
Capital and that has a
“We’re dealing with an invasive species that is notorious around the globe for its ability to establish itself in different places and different ecosystems,” Karl Larsen told KTW.
“The big concerns potentially, if we look at what they’ve done elsewhere, they’ve displaced local wildlife, they’ve spread disease, they’ve damaged crops and they will eat other wildlife.”
Eastern grey squirrels are distinctive in a few ways, Larsen said.
For starters, they’re big — about twice the size of the native red squirrels
The other giveaway — as the name would indicate — is their colouring.
“Eastern grey squirrels can be either grey or black,” Larsen said.
“I always explain it to people that it’s like black bears — they can be either black or brown.”
Red squirrels are also much more territorial than their eastern grey counterparts, meaning the invasive species is more likely to be seen congregating in large groups, while red squirrels generally go about their business on their own.
That trait, Larsen said, also poses problems because it could mean much denser squirrel populations in a given urban environment, leading to any number of ecological impacts.
Larsen said it’s still unclear how the unwanted newcomers showed up in
Native to the eastern part of North America, the squirrels are believed to
have arrived in B.C. initially as a gift given by the City of
They first established themselves in
From there, Larsen said, it would have been easy for a group of the squirrels to hitch a ride aboard a truck or trailer to the Interior.
In addition to
Larsen said he believes the squirrels’ numbers in
And, if it does, it could be big trouble for other local wildlife.
“They’ll predate on songbirds and songbirds eat insects,” Larsen said.
“There are all kinds of problems that could come from that and get more elaborate.”
The invasive rodents are also known to eat fruit — something that poses a
larger risk for farmers in the Okanagan, but could still create problems in and
According to Larsen, an example of what could happen if the squirrels are
left to run free is playing out right now in
“They let it go for too long and the population became too large — and now they can’t eradicate them.”
Larsen is asking local residents to keep an eye out for eastern grey squirrels and to notify researchers of any sightings.
“Eventually, we’ll get an idea of how many there are and where they are,” he said.
“Then, a decision will have to be made higher up [by government officials] about what to do.”
Anyone who spots an eastern grey squirrel in or around
For more information about the species and efforts to monitor their activity, log on to introsquirrel.ca.