LC State Campus

News Release

Prof wants to know about encounters with fox squirrels

You are standing under your favorite walnut tree peering up at the little bandit who keeps absconding with your walnut stash. He sits just out of reach, chittering away as he scolds you for getting too close. Some people want him dead while others enable him by giving him free handouts. You, however, are on the fence when it comes to these smart, adaptable individuals. As you stand there you think about the best way to deal with these furry little creatures.
Thus goes your ongoing saga with the cute but pesky fox squirrel (Sciurus niger). The truth of the story, however, is that these squirrels aren’t even supposed to be here; their native home being the eastern portion of the United States. So how did they get here? These squirrels have been introduced into numerous urban centers throughout the western United States, such as Portland, Seattle, Sacramento, and Los Angeles to name a few. Since then these squirrels have been seen in other smaller communities either due to introduction or simply moving in on their own. However, little information is known as to how these squirrels got to where they are today.
Native to the eastern and midwestern United States, the fox squirrel was introduced in the early part of the 20th century into many western cities where it is limited to urban/suburban settings. The reasons for the introduction are varied, but the main reason was for aesthetic value. Like many introduced species, the fox squirrel can be a pest and have significant effects on the native wildlife. For example, in many of its introduced areas the fox squirrel competes with the native western gray squirrel. However, little is known about the origins of these introduced squirrels and their impacts on native species. What is known is that fox squirrels were introduced to Asotin County in 1915 and again in 1958. To better understand the current distribution of the fox squirrel, Dr. Matthew Brady, a professor of biology at Lewis-Clark State College has designed an online survey, and is asking individuals to participate in the survey to gather information detailing how and when fox squirrels first appeared in Southeastern Washington (Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, Whitman, and Walla Walla counties) and the southern panhandle of Idaho (Nez Perce, Lewis, Clearwater, Latah, and Idaho counties).
For more information contact Matthew Brady at 208.792.2828 or [email protected]