Eastern Squirrels Released into BC Suburbs
Since 1970, eastern grey squirrels have expanded their turf in British Columbia from a few hectares in Stanley Park to throughout the Lower Mainland, including Langley and Maple Ridge. Similarly, from a few individuals let loose on Vancouver Island in Metchosin around 1970, eastern grey squirrels colonized the Saanich Peninsula and everywhere in between within 30 years.
The Stanley Park animals originated from New York in 1909 while the Metchosin group first arrived in 1966 from southwestern Ontario. People have further transported the non-native squirrels within BC across natural barriers and into discontinuous areas. The bushy-tailed squirrels arrived, for instance, in West Vancouver during the 1970s and on Bowen Island in the late 1980s.
The rodents strongly favour settling in residential neighbourhoods where they feed on deciduous trees, gardens, bird feeders and garbage. The squirrels tend to avoid agricultural lands and undeveloped, cleared areas. They also seldom thrive in the pure coniferous forests occupied by BC’s native red, Douglas and northern flying squirrels. Eastern grey squirrels are expected to continue spreading in BC, particularly to residential areas.
Emily K. Gonzales. 2005. The Distribution and Habitat Selection of Introduced Eastern Grey Squirrels, Sciurus carolinensis, in British Columbia. The Canadian Field-Naturalist. 119(3): 343-350