Red Squirrels

About Squirrels

Red Squirrel on a tree\
  • Red squirrels prefer to live in mature trees that produce pine or spruce cones for them to feed on. Food that is stashed in the fall is later dug up for winter and spring time meals.
  • Red squirrels are predominantly active in the daytime and do not hibernate in the winter.
  • Red squirrels have many predators and are vulnerable to a variety of diseases. Because of this, around 50 per cent of the population dies each year. They rarely live past four years old.
  • Red squirrels primarily live in trees and nest in high tree-cavities, but they will also dig burrows (known as middens) in the ground.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can red squirrels be a nuisance to people?

  • Red squirrels can take up residence in your home or other buildings and cause substantial damage, such as destruction of insulation and chewing of electrical wires.
  • Red squirrels can damage landscaping in your backyard, including fruit trees, flowering bulbs and bird feeders.
  • Parasites such as ticks, fleas and mange mites are common on red squirrels, but there is little risk of transmitting these parasites to humans or pets. However, if you need to handle a dead red squirrel, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards.

What can I do about the red squirrels on my property?

  • Red squirrels may be hunted or trapped, without a licence and during all seasons, by a resident on privately owned land to which the resident has the right of access. Be sure to consult with your municipality about any firearm restrictions.
  • Red squirrel may also be trapped during the open season by the holder of a licence authorizing the trapping of fur-bearing animals.
  • Private pest control companies can be called to remove the problem red squirrel from your property.
  • Fish and Wildlife offices may have live-catch traps to loan in assisting with the capture of problem red squirrels. Traps can also be purchased through trapping equipment supply stores and may be available from your municipality.

How can I prevent red squirrel damage?

  • To prevent red squirrels from taking up residence in your attic:
    • Cover all openings and vents in the roof with ½ inch, 26-gauge hardware cloth.
    • Take a close look along soffits, behind eavestroughs, along window frames and around utility-pipe openings. Make sure everything is in good repair, holes are filled or covered and rotten or broken pieces are replaced. Red squirrels will use their sharp teeth to enlarge existing holes in the structure of your house to get inside.
  • If the red squirrel has found its way into your house:
    • Locate the hole it’s using as an entry way.
    • If you suspect it’s using multiple entries, use hardware cloth to cover all holes except one.
    • Be certain the squirrel has vacated your house before covering the final hole. Red squirrels trapped in attics can cause substantial damage in their efforts to escape.
  • If you suspect the red squirrel is using a telephone or cable wire as a bridge from a tree to your house:
    • Purchase a 24-inch piece of PVC pipe.
    • Cut the pipe lengthwise down the middle and wrap it around the line. Red squirrels will be discouraged from using the line because they are not able to get secure footing on the pipe.
  • Cutting back trees so they do not grow within six feet of the house is also an option. This will prevent the squirrels from jumping from the tree on to your house.
  • Ornamental trees and shrubs can be protected from red squirrel damage by wrapping them with metal sheeting or collars. Be sure to wrap all your trees with such sheeting, especially if they are close enough together for a squirrel to jump from one tree to the next.

Contact

Your municipality and/or municipal district is authorized to help with red squirrel concerns. Local pest control companies may also be able to provide advice or service.

If you wish to contact a Fish and Wildlife office near you, see:

Related Information

For more information on the species in Alberta:

To download in-depth information about squirrel control from The Handbook: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage, published by the University of Nebraska, see:

 

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Updated: Feb 6, 2018