Three types of squirrels can be found in the rural, suburban and urban areas of southern California. If you are having trouble with squirrels on your property it is important to determine what type of squirrel it is. Successful management of squirrels can vary depending on the species.
Please do not use anticoagulant poisons to control squirrels . Research has found that anticoagulant poisons kill more than the rodent that is a nuisance in your yard or house. Anticoagulant poisons have been detected in several non-target animal species; bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions, fox, hawks and owls throughout Ventura County and Los Angeles County. Anticoagulant poisons can also have unexpected consequences when your pets and even children are exposed to it.
California Ground Squirrel is a native squirrel found in rural, suburban and urban landscapes. They are known to eat fruits, seeds and vegetables from gardens and create many holes and mounds while burrowing.
- Often seen on ground foraging for food near their burrow entrance (hole in ground)
- Fur is brownish gray and speckled with white along the back
- Ground squirrels can climb trees, fences and posts but usually stay close to burrows
Eastern Fox Squirrel is an introduced squirrel from the eastern part of the United States that has become well established in urban, suburban and rural landscapes throughout California. They eat fruits from backyard trees, walk along power lines and fences and will nest in attics if they can find access.
- Fur is red and has a bushy tail (also known as the red fox squirrel)
- Often seen in trees but will spend some time on the ground
Western Gray Tree Squirrel is a native squirrel found throughout much of California. They eat seeds, fungi and other plant material. It’s Important to know that you will need a permit from California Department of Fish and Wildlife to trap grey tree squirrels that cause damage to your property and it is not legal to use poison baits to kill these squirrels.
- Fur is gray and has a bushy tail
- Often seen in trees
Mohave Ground Squirrel is a native squirrel not generally found in the Santa Monica Mountain Region but you could encounter if you live in or near high desert areas such as Palmdale or San Bernardino. This is a protected squirrel and you cannot trap without permits from California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Preventing squirrel problems without using poisons
- Remove food resources – trash, fruit, pet food, bird seed, etc.
- Remove cover – brush, debris and thick vegetation
- Trim tree branches that overhang rooftops, power lines and fences limiting paths available for squirrels seal up holes into house or other structures. However, make sure animals are out before sealing up!
- Seal up holes in your house or other structures. However, make sure animals are out before sealing up!
- Exclude from fruit trees – make tree collar out of metal sheeting two feet wide and secure collar around tree truck about 6 feet off the ground
- Distribute fox pee or other predator urines – might work
- Ultrasonic repellents – might work
- Native predators – allow predators to help keep rodent populations down
- Dogs (terriers love to chase squirrels!)
Removing nuisance squirrels
- Easiest method is to hire a company that will use traps to remove animals
- If you remove animals yourself, live-catch traps are not recommended because they present the problem of how to dispose of the live animals. Squirrels carry diseases and are agricultural pests, and the California Fish and Game Code specifies that it is illegal to release them elsewhere without a written permit.
- Confirm the squirrels you are trapping are fox squirrels and California ground squirrels, because it is illegal to trap or kill the western grey tree squirrel s (fairly common throughout most of California) and the Mohave ground squirrels (more common in desert regions, Palmdale and San Bernardino County), without a permit.
- There are two types of traps that can kill ground squirrels, including box traps and tunnel traps.
- Be sure not to kill non-target animals – cover traps with boxes or wire and put right next active burrows
- Inspect traps at least twice a day and remove dead squirrels.
- Do not handle the carcasses without protective gear. Use gloves and plastic bags.
Integrated Pest Management Program
University of California