Saturday, April 24, 2010

From the Squirrel Files: Fox Squirrels

Hi. How are ya?

I enjoy watching the squirrels in our yard. They chase each other up and down trees, jump from limb to limb and have a quirky manner about them that's just funny.

But, did you know these industrious little rodents are not native to California? From my Internet research, it looks like our squirrels are Fox Squirrels and were introduced here from the east.

Actually, studies trace the Fox Squirrel's migration to southern California to 1904. Civil War veterans living at the Sawtelle VA facility in West Los Angeles brought Fox Squirrels from their homes in the Mississippi Valley. I don't know whether the veterans considered the squirrels pets or snacks. But, somehow the rodents got loose and the rest is history.

Fox Squirrels liked it in southern California -- nice weather, year 'round food, lots of neighborhood trees, no natural enemies. Kind of squirrel heaven.

So they expanded outward from Sawtelle -- north, south, east and west -- travelling tree to tree, over utility lines and along open space corridors. Squirrel experts have studied and mapped expansion of the Fox Squirrel from their introduction at Sawtelle. According to the study, Fox Squirrels arrived in Pasadena in the 1970's.

These squirrels seem to much a natural part of the environment in Pasadena, it is strange to think they're really an introduced species and that there was a time, not so far away, when they didn't live here at all.


Cafe Observer said...

Are they carnivores? Do they like lizards?

Michael Coppess said...

From what I read, I think they mostly eat stuff grown on trees -- acorns, pine cones, fruit, ect. But, they're not above stealing an egg or two. Don't think lizards are on their menu.

Petrea said...

Constant entertainment. I love that top photo.

altadenahiker said...

Oh good, I get to use my only squirrel factlet. These guys are displacing our native red squirrels.

Top picture is wonderful.

Michael Coppess said...

Petrea: Yes. Between squirrels and chickens, we have some cheap entertainment around here.

Hiker: Thanks for the squirrel fact. I didn't know this, but a lot of the animals we see are not natives -- the fox squirrels, opossums, Norwegian rats, bears.

Cafe Observer said...

BTW, MC, there will be a blogger get together on May 8th. FYI.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I remember a few years back one of the local university students was doing a study on squirrels. What I remember differently was that she was tracing the displacement of our native gray squirrels and like the parrot project, was looking for sightings. I think she was doing her research from the cemetery on Duarte road near Wall Mart/City of Hope.

Never heard of the Civil War connection. How interesting! My assumption was that the squirrels, hawks (and to some extent the condors) came back because of the outlawing of DDT. Condors lay an egg only once a year and DDT made the shells to thin to sustain life.

anyhow, you might find this animal related post from my hood interesting