This Eastern grey squirrel was spotted Sunday in Qualicum Beach. The animal is considered an invasive species on Vancouver Island

This Eastern grey squirrel was spotted Sunday in Qualicum Beach. The animal is considered an invasive species on Vancouver Island

Grey squirrels invading Island habitats

Eastern grey is an exotic species in B.C. and should be reported

This squirrel is a bit of a bad nut.

As the eastern grey squirrel continues to expand its territory up Island, wildlife photographer Mike Yip took a picture of the critter last week at Qualicum Beach. He’s seen the squirrel in the area several times over the years, but points out that it’s invasive and a detriment to native species such as the red squirrel and other small mammals and birds.

Gail Wallin, executive director of the Invasive Species Council of B.C., said the eastern grey squirrel is particularly well-established on Vancouver Island around Duncan and south.

“This is actually a fairly aggressive squirrel. Its population can grow and it will displace the native squirrel population, so it’s a concern in a lot of areas,” she said.

The eastern grey is larger than the red squirrel and so it can out-compete for food and habitat.

“The grey squirrel is a bigger critter, highly productive and a voracious eater, so you take those characteristics together and the little red squirrel doesn’t have the same ability to compete,” Wallin said.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment classifies the eastern grey squirrel as an exotic species and a ‘Schedule C’ animal that may be captured or killed without a hunting licence at any time, anywhere in B.C.

The eastern grey squirrel is twice the size of the red squirrel, has a bushier tail and ranges from grey to black in colour.

Wallin said it’s worthwhile to report sightings at www.reportinvasives.ca.

“Keep your eyes out for things that are different in your area is so vital,” she said. “We can all be spotters and reporters in our local neighbourhood because we know our neighbourhood best.”

NEWS Staff