Gray squirrels are declining

Can you tell me more about our ubiquitous, chattering gray squirrels? I read somewhere that their range is becoming more and more limited. Is that true? When my daughter, who had known only brown squirrels before, visited her grandparents in Ashland years ago, she remarked, "The squirrels here are gray. I thought they only made them in brown."

— Larry K., Ashland

Our question to you, Larry, is this: Where the heck does your daughter live where the squirrels only come in brown?

But we digress. As a squirrelly bunch, we at the SYA Nuthouse like to watch the arboreal acrobats whose barking is somewhat like a Chihauhau in an oak tree.

Sadly, Oregon's native western gray squirrel, known by its Latin name of Sciurus griseus, is declining. It is listed by the state as a sensitive species and as threatened in Washington state. Scientists speculate that the loss of oak woodlands and older trees may be contributing to their decline.

Weighing up to 2 pounds and stretching some 2 feet from nose to tail, the western gray squirrel is the largest tree squirrel in Oregon. The eastern gray squirrel, introduced in 1919 to Oregon's state capitol, is slightly smaller and its fur has a reddish tinge come summer. These non-native squirrels are more aggressive than our native squirrels.

Gray squirrels eat fungi, acorns and seeds from conifers, along with bark, berries and bugs. They flick their tails and stamp their feet when unwanted visitors venture into their territory.

Like us, they sleep at night and are active during the day. They usually inhabit large trees, often using cavities in dead or dying trees for their arboreal abodes.

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