Selection of Agricultural Foods by Eastern Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis): Implications for a New Introduction in British Columbia
Keywords:Eastern Grey Squirrel, Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis, diet, food trial, invasive species, agriculture
The recent introduction of the Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) into south-central British Columbia occurred within an important agricultural zone. As repercussions for the fruit-growing sector are currently unknown, we conducted trials with captive squirrels to understand the range of fruits consumed and their references. The squirrels consumed a portion of every food item offered, although the order in which the foods were used was inconsistent (with sharp contrasts between animals). Of the fruit types offered, apples appeared to be of greatest overall interest. However, seeds and nuts tended to be used first when presented in combination with fruit, suggesting opportunities to use these food types to deflect or remove Eastern Grey Squirrels from orchard crops. We caution that our results may not reflect the food items that free-ranging Eastern Grey Squirrels will target or disregard once densities in the introduced population become higher and the availability of food on a local scale begins to exert an effect.
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