With prime food-gathering season just around the corner for squirrels, Oak Bay residents may be hoping to enjoy a fall where these furry critters and their human caretakers do not drive them nuts.
Feeding squirrels and keeping them as pets are both considered illegal acts in B.C. and allowing squirrels to rely primarily on acorns for food allows them to help the planting and growth of trees.
According to the Victoria Animal Control Services website, however, it is only considered unlawful to feed deer, raccoons and feral rabbits in Oak Bay. Senior animal control officer Ian Fraser suggested to Black Press Media that this exception for squirrels may have to do with the fact that eastern grey squirrels, a non-native species from Eastern Canada, only arrived on Vancouver Island in 1966 and may have been exempt from initial bylaws for feeding wildlife.
But as Oak Bay parks manager Chris Hyde-Lay said, “I think a lot of people kind of know that the eastern grey squirrel is a menace.”
Hyde-Lay cited the species’ invasive tendencies, which can include competing with native squirrels, eating bird eggs, damaging wiring and removing bark from trees.
“From a parks’ perspective, we’re more concerned about their damage to the Garry oak ecosystem,” he said, noting that Garry oaks do not naturally regenerate.
Hyde-Lay reasoned that raccoons can be more problematic than squirrels for residents and added that there has been no recent backlash in the district toward the popular sentiment of not feeding squirrels.
On its website, the district lists various techniques for keeping wildlife away from homes, including not leaving out food, picking up fallen tree fruit, securing garbage and compost bins with bungee cords, removing old wood piles and cutting overgrown trees and bushes.
Approaches specific to eastern grey squirrels that are recommended by the BC SPCA include using only squirrel-proof bird feeders, playing a radio, installing outdoor lights and putting rags soaked in apple cider vinegar near nesting areas. Maintaining and securing roofs, chimneys and vents can prevent squirrels from getting inside homes and adding one-way doors can help residents get them out.
While neighbourhood squirrels can be a tough nut to crack, these suggested practices for dealing with these bushy-tailed rodents, in a nutshell, may just be the solutions that Oak Bay residents need for this fall.
For more information on squirrels in B.C., visit spca.bc.ca.
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