Three groups of tree squirrels in our area; Large tree squirrels (fox and eastern gray squirrels), pine squirrels (red colour) and flying squirrels.
Eastern Gray squirrel typically are gray but can vary from reddish gray, white gray to totally black. Fox squirrels are larger than the Eastern Gray squirrel and can vary in color from deep orange-rust to reddish with yellow undersides. Fox squirrel size is 18 to 27 inches, weight 1 1/3 lbs to 2 ¼ lbs and the Eastern Gray squirrel size is 16 to 20 inches, weighing 1 ¼ lbs to 1 ¾ lbs.
The Pine or Red squirrels are red-brown with white underparts and often have a dark stripe separating the upper red-brown from the white underparts. Size between 10 to 15 inches with weight of 1/3 lbs to 2/3 lbs.
Both species of flying squirrels in our area are gray and tough to distinguish. The northern flying squirrel is more reddish-brown and the southern flying squirrel is more of a gray color. These flying squirrels are gliders, not actually flying, with broad webs of skin connecting the hind and fore legs at the wrists. They have a flattened tail and large black eyes. Northern flying squirrel size is 10 to 12 inches, weighing 2.6 ounces - 4.4 ounces while the Southern flying squirrel size is 8 to 10 inches and weighs 1 ½ ounces - 2 ½ ounces.
Are they dangerous?
No immediate danger is posed to persons coming across a squirrel although if trying to corner or handle these little guys it will result in a nasty bite requiring medical attention. The biggest danger they do pose is the diseases, parasites, ticks, mange and fleas that this unwanted squatter is leaving in your roof, siding etc. The droppings of flying squirrels have been associated with Murine Typhus (a bacteria spread to people through contact with infected fleas).
Why are they in my home?
You have a cozy house with snacks nearby. It may cold outside and no one is keeping these guys out by closing their access holes and reducing access points. Squirrels can have litters of 5 to 7 young and nesting in insulation is a great plus for a mother squirrel who would average 4 litters in her lifetime.
What damage can they cause?
Squirrels have caused houses to catch fire after they have chewed on electrical lines and their gnawing can weaken rafters. Their urine and feces make horrible stains and the stench will bug any home owner. Orchard owners will find them a nuisance with crops, land owners have their lawns ruined and general home owners get annoyed with their bird feeders getting robbed.
How do you get rid of them?
Trim tree limbs 6 to 8 feet away from home or structure to prevent squirrels from jumping onto roofs and trim back ivy or other climbing material. Look around for entry points and block up the holes. It can be tricky to find these holes as the Fox and Eastern Gray squirrel will make a hole the size of a baseball, Red squirrels the size of a golf ball and Flying squirrels the size of a quarter.
Exclude these guys as soon as the holes are found so they never get back in the same way they came. Make the habitat as difficult as possible for them to enjoy "coming home and snacking". So, also remove or reduce all food sources like bird feeders that spill excess seed or can be accessed by them.