Seeing more grey squirrels lately?

They're all over eastern Canada - but in the last ten years, more and more grey squirrels have made their way into the Okanagan. 

Ecology Professor Karl Larsen, at Thompson Rivers University, says the animals are considered one of the top 100 invasive species in the world.

"They have impacts on songbird communities, they have impacts on native squirrels, they are known to carry disease in some countries - which doesn't seem to be an issue here - but they just simply overwhelm certain environments, because unlike the little native red squirrel we here, they have a very different social system, so you can get much higher densities of these animals in your backyard," he says.  

Larsen says they eat viritually anything from birds and birds’ eggs to tree fruit, grapes and even garbage. They can also rip up flower beds to get at the bulbs, tear bark from trees, chew through electrical wires and damage eaves, roofs, attics and chimneys.

He says there needs to be a stronger response from government to invasive species "so when there's something first detected we hit it hard right away and we don't wait to ask questions. There's been a couple of good arguements put that we need to start looking at invasive species the way we look at natural disasters like wildfires, in that when it happens, you respond right away."  

Larsen says grey squirrels initially established themselves in the northern parts of Kelowna, and have now moved into the downtown and across the bridge into West Kelowna. He says there's also evidence of the animals in Kamloops, which is a first for that region.

Larsen says they're still trying to compile an accurate count of grey squirrels in the Okanagan, but they believe the population is growing.