Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Curious Squirrel at the Park

Sciurus niger
Del Rey Lagoon Park
Playa Del Rey, California
February 19th, 2011

After a successful day of counting birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count, we were sitting in the park when this curious fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) came toward us. It was very tame and I suspect was used to getting snacks from passersby. I was able to get in quite close to the squirrel and take several photos of  before it scurried up a nearby tree.

The fox squirrel (S. niger) is actually not native to Southern California. Historically the squirrel's range was the Eastern United States, where it inhabited the interface of the deciduous forests and the prairies. Today it can be found as a common inhabitant of urban and suburban areas throughout the Eastern United States and has been introduced to California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. 

According to Julie L. King (2004), the fox squirrel was introduced to Los Angeles around 1904. The story goes that residents of the Sawtelle Veterans' Home brought several of these squirrels from the Mississippi Valley to their Veterans' Home. These squirrels subsequently escaped captivity or were purposely set free. Over the last 100 years, their population grown and their range has expanded east to San Dimas, north into the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valley, west toward Oxnard, and South as far as Newport Beach. Scientists are concerned that this expansion may be displacing the native western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus). 

below is a bonus image of this curious little squirrel.