Washington state is home to eight species of tree and ground squirrels. They consist of both native and invasive species that can be found in a variety of habitats, from coniferous forests to open fields. Let’s take a closer look at the squirrels found throughout the state.
Squirrels Found Throughout Washington State
The Evergreen State comprises 42.6 million acres of forested land. Pines, firs, spruce, and Aspens, can all be found growing throughout the region.
Making it home to some of the most breathtaking forests in North America.
Listed below are the different species of squirrels and where they live throughout the Pacific Northwest.
#1 Eastern Gray Squirrel
The Eastern Gray squirrel is one of the most commonly seen squirrels in Washington State. It is a non-native squirrel introduced to the Pacific Northwest by man in the early 1900s.
Today, it is the most common squirrel in urban and rural areas, living in forests, parks, yards, and other human-built environments. It has adapted well to human habitation.
Many homeowners consider it a nuisance due to its habit of eating from bird feeders, digging up flower beds and gardens, making nests in attics, etc.
They have gray fur and a white belly and are about 9.1 – 21.6 inches long.
Gray squirrels store their food in caches which helps them survive harsh winters.
#2 Red Squirrel
The Red squirrel is a native species of the state. It is smaller than the Eastern Gray Squirrel and about the same size as the Douglas squirrel.
It has a grayish, red or rust-colored body with a white belly.
In the summer, you can see a black stripe running along its side, between its belly and back.
It is typically seen around the edge of forests and in gardens, yards, and parks.
It feeds mainly on nuts, seeds, fruits, and insects. Like other squirrels, they also store food in caches for winter survival. American Red Squirrels average about 12 inches tall and have a fluffy tale that helps them balance when jumping from tree
These squirrels live in coniferous forests and semi-open woods in the Northeastern parts of Washington.
#3 Douglas Squirrel
The Douglas squirrel is native to the Pacific Northwest. It is a small tree squirrel often referred to as a pine squirrel or chickaree. Its body consists of a brownish-gray back, a white to tawny eye ring, and a tawny orange belly.
In the summer, a clearly defined black line runs from its abdomen and back. During the winter, its coat grows small dark ear tufts.
A full-grown Douglas squirrel grows about 14 inches or 37 centimeters long.
The Douglas Squirrel is found in the Cascade Mountains, Western Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, Northwestern California, and Sierra Nevada.
These mammals make their homes in firs, hemlocks, pines, and fir trees and feed on their favorite foods of fungi and conifer seeds.
#4 Northern Flying Squirrel
The Northern flying squirrel (G. sabrinus), is the smallest of the tree squirrels in Washington. It has enormous round black eyes, gray or cinnamon brown fur, a white belly, and patches of white on its sides.
Its body grows to be about 10 inches long with a broad flat tail measuring 8.19 inches.
They live in mixed coniferous-deciduous, forested areas near swamps or streams throughout Washington. The rodent builds their nests in tree hollows, where they mate and give birth during a period ranging from late December to early June.
Like other members of the squirrel family, they play a huge part in the forest ecosystem by dispersing conifer seeds. This helps with forest regeneration, renewal, and growth.
#5 Least Chipmunk
The Least Chipmunk (Tamias minimus) is a member of the squirrel family. It is a native species of the Pacific Northwest and lives in Central Washington and east of the Cascades in Oregon.
It is commonly found in coniferous woodland, and sagebrush habitats along rivers, in the southernmost parts of the Columbia Basin.
The entire south-central portion of the state makes up the Columbia Basin Province. It is a major agricultural area of the region that includes the Tri-Cities (Pasco, Kennewick, Richland), Moses Lake, Walla Walla, Pullman, Wenatchee, and the areas between the Okanogan Highlands, Idaho Rockies, Northern Nevada, and Eastern Oregon.
It measures about 6.2-9.8 inches in length, with gray to reddish brown fur and a grayish-white belly.
They are herbivores (granivores), and their diet consists of snails, insects, berries, nuts, fruits, fungi, insects, and occasionally small mammals.
The rodent is most active between April and October. In the autumn, they gather food to last them during winter. Then, as winter approaches, they build their burrows underground, where they go into a state called “torpor.”
#6 Townsend Chipmunk
The Townsend chipmunk (Tamias townsendii), is the largest of the chipmunk family, named after John Kirk Townsend, a 19th-century Ornithologist.
It is brown with dark tawny stripes down its back and sides. They have three dark stripes on their face with a white circle around their eyes.
They have dark brown or reddish fur, with white stripes running down their back and sides. It grows to be about 11-14 inches long, with a tail length of about 4-6 inches.
The Townsend chipmunks inhabit dense forests in the Columbia basin area west of Yakima and Kittitas counties. You can see them on the west slope of the Cascade Range in Clackamas.
They are territorial rodents that live in 10-meter burrows and feed primarily on acorns, thistle seeds, bird eggs, grass, roots, blackberries, etc. These diurnal animals are more active in the morning and early afternoons.
#7 Yellow-Pine Chipmunk
The Yellow Pin Chipmunk (Neotamias amoenus ), is a Rodentia species, a member of the squirrel family. It is the second smallest chipmunk in Washington after the Least Chipmunk.
The rodent lives in coniferous forests but can be found in several habitats, from meadows to rocky, brushy areas.
It has dark reddish fur mixed with cinnamon and five black or mixed black longitudinal stripes along its back and face.
They are found in Western North America, from central British Columbia, Northern Nevada, and Western Wyoming. In addition, hikers have spotted it in the Mount Rainier National Park, Pullman, and Steptoe Butte State Park.
The Yellow Pine Chipmunk feeds mainly on seeds, fungi, insects, shrubs, grasses, and conifer seeds and spends their days foraging on the ground. They hibernate in their burrows from late autumn to early spring, when
#8 Humboldt’s Flying Squirrel
The Humboldt flying squirrel (Glaucomys oregonensis) is the newest species of flying squirrel in North America. Humboldt squirrels are similar but smaller than the Northern flying squirrel, making it hard to tell them apart.
The Humboldt squirrel has a darker pelage and glides from tree to tree. Unlike most members of their family, flying squirrels are nocturnal.
Studies have shown the Northern and Humboldt flying squirrels living in the same places throughout Western Washington and Southern British Columbia.
They live in coniferous and mixed coniferous forests from Southern British Columbia to the mountains of Southern California.
Their diet consists of plant material, sap, fungi, insects, and bird eggs.
Scientists studying them have shown their DNA is different and weird enough to be classified as a new species.
Washington State has a diverse mammal population, with many species living in Washington’s forests, sagebrush, and mountain habitats.
All tree and ground squirrel members play a vital role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem for the region. Their behaviors of nutrient cycling, seed dispersal, and burying food for winter help keep a balance in the environment.
Washington doesn’t classify any of the species as endangered, at the time of this writing. However, climate change, logging, habitat destruction, and fragmentation have put some species of squirrels at risk.
To ensure Washington’s wildlife can continue to flourish and restore equilibrium in the region, we must protect their habitats.
Conservation efforts must include strategies that reduce the impact of human activities and focus on protecting what remains of Washington’s wildlife.
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