865. Squirrels

You’ve seen a squirrel! But what kind is it? Asilomar has three species living within the park’s boundary─western gray squirrels, red fox squirrels and California Beechyi (pronounced bee chee) ground squirrels. Native Western gray squirrels were once abundant at Asilomar, inhabiting all areas of the pine-oak forest. But the non-native red fox squirrel has taken over its territory, and Western gray squirrels are rarely seen today. Gray squirrels are strictly forest dwellers. They will spend time foraging on the ground, but prefer to travel distances from tree branch to tree branch. They feed mainly on pine seeds and acorns, but will also consume berries and fungus. Retired State Park Environmental Scientist Lorrie Madison. LORRIE MADISON: They don’t cache them in trees. They bury them in the soil or the soil litter, and sometimes they’ll scavenge and steal from acorn woodpeckers. …[G]ray squirrels and scrub jays generally can’t remember where they’ve stored all of their acorns, so they’re a great disburser. They’ll spread … acorns all over the place NARRATOR: … and that helps grow new oak trees. Red fox squirrels are commonly seen at Asilomar. It was introduced to California, and its population has grown until it can now be found in most city and county parks throughout the state. Red fox squirrels have successfully competed for habitat at Asilomar, making the gray squirrels nearly non-existent here. The California Beechyi ground squirrel has light brown and dusky fur giving it a mottled look. A band of slightly darker fur, flecked with light gray, runs down its back. This squirrel lives in burrows that it digs into hillsides or earth mounds. Around here, you’ll almost always see them along the coastal bluffs.