Which Canadian Squirrel is in Your Backyard


  • How to Identify the Eastern Grey Squirrel 
  • How to Identify the American Red Squirrel 
  • How to Identify the Richardson Ground Squirrel 
  • What’s the difference between Chipmunks and Squirrels
  • How to prevent a squirrel problem
  • What to do if you have a squirrel problem

Canada is home to 22 different species of squirrels! These furry creatures can be quite cute, especially when performing feats of incredible acrobatics in your backyard. However, they are less cute when digging up your garden, eating your flowers, or monopolizing your bird feeder. Squirrels can even act as a major pest in Canada as many species like to build nests in homes, especially in the wintertime. By identifying which squirrels live in and around your home you’ll be better prepared to prevent and deal with squirrel problems. In this article we cover the most common squirrels found in urban and suburban Canada and the unique problems they pose. 

Eastern Grey Squirrels

How to Identify the Eastern Grey Squirrel 

The eastern grey squirrel is possibly the most common squirrel in Canada. They can be spotted throughout New Brunswick, Quebec, southern Ontario and southern Manitoba. Although they are called grey squirrels they are both black and grey, similar to how humans have different hair colours it is simply a small genetic difference that causes them to appear differently. 

Eastern grey squirrels are also quite large and are a formidable opponent in the fight for backyard bird feeders in Canada. These squirrels love to eat seeds! There are many bird feeders specially designed to deter squirrels while still feeding songbirds – for more information on best bird feeder practices check out our article on the topic. These squirrels also love to eat flower bulbs and are notorious for digging up flower beds.

Fun Fact:
We have 2 species of flying squirrels in Canada but since they are small, nocturnal and prefer to stay in the tops of trees they are rare to spot. 

Eastern grey squirrels are active year-round and don’t hibernate, instead they put on a protective fat layer to keep them warm in winter and continue foraging throughout the cold months. They still create caches of food like other squirrels that you may find around your property but they are often small as they don’t rely on them heavily. 

These grey squirrels give birth twice a year, once in early spring and again in late summer to only about 2 – 3 young per litter. These young will go on to live for an average of 6 years or up to 10 if they are able to avoid predation. They build their nests in tree branches and tree cavities, or in the rafters of attics or garages. In homes they are known to dig through insulation, chew through electrical wires and leave droppings on the ground making them quite a hazard. 

American Red Squirrel

How to Identify the American Red Squirrel 

American red squirrels are a tree-dwelling squirrel like the eastern grey squirrel but much smaller in size. They are easy to identify by their distinctive red colouring and white bellies. They are also quite common and can be found in areas of every province of Canada.

American red squirrels will eat bird seed but also have a taste for sweeter foods such as berries and even maple tree sap. They are particularly tricky to exclude from your bird feeder due to their small size – they can get through holes designed to only let through songbirds and may not trigger the weight limit mechanism of certain bird feeders. 

Fun Fact:
Squirrels use their tails for balance, to regulate their body temperatures and to communicate their mood to other squirrels!

These squirrels give birth twice a year in spring and summer to quite a number of babies, up to 7 each litter! However, only about 20% of the babies will survive through their first year and they only live for a couple of years with only certain lucky individuals making it past their fifth birthday. 

In nature american red squirrels nest in tree branches or cavities, but as with the eastern grey squirrels they like to occupy the rafter of garages and homes, especially during the winter. Although they don’t hibernate they do leave their nest less frequently in the winter and survive mainly on food they have stored in multiple caches around their nest. 

Richardson Ground Squirrel

How to Identify the Richardson Ground Squirrel 

Found in southern Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, Richardson ground squirrels are brownish-grey and speckled with patches of off-white and their tails are significantly less bushy than those of tree nesting squirrels. 

As ground-dwelling squirrels they live in burrows and tunnels created in the soil, making them a major agricultural pest in Canada. Unlike their tree-dwelling counterparts they rarely find their way into homes, but they can still be quite a nuisance to homeowners by tearing up gardens. 

Ground squirrels generally hibernate throughout the winter and for a couple of the hottest weeks in the summer. They have one litter a year in early spring of 6-8 pups and feed mostly on plants but will also eat seeds if available to them.

Chipmunk vs 13-lined squirrel

What’s the difference between Chipmunks and Squirrels?

Sometimes confused for squirrels, chipmunks are significantly smaller than adult squirrels and sport distinctive black and tan stripes on their bodies. The thirteen-lined ground squirrel, found in southern Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, titularly also has stripes but the stripes don’t go across their eyes as they do on chipmunks.

There are, in fact, five species of chipmunk living across Canada, so depending on your location the chipmunks may look slightly different – from a homeowner’s perspective however they all behave in a similar way. Chipmunks are like ground squirrels in that they dig burrows in the soil, making them a common culprit for destroying gardens. 

Chipmunks are not picky eaters and will feed on seeds, mushrooms, flower bulbs and even snails. While they don’t hibernate in the truest sense of the word they do sleep in their burrows for much of the winter surviving off a stash of seeds. They generally produce one litter a year in early spring and live between 2 to 5 years. 

How to Prevent Squirrel Problems Summary

How to prevent a squirrel problem

To prevent squirrels from entering your home, shed or garage do an inspection of the outside walls especially around the roof, looking for any holes squirrels or other rodents could enter through and making sure to seal them. Also, look for any overhanging branches that may act as squirrel highways directly to your roof, these branches can be trimmed to limit access to your home. Open food sources will also encourage tree squirrels, ground squirrels and chipmunks to build nests in and around your home so make sure to seal compost and garbage bins, clean up thoroughly after eating on the patio and consider taking down your bird feeder. 

Common squirrel damages

What to do if you have a squirrel problem

If you already have squirrels nesting in your home or digging up your beautiful garden it’s best to call in professionals that offer squirrel control. Squirrels can be quite aggressive when protecting their nests, they can carry ticks and mites on their bodies and are known to spread diseases all of which are hazardous to an untrained homeowner. 

Terminix Canada offers expert, humane squirrel removal services for both residential and commercial properties. We have local pest control experts at locations across Canada including BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Call us today to learn how we can help.