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Portland/Vancouver Squirrels


There are hundreds of species of squirrels in the world  with each region hosting its own variety.  Here in the United States, there are approximately a dozen common tree squirrels, two species of flying squirrels, and a host of ground squirrels and chipmunks.   The squirrel species noted here are squirrels commonly found in the Portland Metro/Vancouver Washington area.

The Eastern Gray Squirrel (sciurus carolinensis)

Eastern grays are the most common squirrels found in most urban settings. Unlike most native squirrels such as the Western gray, they have adapted well to human habitation.

Eastern grays will give birth in both the spring and fall; however, the fall is typically a much busier season than any other time of the year.

Eastern grays can be distinguished from fox squirrels by their white tummies and silver/white tipped tails.  Both eastern grays and foxes have a brownish wash throughout their gray fur.  

Eastern grays can be distinguished from western grays by the brownish orange ‘wash’ of color in their fur.  Eastern gray squirrels are believed to have arrived in the pacific northwest by man; therefore, they are designated as ‘non-native, enjoy no protections, and are euthanized on intake in Oregon rehabilitation centers. Washington is allowed to rehabilitate these squirrels (so far) but receives no state funding to do so.


The Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger)

Fox squirrels are typically larger than eastern grays with a rounder face. Their tummies are light tan (some are almost white) to cinnamon orange. The hair on the tips of the tail is orange which will distinguish it from a gray squirrel. They look similar to Douglas squirrels in color but are much larger and have less distinct eye rings.

All squirrels are born hairless so fox squirrels cannot be identified by sight until the tail fur emerges orange. Its size generally distinguishes it from the Douglas squirrel which is smaller (see below).   Against popular belief Douglas squirrels are also born off-season in the fall (less often though) so time of year is not a definitive indicator of species.

Like the eastern gray, fox squirrels have adapted well to human habitation and are commonly found in urban settings. Brought to the pacific northwest by man; they are designated as ‘non-native, enjoy no protections, and are euthanized on intake in Oregon rehabilitation centers. Washington is allowed to rehabilitate these squirrels but receives no state funding to do so.

The Western Gray Squirrel (Sciurus griseus)

Western grays are larger than their eastern gray cousins and lack the brownish orange wash of coloration commonly seen with eastern grays. Western grays are a black and white version of the eastern gray.  

Western gray squirrels rely on old growth trees for food and nest sites. They are in significantly declining numbers from habitat destruction as human activity increases in their range.  Western gray squirrels are quite shy and will not remain once people move in. The Western Gray squirrel is a native squirrel of Washington and Oregon and protected as a threatened species in Washington.


The California Ground Squirrel

California ground squirrels are the only ground squirrels (other than chipmunks) found in Southwest Washington. They can be distinguished from the gray squirrel by a shorter tail, mottled appearance (spots) and a white ‘shawl’ across the shoulders.  Unlike most ground squirrels they have a rather long and bushy tail and will climb trees.

California ground squirrels as adults grow very stout and have more ‘girth’ than eastern grays.   These squirrels are considered native since it is believed they made their way to Washington and Oregon on their own; however, they are generally considered to be pests because of their digging habit.

The Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii)

The Douglas squirrel is a pine squirrel closely related to the American Red Squirrel. The Douglas has an orange tummy and orange tipped tail much like the fox squirrel but is smaller, has a richer cinnamon coloration, and more distinct eye rings. In the winter they will have fluffy ear tuffs and a dark line of fur along each side bordering their tummies.  

The Douglas can be distinguished from the American Red squirrel (right) in that the latter has a white tummy. American Reds are found in Southern Oregon and are not seen in the Portland Metro area.  

Douglas and American Red squirrels are collectively called ‘Pine’ Squirrels. Both are native and protected species in Washington and Oregon.

The Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)

These squirrels are nocturnal and look like no other species in the Northwest.  Since they are only out at night , few people ever see them.  

Northern flying squirrels are typically good natured. Their fur is soft like a baby rabbit, they have huge black eyes that help them to see at night and a flap of skin (patagium) from wrist to ankle that enables them to glide long distances.

Northern flying squirrels like old growth forests. These squirrels are communal by nature and must be raised with other flyers.

Northern flyers are native and protected species in Washington and Oregon.


9 to 12 inches in from nose to rump (not including the tail) weighing between 14-21 oz or 400-600 g

10 to 14 inches in from nose to rump weighing between 1 to 2 lbs or  500-1000 g

10-15 inches from nose to rump weighing between 1-2 lbs or 500-1000 grams

Up to 12 inches from nose to rump weighing between 1-2 lbs or 500-1000 grams

Up to 8 inches from nose to rump weighing between 5 to 10.5 oz  or 150-300 grams

Approximately 6 inches from nose to rump weighing between 3.5 to 8 oz or 100-230 grams

American Red Squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)