Campus: CSU Los Angeles -- April 07, 2003

Cal State L.A. is Asking Southern Californians to Help Spot Squirrels for Science

Have you noticed tree squirrels in your neighborhood? Cal State L.A.’s professor of biological sciences Alan Muchlinski and his grad student Julie King are asking you to look a little harder for the sake of science.

Muchlinski and King’s Southern California Fox Squirrel Research Project Web site needs community input to track the activities of the local fox squirrel population, and to determine whether this “invading” brown fox squirrel is destined to displace the native California gray squirrel, sometimes called the Western gray (it’s the one with the silver-tipped tail).
How did the eastern rodents make it this far west? Muchlinski says the “newcomers” were introduced to the Los Angeles area around 1904 by Civil War and Spanish American war veteran residents of the Sawtelle Veteran’s Home on Sepulveda and Wilshire Boulevards. The veterans had the fox squirrels sent to California from their homes in Tennessee and other areas near the Mississippi Valley. (A Feb. 8 Los Angeles Times feature on King’s research, “Squirrel Stalker Wonders if It’s a Darwin Moment,” cites a farmer’s magazine article theorizing that the veterans missed their squirrel meals!)

Between 1904 and 1947 the fox squirrel extended its range through the Santa Monica Mountains, northward into and across the San Fernando Valley, and over the Santa Susana Pass into the walnut groves of the Simi Valley—to the dismay of walnut growers! King says the fox squirrels are found today as far south as the Palos Verdes peninsula and Long Beach, and as far east as San Dimas, West Covina, Hacienda Heights, and Brea. No one has yet chronicled their population growth.

Will the fox squirrel replace the native gray? You can help by recording your sightings at <>. For more information on the research project, call Professor Muchlinski at Cal State L.A., (323) 343-2050.
Contact: Carol Selkin, Media Relations Director (323) 343-3044

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