They are chewing on the community’s tree bark, power lines, fruit trees and even car wires — but this week the Walla Walla City Council determined squirrel abatement wasn’t a priority.
Property owners in Walla Walla are angry with the state of their trees and find the root cause to be squirrels. Resident John Christy suggested a squirrel abatement program to City Council because squirrels keep eating the bark of his Japanese maple tree, according to a staff report.
“I trapped 62 squirrels in my backyard one summer and moved them out into the community college for a better education, and they still moved back into my area,” Christy said in that report.
Chestnut squirrels are not native to Walla Walla, he said.
“When man brings an animal from outside an area into that area where they’ve never been before, they have no predators, and there is nothing for them to eat between the months of April and October, Christy said.”
In addition to the nonnative chestnut squirrels, a 1960 report in the Union-Bulletin states that former Parks Director Sam Maxson released six fox squirrels, three male and three female, in Pioneer Park. The squirrels came from Boise, Idaho, and spread to College Place, Waitsburg, Dayton, Kennewick and even the Tri-Cities through catch and release. The population of fox squirrels exploded.
Council members had previously asked staff to investigate squirrel birth control methods, including injection and oral medication. Staff consulted the Parks, Recreation and Urban Forestry Advisory Board on possibilities to prevent squirrel damage to the city’s trees.
Parks & Recreation Director Andy Coleman told Council on Monday the advisory board was unanimous in recommending the city not pursue either of those options for now.
“It’s not an issue that the board felt that staff should spend time and resources on,” he said. “There are some individual measures we, the city, could take or homeowners could take to eliminate or reduce the opportunity for squirrels to climb their trees.”
He presented a few options for property owners who would like to tackle this problem. Coleman suggests plastic or metal bands that you can fit around the trees and change out as the tree grows, also liquid and ultrasonic repellents.
Coleman says don’t worry too much about the trees, “The population of squirrels has not changed in four or five years … very little damage. I’d say 2 to 3% of trees might be impacted.”