Don't look now, but Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are stealing your birdseed, harvesting your hazelnuts and making the neighbor's...

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Don’t look now, but Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are stealing your birdseed, harvesting your hazelnuts and making the neighbor’s cat an object of sport and mockery.

This squirrel’s extraordinary cuteness is what saves its hide from widespread abolition. The frustration they instill in us when dumping the birdfeeder is exceeded only by the hilarity of their reaction upon hitting the ground. We name them things like Buffy and Nip.

But don’t be fooled. The Eastern gray squirrel — competitor of our native Douglas (Tamiasciurus douglasii) and Western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus) — is in competition for your yard.

You know those little holly seedlings you have to weed out every spring? They are evidence of Eastern gray squirrel caching behavior, or “scatter hoarding.” Those are the ones they forgot.

Unlike other small mammals, these squirrels do not store food in a central location, but bury their hazelnuts or holly berries in individual holes all around the yard, then dig them up when needed. It wouldn’t be unusual to find the little hole where they retrieved their snack.

Try to resist feeding these squirrels. There is plenty of natural food. We have squirrels in our yard big enough to send Jenny Craig screaming.

If you want to rid your yard of Eastern gray squirrels (good luck), you’ll need a special permit for any trap other than live traps. It is illegal to release a squirrel anywhere in the state, other than on the property where it was legally trapped, unless you have a permit.

Some good squirrel management tips can be seen at http://wdfw.wa.gov.

One last thing: Yes, they are rodents.

Patricia Thompson is a wildlife biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. She can be reached at http://wdfw.wa.gov.