Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Squirrels Thrive in Santa Monica's Palisades Park. They're Cute, But do they cause the Cliffs to Erode?

In the spring, a young squirrels thoughts turn to love, as well as gathering seeds and burrowing underground

If you've walked in Palisades Park this Spring, you've no doubt noticed the abundant squirrel population.

Squirrels come in two stripes: An invasive species called the Eastern Gray Squirrel, or "Tree Squirrel," and the California Ground Squirrel.

California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) are a formidable garden pest that can be hard to control. They eat virtually any growing plant, and their burrowing can also be very destructive to trees and hazardous to livestock.

Squirrels enlarge their burrow systems each year by constructing new tunnels and creating more entrances, so the longer the ground squirrels occupy the burrow, the more extensive it becomes. They create more entrances to serve a growing population.

This growing squirrel population is said to be a hazard to Santa Monica in a different way. The cliffs above Pacific Coast Highway do erode over time. There have been landslides down to PCH. Over time, Palisades Park has eroded, and the park we see today is smaller than it was when it opened in 1954.

Ground squirrels are native to California, but they have no protections. The state classifies them as non-game animals, which unfortunately means people may trap or kill them. But we hope you don't-they're so cute!

In the introduced range grey squirrels can damage trees by stripping the bark. In Europe they cause the local extinction of red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) populations through competition and disease. This species has been nominated as among 100 of the "World's Worst" invaders, for this reason.


Reader Comments(2)

candle2 writes:

They are even much worse now. It is April 2023 and I was just walking there. People are feeding them. They are everywhere. People were trying to pet them. Something needs to be done. They are not afraid of people at all. So when you say go away they don't. The bluffs will collapse from all of their numerous holes. There are so many.

sanmonical writes:

There can be no doubt that the ground squirrels in the park are destroying the bluffs. There are hundreds of squirrels and hundreds of holes and burrows. They are also destroying the vegetation that tries to hold the bluffs together. Do we have to wait until it rains and the bluffs start to collapse onto Route 1 before anything is done???