The tree squirrels, chipmunks, ground squirrels, and marmots are different species of the squirrel family. There are numerous types of squirrels depending on their size, habitat, eating habits, and behaviors.
Types of Squirrels
After discussing the species of the squirrels, it’s time to talk about the different types of this adorable creature.
The scientific name of fox squirrels is Sciurus niger. These are the tree squirrels. The reason for calling them fox squirrel is their appearance. Their fur is pale brown and reddish-gray, which relates them to a fox.
Unlike other tree squirrels, this particular species spends a considerable time on the ground. They are vigilant and cautious when on the ground. This helps them to stay protected from the attacks of nearby predators.
They prefer habitats where open fields and woodland are close to each other. Fox squirrels eat fruits, nuts, corns, etc.
These squirrels are inhabitants of the Pacific coastal states of America. They are also popular as “Pine Squirrels”.
Among all other types of gray squirrels, the Douglas squirrels are relatively smaller. They store food in the ground. These food supplies are referred to as middens.
Besides, these squirrels tend to be quite aggressive while guarding their territory. Especially, Douglas squirrels fiercely guard their food.
Eastern Gray Squirrels
The eastern gray squirrels are highly adaptable. Hence, we see this species across a wider geographic range. It is their ability to adapt that has helped them to thrive in urban areas and city parks.
Since these are the tree squirrels, Easter gray Squirrels spend a lot of time on the trees. They used to eat and sleep on tree trunks. They can live with other types of squirrels in harmony including fox squirrels.
They have distinctive gray fur, which makes them easily recognizable. The adult squirrels of this species can weigh between 1 to 1.5 pounds. They are 18 to 20 inches long and have bushy tails.
These squirrels were used to be the residents of deserts. However, this particular type of squirrel is now common in other habitats. These are the ground squirrels, as they reside in the ground burrows. There are different types of Antelope squirrels including:
- Harris’ Squirrel
- San Joaquin Squirrel
- Texas Squirrel
- Insular Squirrel
- White-tailed squirrels
After their birth, the babies or young Antelope Squirrels stay underground for four weeks. The gestation period of an Antelope female squirrel is normally 26 days.
Flying squirrels don’t actually fly. They received this name, as their body structure allows them to glide from one tree branch to another. These squirrels can cover a great distance, especially when jumping from a height.
While gliding, flying squirrels navigate with their tail. This is so, as the tail serves as a rudder, allowing these squirrels to move in either direction once they are airborne.
These squirrels prefer living on long trees. This allows them to take advantage of the height. These trees act as the best possible launch pad. Therefore, flying squirrels are preferably found in dense forests.
The female squirrels of this species feed and nurse their babies for three months. After this period, the young squirrels can start gliding.
The red squirrels are inhabitants of conifer trees. Hence, they are also known as “pine squirrels”. The squirrels are small and have distinctively red tails. The eye ring is another distinctive feature of this species.
These squirrels are 12-inches long and have rust-colored fur. Red squirrels feed mainly on the cones and seeds of conifer trees. Nevertheless, they can also feast on fruits, berries, and bird eggs when their preferred food source is scarce.
Just like any other type, red squirrels also store their food during summer. They tend to bury the nuts and seeds underground. This helps them to protect their food from other squirrels.
Chipmunks belong to the genus Tamias. There are 25 species of these striped squirrels. This particular species have large internal cheeks, which they use for collecting and transporting food.
The ears and eyes of chipmunks are prominent. Besides, the furry tail and tiny claws are some other features of this species. Chipmunks are normally active during the day.
The body length ranges from 3.1 to 6.3 inches. The tail alone measures 2.4 to 5.5 inches long. Chipmunks are the pygmy squirrels. They have adapted well to the rocky terrains and thick forests.
Although they stay on the ground while searching for food, these squirrels are great climbers. Their habitat is simply versatile, as they have survived in deciduous/coniferous forests, timberline slopes, and rocky terrains.
8. Abert’s squirrel
Scientific name: Sciurus aberti
This squirrel species are native to the United States and Mexico and are concentrated in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. They’re named in honor of the American naturalist, John James Abert, who headed the Corps of Topographical Engineers. These squirrels are 50 centimeters long, and their tails measure 22 cm, with a dark-grey coloration and a small reddish-brown patch on their backs. They also have a white underbelly and long hair ear tuffs about 3 cm, protruding from either ear.
9. Western gray squirrel
Scientific name: Scriurus griseus
These squirrel species are found in the United States, Western Coast, and Mexico. This squirrel species faces extinction in some areas where they’re found due to pressure and competition from other species. They are nimble and shy rodents and will run up trees while loudly squeaking when disturbed and do not like being hunted. They weigh up to 1 kilogram and measure between 50 centimeters. They also have white underbellies with counter-shaded silver-grey bodies and large, tuftless ears.
10. Arizona gray squirrel
Scientific name: Sciurus arizonesis
This squirrel species are endemic to Northern Mexico and Eastern Arizona and reside in canyons and valleys. They face tough competition for habitats and resources from Abert’s squirrels that scientists introduced to boost the squirrel population. They have ear tufts that grow up to 2 centimeters and are grey in their upper bodies with yellow spots behind their ears. Like other squirrels, they, too, have white underbellies.
11. Northern flying squirrel
Scientific name: Glaucomys sabrinus
This species of squirrels have unique abilities to glide and are available in North America’s Utah and North Carolina and Canada’s Alaska and Nova Scotia. They have pale underbellies and pale brown bodies with long whiskers and large eyes on either side of their heads. They grow up to 37 centimeters long and have weights that don’t exceed 240 grams. These squirrels’ diet largely comprises mushrooms and various fungi species and also ingest insects and tree saps.
12. Southern flying squirrel
Scientific name: Glaucomys volans
These squirrels are solitary and more nocturnal compared to other species. They originate from North America and are also concentrated in North Carolina. They also exist in Mexico from the southwestern Ontario regions. They mainly move through gliding as they perch from tree to tree and scarcely use the ground. These squirrels also grow up to 12 centimeters and weigh 60 grams. Southern flying squirrels have greyish brown coloration and black rings around their eyes, with a white underbelly.
13. Humboldt flying squirrel
Scientific name: Glaucomys oregonensis
These squirrels are clumsy ground walkers but proficient gliders, perching from tree to tree. They reside in thick forests with open canopies that provide wide gliding spaces. These squirrels are available in Southern California and most parts of southern British Colombia. They are a new species of squirrels recently discovered in North America, and their populations extend between southern California and southern Canada. They are petite rodents growing up to 12 centimeters long and measure 85 grams. They also have long whiskers but lack tufts on their ears.
They also have white underbellies like all squirrel species with brownish-grey body coloration.
14. Eastern Fox Squirrel
Scientific name: Sciurus niger
These tree squirrels largely exist in the eastern side of North America and Texas and reside along rivers and forests. They prefer living in nut-bearing trees and refuge in tree caves to nest and shield themselves from harsh weather.
They have orange-colored bellies, with grey and black body fur and cinnamon-black tails. They grow up to 53 meters in size and weigh 850 grams, putting them among the biggest squirrel species.
They are active around the morning and evening, where they come out to feed on nuts, mushrooms, and insects. They also have the habit of burying food for future consumption, and a single squirrel can bury hundreds of pecans in a single month.
15. Mexican Fox Squirrel
Scientific name: Sciurus nayaritensis
Like their Eastern counterparts, these squirrel species reside among trees and are found in Mexico, the Sierra Madre Occidental regions, and Jalisco. Besides, they have significant populations throughout southern Arizona’s North America.
These squirrels have reddish-brown body colorations, with grizzled backs and yellow undersides. They are big-sized rodents weighing close to 700 grams and measure up to 30 centimeters. They are also not incredibly territorial but love solitary lives and exist together during mating seasons.
16. California Ground Squirrels
Scientific name: Otospermophilus beecheyi
These species prefer low grounds and hardly climb on trees but will do it when they feel threatened by predators. They are found in areas stretching between California and Nevada in North America. These squirrels grow up to 45 centimeters long and weigh between 280 to 750 grams.
They also have long whiskers and lack ear tufts, while their bodies are covered in dusky, gray, and light brown fur, with lighter grey shoulders. They also have light grayish-yellow underbellies but can sometimes appear buffy. They live in burrows on the ground, going up to 25 meters in length laterally from the ground.
17. Black squirrel
Scientific name: Sciurus Carolinensis
Black squirrels are typical variant species of grey squirrels, and their genes – which are more extreme than grey squirrels – give them the black fur pigment. Therefore, it’s fair to say that they belong to the same species like grey squirrels, only that they’re darker. Their sizes, weight, and temperament resemble those of the grey squirrels and their feeding and mating habits.
18. Pine squirrel
Scientific name: Tamiasciurus hudsonicus or Tamiasciurus douglasii
These squirrels are native to North America and are found in western and northern North America and some parts of Canada. They reside in trees, and their diet largely comprises nuts and small insects. Their bodies are tawny-red to tan on their sides and backs and also on their heads.
They have faint black lines on the ventral sides, which are more conspicuous in the summer pelage. They also have white undersides and also have thick tails that take their body color. These rodents measure up to 39 centimeters and weigh 200 grams.
19. Red-tailed squirrel
Scientific name: Sciurus granatensis
These tree squirrel species are dub the name from their tail color. They are native to North America across central to southern America in Costa Rica, Panama, and Venezuela. Besides, they have significant populations in the Caribbean Islands, including the regions in Margarita and Trinidad but are invasive to Cuba.
These squirrels are incredibly playful and can find their way into parks and picnic grounds where people are umpteen. These squirrels grow up to 52 centimeters in size and weigh between 400 grams.
20. North American rock squirrel
Scientific name: Spermophilus variegatus
These species populations stretch across North America in areas including Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and California. They are also native to Mexico and inhabit rock cliffs, talus slopes, hillsides, and canyons. They are crepuscular, meaning that they are active in the mornings and evenings when they come out to feed on native plants, fruits, acorns, and pine nuts.
They can also scavenge their dead and display cannibalism in extreme situations that require them to survive. They usually grow up to 24 centimeters in length and weigh 570 grams.
21. Japanese squirrel
Scientific name: Sciurus lis
As the name suggests, this squirrel is endemic to most parts of Japan, including the Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku islands. However, they are facing extinction due to human-induced forest fragmentation and have wiped up large populations in the Kyushu Islands.
They are small rodents measuring up to 38 centimeters and weighing close to 260 grams. Depending on the season, these rodents’ colors vary, and in the summer, they appear red-orange while their fur varies from grey to light brown.
22. Brazilian squirrel
Scientific name: Sciurus aestuans
These species are endemic to South America and are found in most parts of eastern South America, including Venezuela, Colombia, Guyana, and Brazil. They have dark brown bodies with pale-yellow underbellies and lack ear tufts. They are small rodents, growing up to 38 centimeters in size and weigh up to 260 grams.
The smallest known squirrel is the African pygmy squirrel. This particular squirrel is only 5-inches long. However, there are species that can grow astonishingly big. The 3-feet long Indian giant squirrel is among the biggest known squirrels.
The two common species of Squirrels depending on their habitat are:
- Tree Squirrels
- Ground Squirrels
As the name suggests, these types of squirrels spend most of their lives on trees. In fact, tree squirrels are the most commonly observed species. These are normally seen on the trees, jumping from one branch to another.
This squirrel family includes marmots, chipmunks, and flying squirrels. The characteristic that distinguishes a tree squirrel from other species is its habitat.
Tree squirrels are reasonably sized squirrels. These types of squirrels are active during the day. They build their nests on tree branches. Tree squirrels only come to the ground in search of food.
The eastern gray squirrel is a widely known tree squirrel in the United States. This species is more common in the eastern half of the country.
There are more than 62 species of ground squirrels. They have a long body and are among those terrestrial rodents that remain active throughout the day. Ground squirrels have short legs, yet the claws are strong enough to grip all types of surfaces.
The color of ground squirrels may vary depending on their species. For instance, these types of squirrels can be seen in colors such as reddish, gray, tawny, pale brown, olive, or dark brown.
However, the lower area of the body is normally white. With the exception of a few species, most of the ground squirrels have distinctive stripes on the upper part of their body. The fur may also differ depending on the texture and thickness.
The ground squirrels live in tunnels or burrows. They eat nuts, fruits, and even small insects. Most of the squirrels that we commonly see in our backyard or home gardens are ground squirrels.
In some cases, these squirrels inflict considerable damage to the garden. The brown fur and less bushy tails are the few distinctive features of ground squirrels.
A few of them even hibernate during winter. This is the reason why these squirrels are not commonly observed during the winter.
Everything that You would Love to Know about Squirrels
Squirrels are charming little creatures that are in abundance around the globe. There are more than known 200 species of squirrels. Apart from the difference related to behavior, habits, and appearance, most of the squirrels have similar characteristics.
Every squirrel that you see has a bushy tail, pointed ears, short front limbs, and big hind limbs. Besides, there is a lot more to discuss about squirrels. This particular guide is aimed to answer most of your questions related to squirrels.
Classification of Squirrels
Squirrels belong to the family Sciuridae, which consists of rodents that are usually small or medium-sized. Squirrels are close relatives of mountain beavers and dormice.
Squirrels are classified as under:
History of Squirrels
The fossils record throws some light on the evolutionary history of the squirrels. According to experts, the origin of squirrels dates back to the Late Eocene Epoch.
In simple words, squirrels were present in our world some 33.7 million years ago. Hence, squirrels are the oldest creatures that are still living with us.
Physical Appearance of Squirrels
Squirrels have slender bodies with long muscular limbs. The long furry tail is also a highly visible feature of a squirrel. The front feet contain four long fingers and a small thumb. The hind feet are narrow and moderately wide.
The soles of the feet are bald, which provides nice traction when squirrels move on tree trunks. The small round ears are largely covered with fine hair. The tail covers nearly half of the overall length of a squirrel.
The densely furred tail looks bushy and cylindrical. The strong and curved claws help squirrels to clutch large seeds or nuts. It also helps them to navigate over the thin tree branches.
Color and Fur
Talking about the color, this feature varies depending on the type of squirrel. There are a few types with plain and single-colored fur. On the other hand, the fur can be two-toned (usually brown and gray).
Some species have stripes on their back, which start from the head and continue throughout the body. The tropical species do come in a wide range of color combinations including white, gray, orange, yellow, red, maroon, black, and brown.
The fur is soft and less thick. However, squirrels living in colder areas have thick and long fur. This helps them to keep their bodies warm.
Size and Weight
The size and weight of a squirrel largely depend on its type. The largest squirrels are native to the tropical forest located in Southeast Asia.
These are the Oriental giant squirrels, which are10 to 18 inches long. They weigh 1.5 to 3 kg approximately. The pygmy squirrels are among the smallest known squirrels.
The African pygmy squirrels are found in the tropical forests of West Africa. They weigh between 13 to 20 grams. Besides, these squirrels are only 6 to 8 cm long.
Comparatively, the Neotropical pygmy squirrel belongs to the Amazon Basin. It weighs 33 to 45 grams approximately. These squirrels are 9 to 12 cm long.
What Do Squirrels Eat?
Generally, squirrels are vegetarians. The major chunk of their diet consists of seeds, nuts, seeds, fruit, and grains. The most preferred nuts are acorns and hazelnuts.
Besides, squirrels can also consume fungi and vegetables when their favorite food is not available. When the common food is scarce, squirrels can also feast on rodents, bird eggs, and insects.
Tree squirrels normally stay on the trees. However, they come down in search of food. Here, these squirrels can find nuts, roots, leaves, seeds, and other parts of plants.
This is normal for the squirrels to store their food during summer. However, a considerable quantity of such food is not available for the squirrels during spring.
This is so, as the buried seeds start to sprout. Hence, the squirrels rely on the nourishing buds or newly born leaves.
Listed below are the most common food supplies for the squirrels.
Seeds and Nuts
Nuts and seeds are two of the most favorite diets of almost all types of squirrels. These include walnuts, acorns, and peanuts. Besides, they also love to eat the seeds of different plants and trees.
The front teeth of squirrels are sharp. Their teeth continue to grow throughout the life. This gives them the advantage to break the tough and hard outer shells of the nuts.
The plant seeds that are highly preferred by squirrels are:
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Safflower seeds
- Poppy seeds
Fruits and Vegetables
A large variety of squirrels relies on a vegetarian diet. However, we can’t refer to them as picky eaters. Hence, they can feed on almost anything that has a nutritional value.
When available they prefer fruits and vegetables. Their favorite vegetarian diet consists of mushrooms, corn, broccoli, and squash. Some of the preferred fruits include apples, apricots, avocados, and oranges.
Plant Parts that are Tender and Nutritious
Squirrels can also eat the leaves, roots, plants stalks, and grass. In addition, they can feed on any other things that are tender and easy to digest. For instance, they prefer plant parts that are soft and contain sufficient nutrition.
These parts include:
- Soft twigs
- Supple bark
- Soft tips of recently grown leaves
- Tender sprouts
Diet of Young Squirrels
The newly born squirrels feed on their mother’s milk. These babies stay in their nests for almost five weeks. Their mothers don’t start weaning during this period. However, the baby squirrels began to feed on adult food after 50 to 70 days of their birth.
How Squirrels Breed?
Female squirrels start to mate after attaining one year of age. The mating season starts when the winter is close to its end. Squirrels continue to mate until the month of May. Generally, squirrels give birth to their offspring twice a year.
The breeding consists of two main stages including:
- Mating Process
- Bringing up the Baby Squirrels
At the start of every mating season, the female release a particular scent. The male squirrels are attracted to such a scent. This is the first step of the mating process.
The male will chase the female squirrel at great speed. While doing so, the male will slap the tree barks. This makes a loud noise, which is an indication of marking the territory.
If two or more male squirrels are after a single female, each of them will try to fight the other for securing their candidature. This often involves astonishing acrobatic acts while the squirrels are running over the tree trunks.
In the end, the strongest candidate will win the attention of the female squirrel. After mating once, the male would leave the female forever. Besides, the female will also recognize the male and won’t let him mate with her again.
Bringing Up the Baby Squirrels
On average, squirrels can give birth to a maximum of five kittens. The six-week gestation period is common, yet it may increase or decrease depending on the type of squirrel.
Normally, the shorter gestation period can be of four weeks while the longest can go up to eight weeks. Kittens or baby squirrels are tiny (one inch long) and weigh only one ounce approximately.
They don’t have teeth or hair. Furthermore, they stay blind for the first 4 to 5 weeks. However, the growth rate of these kittens is amazingly higher.
The weaning process stands completed after the kittens attain an age of ten weeks. The baby squirrels leave their nests after they are four months old.
How Squirrels Behave with Each other
The squirrels are adorable little creatures. They appear to behave nicely during the normal circumstance. However, there are instances, when they lose their patience.
For instance, squirrels may fight each other when there is an extreme scarcity of food. In addition, they also encounter fierce fighting situations when more than one male is trying to establish his right of mating.
Hence, the behavior of a squirrel may vary depending on different aspects. Discussed below are the various behavioral patterns of squirrels.
Squirrels love to chase each other. This is the most common scene that we normally come across when viewing these little furry friends. Although it appears interesting, there are quite a few reasons behind this behavior.
Given below are some of the most prominent reasons why squirrels chase each other.
- Squirrels can start to chase each other just for fun or for keeping themselves active and warm during winter. Young squirrels spend most of their early lives chasing each other.
- Another reason relates to mating. The female squirrels like to tease males by running around. The males continuously chase the female to grab her attention. This is a way to ensure that the mating partner is healthy and strong.
- Squirrels chase off each other with a view to establishing their dominance. Just like other animals, squirrels do mark their territory. In order to protect their territory, they will chase off the intruders.
It might sound weird, but squirrels do exhibit aggressive behavior. In fact, aggression is a way to protect the territory or win the mating right. Most of the animals behave this way, especially when their territory is under threat.
Usually, animals have two choices when they feel threatened. They may run away or act aggressively. Hence, aggression is an act of self-defense. Squirrels also behave in the similar manner, especially under threatening situations.
Squirrels mark their territories with a particular scent. This is a great way to protect the stored food. If an intruder tries to enter the boundary, the squirrel owning the territory will take it as a threat.
During these circumstances, the squirrel tries to be aggressive. They start squawking, which is a way to intimate the other squirrels to stay away.
Squirrels can also pose aggressively while protecting the kittens. The female squirrels act more aggressively when other animals try to come near the nest.
Usually, the attacking behavior is observed when a territory-related dispute arises. To protect their territory, squirrels show aggressive behavior. If the intruder refuses to back off, the dispute turns into a fierce fight.
These fights are common if there is a shortage of food. Squirrels don’t hesitate to attack when someone tries to steal their stored food.
The attacking behavior involves chasing the invader. During this act, the squirrels scratch and bite the other squirrels. When this fight is for the protection of food, it is referred to as food aggression.
Squirrels can exhibit an attacking behavior while establishing their male dominance. The whole act starts with the chasing scene, which in most cases triggers a fight.
Can a Squirrel Kill another Squirrel?
It’s rather common for a squirrel to kill other insects or small animals if they are a potential source of food. However, there are instances where squirrels can actually kill other squirrels.
The reasons for this extreme behavior are numerous. The first one relates to the scarcity of food. Hunger is the most common reason behind the aggressive behavior of almost every animal.
Although it may not seem to be a normal act for a squirrel to kill other squirrels for food, yet it may happen occasionally. Besides, extremely hungry squirrels don’t even spare the baby squirrels.
Even if the food is abundant, the squirrels can kill the infants of fellow squirrels. This may sound brutal but the killing of rival’s offspring is a natural behavior exhibited by squirrels and other animals.
By killing the offspring, the male squirrel is increasing the chances of mating with the mother of such infants. Hence, squirrels can kill their fellow beings depending on the prevalent situation.
Flying Squirrels: Can they Fly?
In fact, flying squirrels don’t actually fly. However, they do glide by taking advantage of their unique body structure. There is a thin sheet of skin between the front and hind limbs of this squirrel.
This helps them to glide from one tree to another. Normally, they can cover an area of 45 meters. There are certain species of flying squirrels that can cover an area of up to 90 meters.
This type of squirrel was originated centuries ago. At present, flying squirrels are thriving in Europe, North America, and Asia. Besides, there are nearly 43 different types of species of flying squirrels.
Distinctive Features of Flying Squirrels
Although all squirrels appear to be similar, yet they have some notable differences. To know how flying squirrels are different from other species, just continue reading.
Big Round Eyes
The big round eyes look adorable. Here are ways to attract them. Besides, these big eyes improve night vision. This allows the flying squirrels to navigate easily even in the darkness. We normally see this kind of adaptation in nocturnal animals such as lemurs and owls.
Flying Squirrels Glow at Night
Flying squirrels are usually active during the night. A few species can actually glow in the dark, which is a highly distinctive feature. Scientists were not aware of this feature until it was recently discovered.
The lower side of the flying squirrels glows more as compared to the upper area. Nevertheless, it is not clear why flying squirrels glow. There are several theories, yet none of these are backed by solid evidence.
Some of the suggested reasons for the flying squirrels to glow at night including:
- Protection from predators
- Communication with other fellow beings
- Improved navigation on the snowy terrains
Presence of Patagium Instead of Wings
Flying squirrels don’t have wings yet they can glide due to a thin membrane known as ‘Patagia’. This membrane is attached to the front and back limbs.
The Patagium acts as flaps, which offer enough lift for the flying squirrels to glide for some time. The flying squirrels have mastered the art of gliding over generations.
They extend each Patagia in such a way that they collectively create maximum resistance against the air. This results in offering the required lift. Hence, the flying squirrel can continue to glide for long distances.
Interesting Facts about Squirrels
Squirrels are tiny little creatures that look appealing. Apart from their attractive appearance, there are some interesting facts associated with squirrels. Let’s take a look at what we have here.
Squirrel means ‘Shadow Tail’
Sciurus is the genus of tree squirrels. It is a combination of two Greek words “Skia” (meaning shadow) and “Oura” (meaning tail). Usually, the squirrels hide themselves under the shadow of their bushy tail. Hence, the term shadow tail was attached to the tree squirrels.
Expert in Finding Buried Food
Squirrels store food in the summer by burying it under the ground. However, in winter, the heavy snow can make it difficult to locate the buried food. This isn’t a problem for squirrels, as they can find the food buried under one foot of snow.
For this purpose, squirrels take advantage of their extreme sense of smell. They dig a tunnel and reach for the food buried by other squirrels.
Front Teeth of Squirrel Continues to Grow
This feature is common among most of the rodents. Since the teeth grind a lot of stuff, they undergo some serious wear and tear. Hence, the teeth continuously grow to compensate for the lost length.
Squirrels Love to Chit Chat
Squirrels have strong communication skills. They are talkative and communicate with each other by chirping in high frequency. Besides, the tail movement also plays a key role while sending a message to other squirrels.
Squirrels are Good Learners
Just like other animals, squirrels learn from the acts and gestures of their fellow beings. Especially, when it comes to stealing food, young squirrels master this art much quickly.
Newborn Squirrel is Almost One inch long
The baby squirrels are extremely tiny. They are no more than an inch in length. However, they grow at a much faster pace. This enhances the chances of their survival.
Squirrels Steal the Food of their Fellow Beings
Squirrels bury their food at multiple locations. Hence, it is hard for them to secure all the spots with buried food. This gives a reason to other squirrels to steal the unguarded food.
Squirrels are the Sprinters
Squirrels can run extremely fast. They are capable of dodging their predators by running in a zigzag manner. These tiny creatures use this strategy when escaping cats, hawks, and other predators.
Squirrels are Intelligent
Squirrels are clever, as they can navigate through the obstacles and find the shortest way to reach food. They have the sense to judge the shortest way to reach their destination, which is food in most cases.
What are the Major Differences Between a Squirrel and a Chipmunk?
Chipmunks are relatively smaller than squirrels. They have distinctive stripes on their body that start from the head and go along the tail. On the contrary, tree squirrels don’t have stripes.
However, the ground squirrels do have stripes on their body. However, the stripes are not present on the head. The tail of a tree squirrel is bigger and longer larger.
Chipmunks eat smaller plants, seeds, nuts, tree buds, leaves, twigs, berries, and acorns. Tree squirrels have a similar diet. However, they eat slightly more as compared to chipmunks.
Difference in Size
Tree squirrels are 38 – 52 cm long
The length of chipmunks ranges from 16 – 30 cm
Ground squirrels are 25 – 30 cm long
Communication or Vocalizations
A chipmunk communicates with its fellows by making high-pitched chips and cluck sounds. They are known for their high-frequency vocals. Sometimes, chipmunks sound like a chirping bird.
Squirrel on the other hand is different. The calling action also accompanies the tail flicking. They utter clicking sounds while warning other squirrels of danger.
How Squirrels Build their Nests
At a glimpse, the nest of a squirrel appears to be a huge pile of leaves and twigs. On average, the interior of such a nest is eight-inch in diameter. It consists of grass, moss, leaves, and bark shreds.
The exterior of a squirrel nest is woven by using leaves and sticks. This provides required warmth and coziness to the squirrel babies.
Tree squirrels build their nests at the higher branches of a tree. This ensures the better safety of their offspring and prevents them from predators. The most preferred trees for building a squirrel nest include Maples, Oaks, Elms, and Beeches.
However, in an urban habitat, squirrels try to access attics or chimneys for making their nests. While doing so, squirrels can cause some serious damage to your property.
Average Lifespan of a Squirrel
On average, a squirrel can live for 6 years. The life expectancy of a squirrel may vary depending on a variety of aspects. First, squirrels are extremely vulnerable to predators, as they lack a strong defense mechanism.
Besides, the one year old or younger squirrels have a high mortality rate. These creatures are prolific breeders and they quickly grow into an adult. Hence, the population graph of squirrels remains steady.
Given below are the type of squirrels and their average lifespan.
This type of squirrel can live for five years in the wild. The mortality rate of the red squirrel is relatively higher. Only 25% of the infants can survive to mark their first year of birth.
These squirrels attain the state of majority at the age of 2 to 4 years. The maximum lifespan of Red squirrel is recorded to go up to 10 years (in wild). However, these squirrels can live for 8 years in captivity.
The males have a tendency to live longer than the females. This is not the case with most of the other types of squirrels.
Eastern Fox Squirrels
Fox squirrels can live for 8 to 18 years when spending their life in the wild. Most of these squirrels don’t reach the age of maturity. Female squirrels have been reported to live up to 13 years.
The males usually live for 8 years. Some Fox squirrels have lived for 18 years in captivity. This is a relatively long period, especially when compared to other animals.
Southern Flying Squirrels
The squirrels belonging to this genre have a shorter lifespan. They usually live for 3 to 5 years when out there in the wild. However, when raised and brought up in captivity, they can live longer. Records have shown that the flying squirrels can live up to 10 years.
Eastern Grey Squirrels
The grey squirrels normally survive for 12 years when living in the wild. The lifespan tends to increase when these squirrels are raised in captivity. The maximum-recorded age of Eastern grey Squirrel in captivity is 20 years.
The lifespan of ground squirrels is relatively shorter. They may live for 2-4 years while living in the wild. Most of the males don’t live for two years. But the females have shown a lifespan of four years. While in captivity, the ground squirrel may live up to 7 years.
What are the Factors that can Influence a Squirrel’s Lifespan?
There are several factors that can affect a squirrel’s life expectancy. These aspects include:
- Disease infections, and parasites
- Broken tooth
- Predator’s attack
- Eyesight issues
Diseases, Infections, and Parasites
Viral diseases and infections are the common factors, which affect the overall lifespan of squirrels. One of the most common viral diseases is the “Squirrel Pox”. This virus spreads via insect bites.
The major symptom of this viral disease includes the appearance of tumors on the body. This disease can prove fatal for red squirrels but some species show immunity against this virus i.e grey squirrels.
In addition, squirrels can contain a wide range of parasites. For example, ground squirrels may serve as a host to flesh fly (Neobellieria citellivora). These parasites can lay their larvae on the body of a squirrel.
The larva can cause a fatal disease known as Myiasis. During this disease, the larvae can enter the skin and start feeding on the tissues. This condition can prevail for four to five days. This infestation results in the death of a squirrel.
As in the case of other animals with fur on their body, squirrels also face the issue of ticks and fleas. This results in serious infections. However, fleas or ticks don’t cause the death of squirrels.
Coccidia is another parasite, which is capable of infecting squirrels. These parasites are located within the digestive system of a squirrel. Squirrels are also vulnerable to nematodes and flatworms.
Some parasites such as Trypanosomes may also enter the spinal fluid, bloodstream, and lymphatic system of a squirrel.
This can be a serious issue for squirrels, as their eating habits demand strong and sharp teeth. Although the incisors of a squirrel continue to grow, tooth loss cannot be overruled.
Tooth loss causes starvation, which can lead to death. The broken tooth can grow back, yet it takes more time. Furthermore, squirrels may also face an issue of Malocclusion. The common symptom of this disorder is the misalignment of the incisors.
Malocclusion can cause death if the squirrel is unable to eat. Besides, the misaligned tooth can damage the skull or jaw of a squirrel.
Due to the high level of vulnerability, squirrels are the most preferred prey for a wide range of predators. For instance, hawks and owls are the most common predators.
Apart from this, animals like foxes, weasels, and skunks also like to hunt down squirrels. Black snakes and Rattlesnakes normally attack baby squirrels.
With the passage of age, squirrels may come across eyesight-related issues. Some of them can result in the loss of vision. The introduction of cataracts is another issue, which is a type of infection.
Due to their excellent vision, the squirrels can spot their predators from far away. The visually impaired squirrels can manage to get food, yet they become easy prey to predators.
How Damaging Squirrels Can be for Your Home
Squirrels may cause numerous types of damage to your home or garden. The damage caused is unintentional as the squirrels are looking for the most secure place to build their nests.
This is the reason squirrels try to break into the interior through roofs, chimneys, or other areas. The most common damage relates to the gnawing or chewing of the wood or other metal used for building a house.
In order to enter your home, squirrels just need a hole that is a couple of inches wide. For this purpose, squirrels can chew anything including siding, shingles, and fascia boards.
Here are a few of the common damages caused by squirrels.
- Squirrels can enter through the chimney and create a havoc
- The chewing isn’t limited to materials like wood, fabric, or other natural materials. Their teeth are so strong that they can literally chew and cut down a piece of aluminum.
- Squirrels can be extremely dangerous when they start chewing electrical wires. This may trigger a short circuit, which can be a huge hazard for the inhabitants of a house.
- After getting access, the squirrels start to collect debris such as seeds, nuts, and other materials for building a nest.
- The presence of a squirrel nest can damage the structural integrity of your home. The nest would serve as a safe hideout for the squirrels. Hence, they spend most of the time and continue to chew all types of installations.
In addition to the above-mentioned damages, the squirrel droppings can be a menace too. It can trigger a health issue, as the fungus or molds can easily grow on these droppings.
Usually, diseases like Salmonellosis and Leptospirosis are caused due to animal waste. On the other hand, the presence of squirrels also causes the introduction of parasites such as ticks, fleas, and bed bugs.
After going through this comprehensive guide, your knowledge about squirrels would have been improved.
This cute little creature looks appealing to both the kids and the adults. Apart from having an engaging appearance, squirrels also play a critical role in our ecosystem.