ALL ABOUT SQUIRRELS
Today we are going to look closely at squirrels, discussing everything about the little creatures in detail. Let’s go.
Squirrels can be found all over the place, in urban and rural settings, forests, and roads. In fact, they are the most commonly seen mammals in the world. They can even be found in tropical rainforests and semiarid deserts, the only places you won’t find squirrels are the higher polar regions and completely arid deserts. Wherever you see a squirrel, their home will be a nest constructed of densely interwoven twigs lined on the inside with softer materials such as moss, leaves, grass, and fir. These nests are termed dreys and usually found in the fork of a branch tight against the tree trunk. Interestingly though, only the red squirrel is known to
have more than one drey and commonly move their kits from one home to the other. However, sometimes they don’t even go through the effort of constructing their own nest as they will also steal birds’ nests that they find empty for any period of time. Squirrels of course, famously love nuts. For this reason, they are particularly drawn to highly forested areas with myriad oak, red maple, and hickory trees. These trees, whilst providing food, also shield the squirrels from predators and the elements.
Grey squirrels are known to be less arboreal, in other words, to spend less time in trees than their red counterparts. Red squirrels are therefore more elusive. However, both species of squirrel are known to produce two litters of 2-4 young between February and July if there is a good supply of food available. The newly born squirrel will only emerge from the nest at about 7 weeks. It is around this time they also start eating solid food and are usually abandoned or left by their mothers, however, they will stay in the same area as their young until at least autumn comes around. Even though it is rare, some do nest with their mothers over the winter months.
Squirrels only really fight one another during the mating or breeding season and the dispersal seasons. This involves both chasing and wrestling with one another. These fights usually happen between the males directly over a female squirrel where it is common to see up to 7 males around one female vying for dominance. The squirrel is also known to emit up to 11 different calls. These noises are broken down into categories such as scolding and angry noises. Squirrels may also indicate to one another the presence of a predator through these noises combined with flicks of their tales.
Grey squirrels are obviously, predominantly grey in colouring, however, there are some variants such as brown, black, and chestnut-coloured squirrels with varying flakes of colour running through their fur. You can also find pure black grey squirrels, they can be found in some safari parks in England and are very rare in the wild. Less common again are albino grey squirrels which of course are stark white. Red squirrels are therefore red or russet in colouring with ear tufts, which grow longer in winter, and fluffy tails.
Squirrel sexes are the same size, however, in late winter the large scrotum of the males becomes enlarged and becomes very conspicuous whilst the nipples of breeding females are easily seen when they are standing or sitting up. Squirrels belong to the Sciuridae family which includes prairie dogs, chipmunks, and marmots.
Squirrels are omnivores which means that they eat pretty much anything and everything. Their main diet consists of fungi, seeds, nuts, and fruits. However, as said, they do eat pretty much anything available to them, whether that being eggs, small insects, caterpillars, small animals, and even younger snakes. Squirrels are always hoarding and foraging for food to build up a cache for the sparser winter months. The squirrel will bury this food and eat it when fresh food is scarce. Up to 6 weeks the young squirrel is fed by the mother’s milk up and after this, they are weaned and begin eating solids slowly.