Squirrels are bushy tailed rodents found across the globe! Squirrels belong to the Sciuridae family which also includes prairie dogs and chipmunks. There are more than 200 species of squirrels and they are categorized into three types: tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and flying squirrels. Squirrels live on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. Tree squirrels live in wooded areas because they live in trees. Ground squirrels dig tunnels underground. Some ground squirrels hibernate in burrows during the winter to keep warm. Can you think of any other animals that hibernate in the winter? Flying squirrels live in holes in trees or build nests in the crooks of branches. Flying squirrels don’t actually fly but they have a muscle membrane between their legs and body which allow them to glide through the air making it appear as though they are flying. Flying squirrels can glide up to 160 feet! That is the height of the Arc de Triomphe in France. Impressive!
Squirrels eat approximately one pound of food per week. Squirrels like eating nuts but that’s not all they eat. Squirrels are omnivores which means they like to eat plants AND meat. Squirrels primarily eat fungi, seeds, nuts, and fruits but can also be found eating eggs, small insects, caterpillars, small animals, and even young snakes. Squirrel vs. Snake – who will win?!
To prepare for winter weather squirrels will bury their food. That way they will have a store of food they can eat when supplies are scarce. Many times squirrels forget about some of the food they have buried, especially acorns which are the seeds of oak trees. From their forgetfulness come beautiful trees!
- Ohio is home to four squirrel species: the fox squirrel, the gray squirrel, the red squirrel, and the flying squirrel.
- The fox squirrel is the largest of the species in Ohio but they are not native to Ohio. When human settlement cleared some of the dense woods they lived in in the central states, the fox squirrel came to Ohio to enjoy our trees and habitat.
- Fox squirrels and gray squirrels use two types of nests: leaf and den. Leaf nests are constructed from leaves and twigs and are located in tree branches. Dens are formed in hollow tree trunks or in the crooks of branches. Nests are used for shelter and also raising baby squirrels.
- Peak breeding occurs in December through February and May through July. The gestation period, or length of pregnancy, for female squirrels is 44 days. How long is a human woman pregnant?
- Mother squirrels give birth to two to five baby squirrels at a time. The babies are born blind and rely on their mother’s milk for at least the first five weeks of life.