What have you heard about squirrels? They are familiar to almost everyone, and it’s not a big surprise. According to National Geographic, more than 200 squirrel species live all over the world, except for Australia.
For some people, squirrels are cute and entertaining. They are often in cartoons or fairytales, and that’s why many kids love these cute creatures. But there are many people for whom they are pretty annoying. But it doesn’t matter what you think about squirrels, the reality is that we have to live with them, and that means we should know more about their behavior.
Let’s take a closer look at some exciting and helpful facts about squirrels to learn more about these interesting creatures.
Can squirrels fly? Actually, no, squirrels can’t fly, so you might ask, why are they called “flying squirrels”? In fact, it would be more appropriate if we called them “gliding” squirrels, but it is what it is.
Flying squirrels are small tree squirrels that can glide. They stretch out their legs and use a fold of skin between their legs to form a “parachute.” That’s what helps them glide from one tree to another and makes us think that they can fly. Why do they need to glide? When a flying squirrel wants to travel from one to another tree, it finds a high branch and jumps.
These clever creatures usually live in deciduous and coniferous forests. They just find a comfortable place for them to live, like snags, woodpecker holes, and abandoned nests of other animals.
Interestingly, these cute animals use the same principle for gliding as base jumpers or skydivers. Humans actually learned it from them! They replicated the flying squirrel’s gliding abilities and turned it into a sport. A special suit that skydivers use to mimic the flying squirrel.
Most likely, you already know about grey squirrels since they are one of the most familiar mammals. If you like walking in gardens and parks, don’t be afraid to meet this cutie. Also, if you notice that your bird food is gone, don’t be sure that it took it! Since grey squirrels are frequent visitors to gardens with bird feeding places,
They love to eat hazelnuts, but they like to crack them even more than what’s inside. Grey squirrels make nests using twigs, leaves, and strips of bark. The nest is called a “drey” and you might be able to see it barely high up in the tree.
After our grey friend, you should get to know this attractive little mammal with a red coat and a very fluffy tail. They like to live in coniferous or broad-leaved woods and are usually most active during the morning or late afternoon.
Although red squirrels love running and jumping in the trees, they sometimes visit the ground, too. This makes it easier for them to search for food. They love to eat the seeds, nuts, and berries, but sometimes they steal bird eggs or even chicks.
It is interesting to note that they are very good at searching for food and can find buried food even when there is more than one foot of snow on top of it. Moreover, despite their striking resemblance, grey and red squirrels can’t breed together.
If you enjoyed reading about these mischievous creatures, we have some bad news for you: very few red squirrels survive to their first birthday due to disease, starvation, or other unlucky circumstances.
This species may look much more familiar to you than others. It has a brownish-gray coat with orange undertones. It is also the largest of all squirrel species!
You can commonly find them throughout the eastern United States, Canada, and Mexico. You might ask, what makes it special compared to other species? They don’t really like trees! These rodents scurry up and down their trunks to escape predators and spend the majority of their time on the ground looking for fallen nuts.
Much of their diet consists of acorns and other seeds, but they are omnivores, meaning they also eat meat. They feed on acorns, seeds, nuts, berries, fruits, etc. Similar to red squirrels, sometimes they feed on bird eggs.
Ground squirrels are notorious for standing tall on their hind legs to detect potential threats. With so many genera and species of ground squirrel, they vary significantly in size.
Marmots are the heaviest squirrels, weighing up to 8 kg. In contrast, chipmunks weigh as little as 50 g. As their name suggests, most ground squirrels live on the ground, often burrowing underneath it.
Ground squirrels are omnivores and eat a variety of items found in their grassy environments. They communicate with each other through various vocalizations and scent markings. They also use their tails as a signaling device, twitching them when uneasy to alert other squirrels of potential danger.
Interesting Facts About Squirrels
When we talk about squirrels, things get very interesting, since they have many special habits. For example, when a squirrel feels that it is in danger, it stops moving, then runs to a nearby tree or circles the trunk tightly and presses against the bark tightly.
The squirrel is a very trusting animal and is one of the very few wild animal species willing to eat from a human hand. That’s the reason why many people love to feed them, and they are called squirrel feeders.
It is well known that these intelligent creatures perform elaborate bogus food burial displays to deceive onlookers. In fake burials, other squirrels and birds are tricked into thinking there is food stored to fool possible thieves.
What Do Squirrels Eat?
We mentioned a few species of squirrels, including red squirrels, ground squirrels, grey squirrels, fox squirrels, and flying squirrels, but there are many more out there! And as diverse as these creatures are, they have different tastes in food as well.
What do squirrels eat? Well, squirrels just happen to eat a lot of things. Here is a short list of foods that squirrels enjoy.
Squirrels eat a variety of vegetables, and gardeners know this all too well. Delicious veggies such as tomatoes, radishes, corn, and so on are their favorites! So if you have a garden full of those, be careful, this uninvited visitor might disappear in one night.
Many backyard squirrel feeders feed cereal to squirrels. The list of cereals you can use as squirrel feeders is long, including Chex, Cheerios, Cap’n Crunch, shredded wheat, cornflakes, and so on.
Mother Nature may not have intended for squirrels to consume unnaturally sugary cereals, but squirrels have a devil-may-care attitude toward what they put in their stomachs.
Humans, while enjoying food, leave all sorts of treats and snacks behind when eating outdoors. Squirrels have developed a keen taste for cheese. Why not? since they have a pretty good appetite. Squirrels aren’t picky about cheese, either.
Sure, they’ll even eat your cheesy leftovers if they’re available! Squirrels aren’t picky about how a good piece of cheese can give a squirrel an extra bit of fat for later!
Squirrels are absolutely crazy about nuts. Even though most of the time they are annoying people, the squirrel’s activity can be good for the tree species, as squirrels help spread seeds far and wide, helping to ensure the chances of certain tree species’ growth and survival.
Squirrels may naturally prefer nuts to other foods. Nuts are consumed by squirrels and stored in caches for later consumption.
Many families have bird seed available in their yards for birds, but even when birds are present, a squirrel will not hesitate to get in on the birdseed action and will stuff their bellies with this readily available snack that humans are all too happy to share.
One of their favorite snacks is insects! For example, caterpillars, larvae, winged bugs, grasshoppers, injured butterflies, crickets, and so on. A squirrel will resort to eating small insects to satisfy its need for protein. Well, these little creatures are very serious when it comes to food.
Sometimes squirrels start stealing eggs from other animals or may even visit your chicken coop. There is more! When necessary, they get even more brutal. Squirrels will not hesitate to eat hatchlings, young chicks, and baby birds.
Scraps and Waste
Next time you take out the garbage or leave the leftovers from your picnic in the garbage can, you might keep in mind that a hungry squirrel might be rooting around in there later. Oh, and don’t get scared if it’s already there while you try to put your garbage away!
These cute little animals are part of our lives since we have to meet them almost every day, but we have no idea how intelligent these creatures are. Even though most of the time they ruin our gardens and steal our food, they have skills and habits that even highly developed humans can take an example of, so next time you see a squirrel, don’t forget to take a closer look at them.
Having discovered a fondness for insects while pursuing her degree in Biology, Randi Jones was quite bugged to know that people usually dismissed these little creatures as “creepy-crawlies”.