Lakeside Nature Center
Critter Corner -
<--- Grey Squirrel
DID YOU KNOW:
The gray squirrel is the most common city dwelling squirrel we see. It is the one that is gray with a white underbelly, though coloration can vary from white to black. But perhaps you have seen the larger, orange-colored fox squirrel that is more often found in forested areas and near rivers.
Squirrels are mainly vegetarians, eating seeds, nuts (hickory are their favorite), acorns, fruits, berries and sometimes mushrooms, insects and even bird eggs. Squirrels bury nuts and acorns when they are abundant and dig them up later as needed. Squirrels find buried nuts by smell, not memory, so the caches are shared by all. They gnaw on shed deer antlers to help wear down their ever-growing front teeth and to get essential minerals like calcium.
Mom squirrel may have two litters of young each year, in February and again in July. She may nest in a hole in a dead tree or in a round nest constructed of leaves and tucked among tree branches. The three to five babies are naked and helpless at birth. In five weeks they open their eyes and soon nibble on vegetation and insects found in the nest. In eight weeks they forage with Mom; they will soon be on their own.
Both fox and gray squirrels are found east of he Rocky Mountains. Fox squirrels are not found in the far northeastern United States. Forests with an abundance of oak and hickory trees are preferred because the trees provide food and nesting cavities. A nearby creek or pond or even a birdbath provides water.
Squirrels are always on the lookout for animals that might hunt them. Hawks, owl, coyotes, foxes and bobcats are major predators. Cats and dogs also catch many squirrels. Squirrels depend on excellent eyesight, sharp hearing, the ability to run fast and climb trees, and protective camouflage to keep them safe. If caught, sharp incisor teeth and strong jaw muscles can deliver a serious bite.
To learn more about fox squirrels
To learn more about gray squirrels
(Photo credits: Portrait of fox squirrel, National Parks Service; Portrait of gray squirrel, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; Squirrel's nest, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)