All About Squirrels
More than 200 species of squirrels live all over the world, except
in Australia and, of course, Antarctica, with the most common type
being the tree squirrel. While several species live in the United
States, we are most familiar with the gray squirrel.
Squirrels are classified as rodents. They have four incisors that
are constantly growing and need filing down, which indicators
rodents. Squirrels chew to keep them the right size to fit in their
mouths. This is why, when we see one on a tree limb, he or she is
probably nibbling on something.
Squirrels range from about 5 inches long in Africa to up to four
feet long in Laos. In North America, they are small to medium in
Squirrels commonly “sit” on their hind legs while using their front
paws and sharp claws to climb and hold food to eat. Their bushy
tails are used to keep balance when climbing, scaring away
predators, regulating temperature and cushioning falls.
Females (sows) produce about 2 litters of young per year with the
major breeding seasons between December and January and between May
and June. Litters consist of 2 to 4.
Males (boars) keep their testicles inside their bodies until it is
breeding time. The dominant male usually gets the mate. The male and
female then have a short courtship, before she enters her breeding
cycle. After breeding, the males have no interaction with their
The typical pregnancy lasts between 40 and 45 days. The babies are
born hairless, their eyes and ears closed, and only weigh ½ an
ounce. The young squirrels are sexually mature at the end of their
The life cycle of a squirrel in the wild averages around 6 years
depending on the amount of food available, predators, disease and
weather. In captivity, some squirrels live up to 15 years.
The best place for squirrels to live is in hollow “dens,” inside a
tree. Female squirrels with babies will not allow other squirrels to
share the den even though squirrels are social animals. If a den is
not found, they will make leaf nests, but that severely impacts the
survival rate of the baby squirrels.
Everyone knows that squirrels like nuts, but if there isn’t enough,
squirrels will eat berries and other fruits, flowers, mushrooms and
even the occasional small animal.
Squirrels do not hibernate and are active
during the day. They are territorial and noisy, especially during
mating season and tend to be social, except when rearing their
young. Chasing is used for play, mating and guarding their
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