Squirrels F.A.Q



Are squirrels color blind?


Research suggests, that the squirrel has "dichromatic" color vision, and therefore can see in color.

This would compare to a Human, that has "red-green" color blindness.


How many different kinds of "tree" squirrels are there?


Of the ten species of tree squirrels in the northern hemisphere. The most common are the Eastern Gray,  followed by the Red squirrel,  the Fox squirrel, the Abert or Kaibab squirrels,  Douglas squirrel,  Pine squirrel,  Japanese squirrel,   Persian squirrel,  Arizona gray, and of course the Western gray squirrel.


What is the largest squirrel on Earth?


The largest squirrel is the Ratufa (ratufa indica) sometimes known as the Indian giant squirrel, it can grow to three feet in length. This species is found in southeast Asia, and parts of Nepal.


What is the smallest squirrel on Earth?


The African Pygmy (Myosciurus, pumilio) is the smallest squirrel in the world. Its head and body length is only two and half inches long. With a tail approximately the same length. They are found, in Southeastern Nigeria, Cameroon, and Gabon.


I never see squirrel droppings, where are they?


Squirrels,  like all rodents,  have very small droppings.   They are about the size of a raisin, and light brown in color.   Since the squirrel is outdoors, and always moving,  they can be difficult to find.


Do squirrels hibernate?


No, tree squirrels are active all year round. You may not see them as often in the Winter, since they stay in their nests to conserve body heat.


How can you tell a male from a female?


There is no difference in appearance, between males and females. About the only sure way to tell the sex of a squirrel is to turn it over and look.


Why does the squirrel have such a big tail?


The squirrel uses its tail for many things,  its primary function is for balance. This enables the squirrel to maneuver quickly without falling.  It is also used as a parachute,  should the squirrel fall.  It can act as a blanket in the Winter.   Squirrels also use their tail to communicate with other squirrels.


Do squirrels talk?


Squirrels do communicate,  by making shrill sounds (tchrring).  The pitch and the duration of these sounds have meaning to other squirrels.  Tail gestures are also a form of communication.   The most common tail gesture is the "flicking" which means "get away!"


How fast can a squirrel run?


Squirrels look like they run fast and for there size and weight they do.   The average speed, at a full run, is between 8 and 10 mph.   There is an old story of an Illinois state police officer that once clocked a gray squirrel,  with his radar gun at 20 mph. as it ran across a highway.  


What do squirrels eat?


Most squirrels eat nuts, seeds, grain, and fruit.   By far their favorite food would be nuts, followed by sunflower seeds.   Urban squirrel have adapted to eat just about anything,  including pizza,  luncheon meats and all forms of snack foods. Squirrels have been known to eat bird eggs,  but this is a last resort.  When natural food is scarce, they will eat anything they can find.


Do squirrels ever fall?


Squirrels do fall,  but they use their tail as a parachute and when they land their tail is used as a cushion.   They rarely get hurt from a short fall.  But they can sustain broken bones, or severe spinal injuries from a awkward landing.


Can squirrels swim?


Squirrels swim using a "dog paddle" motion, and their tail as a rudder.  Swimming is very strenuous for a squirrel,  and it's not done unless absolutely necessary.


How far can a squirrel jump?


On the ground they hop.   Usually moving twelve to twenty inches at a time.  It is not uncommon for a squirrel to hop or jump up to six feet in one bound.  Of course,  if you have ever seen a squirrel race through a tree,  you know they can easily jump between branches of greater distances.


Do squirrels fight?


Playfully when they are young,  and again later during the mating season. Squirrels are not normally aggressive,&; although they'll nip at other squirrels feeding in or invading their territory.


Where do squirrels live?


Squirrels build nests called "dreys".  They are made of twigs and leaves.   The interior is lined with fur,  feathers or other soft material for comfort.   There are normally two exits in this type of nest,  and they're built high in a tree between two strong branches.   High enough to provide protection from ground predators,  but not too high or the nest will be destroyed by the winds.   Squirrels also will build a nest,  called a "den",  in a hollow tree cavity.


How long do squirrels live?


Squirrels in captivity have lived to be twenty years old.   Most Gray squirrels will die before their first birthday,  not due to predators or the lack of food.   But by being run over by vehicles.   If they survive their first year,  they should live five or six more years.


What happens to squirrels when they die?


Squirrels die for a variety of reasons, usually a natural death occurs while the squirrel is hiding or in its nest.  The body may by removed by a predator, or it may simply decay before it is found.


When do squirrels mate?


Squirrels mate in the late Winter or very early Spring.   This time may vary with location, and the weather conditions.   The best time to see a squirrel's acrobatic skill is, during the "mating chase".


When are the babies born,  and why don't we see them?


Baby squirrels are born in the spring,  without fur.  They're blind, and weigh in at one or two ounces each.   There are usually four in a litter.   The mother will keep the young in the nest and nurse them until they're ready to venture out of the nest, on their own.  This is usually in eight to ten weeks.  You may see a mother squirrel move her babies, she will carry them by mouth, one at a time.


What do you call a group of squirrels?


Squirrels are solitary animals. They do not have a hierarchical structure, and therefore, no group name was established.


What are young squirrels called?


They are called babies or infants while in the nest.  Then for their first year they're referred to as Juveniles.  After their first year,  they become adults and are simply called squirrels.


Does the male squirrel help take care of the babies?


No,  the male squirrel leaves after the mating.  The female raises the babies by herself.


What is the difference between urban squirrels and rural squirrels?


Urban squirrels tend to have a smaller territory,  they sometimes have to share resources to survive.  They also have learned,  to coexist with humans.  While rural squirrels are more protective of their territory, and they have more natural predators to deal with.


What is a territory?


Squirrels claim an area,  usually one to seven acres in size. They will build their nest in this space.  They will find, and store their food in this area.  The squirrel must keep other squirrels from invading this space.  Squirrels mark their territory by urinating on the surrounding trees.  This warns an intruding squirrel,  that it's trespassing.


Why do squirrels hide their food?


Gray and Fox squirrels hide their food in many places,  so if another squirrel or animal were to find it,  the entire year's supply would not be lost.  Sometimes they hide food temporarily, until they can move it to a more convenient location.  This is called "scatter hoarding".


The Red and Pine squirrels will dig a shallow pit, this is referred to as a  "midden" where they store the cones they've cut or found.  This supply will then be covered with leaves, or other debris, which creates a cold and moist storage environment.  This practice is known as "larder hoarding".


Should people feed squirrels?


Squirrels get food from many sources,  if there is an abundance of food the squirrel will store it for the future.  So,  feeding them does not make much difference.  The one thing you should "never" do is hold a nut with your fingers for a squirrel to eat. Since the squirrels eyes are on the side of its head, it cannot see what is in front of its mouth. A finger feels about the same as a shelled nut.


Should I feed squirrels peanuts?


Only if they are unsalted.  To much salt is not good for the squirrel, it increases their heart rate. This in turn, can contribute to an early death.


I saw a squirrel with one leg missing,  will it be able to survive?


Squirrels,  like all animals never show pain or disability.  They learn to do what other squirrels do,  sometimes in different ways.  If a squirrel cannot adapt,  then it will likely die.


Do squirrels make good pets?


No... Although squirrels can, and do live in captivity.  It is an unnatural environment for them.  They need to run and climb.  They make poor house pets since their sharp claws, and teeth can do a great deal of damage. They can even harm a human unintentionally.  It would be cruel to keep a wild animal caged where it cannot mate or interact with other animals. On the other hand,  squirrels kept in a cage for study or treatment will often live longer then their wild counterpart,  since there are no worries about food,  water,  or weather.  Most Cities, Counties and States have rules about keeping wild animals as pets.  A permit is often required.  It would be best to inquire before you try to adopt a disabled squirrel.


Is there one place that has more squirrels,  then all others?


In the United States the largest concentration of squirrels is in Washington,  D.C.   Specifically,  in Lafayette Park across from the White House.  Some call it the "Squirrel Capital" of the World.  Squirrels roam free and are well feed by the thousands of Government employees and visitors that tour the park daily.


Do squirrels eat other animals?


Squirrels do not normally eat meat.  They will,  when faced with hunger and no other source of food eat bird eggs,  insects or pick at a carcass.  There are also reports of male squirrels that attempt to eat infant squirrels.  While this is true,  it is so rare, it is not mentioned very often.


I've heard squirrels referred to as vermin. Is this true?


Squirrels are considered vermin, usually by insurance companies. They use the definition of vermin, "birds or mammals that are difficult to control", as a means to preclude a claim for the damage a squirrel can do.


Do squirrels kill trees?


Squirrels (the Red squirrel in particular) can destroy trees by tearing and/or eating the bark.  They can become a nuisance in some "pine forests" and may need to be controlled.  It should be noted that most squirrels live in trees, and therefore would not destroy their home.  In the United Kingdom the Grey squirrel has become a major problem to their trees.  Many squirrel's have been destroyed in an attempt to control this yet unexplained problem.


Do squirrels really fly?


No,  but some species do glide.  The flying squirrel gets its name from the folds of skin between its body and arms.  With its arms extended the flying squirrel forms a wing,  similar to a bird.  The flying squirrel can glide great distances, as it searches for food.


Why can squirrels eat poison mushrooms and not die?


Squirrels eat mushrooms, plants, and bulbs, that may be poisonous to humans.  This is due in part to their short digestive tract which seems to handle these compounds.


Can I poison a squirrel that is doing damage to my house?


No...It is illegal in most States to kill squirrels by poisoning. Where it is allowed, it requires a special license or permit.  It would also be extremely unwise to use poisons,  since birds, cats, dogs, and other domestic animals will often feed on many of the same grains as squirrels.