You will struggle to find many people that don’t like squirrels. Sure, they can be a nuisance in your backyard at times – particularly when it comes to your birdseed. But sometimes information can help, like a squirrel 101 quick facts introduction to these backyard critters.
So in this article, as part of our series of ‘Species 101’ content, we’ll cover the habitat, location, predators, mating, and more about Squirrels.
There might be some things in here you already knew. But we hope you’ll discover some interesting new facts along the way.
Read on, or watch the video below from our Ranger Planet YouTube Channel.
Let’s get straight into the details…
Squirrels belong to the family Sciuridae. This classification includes small or medium-size rodents.
The squirrel family mainly includes tree and ground squirrels but also includes chipmunks, marmots, flying squirrels, and prairie dogs along with other similar rodents.
See chipmunk vs ground squirrel to better understand some of the main differences.
When including all categories, the species has a total of 289 known types in the world.
Squirrels typically have large eyes and slim bodies with long and bushy tails. Their fur is generally soft and silky, but some species do have thicker fur.
Among the various species, their coat color can vary greatly but is mostly grey through to brown and some with unique stripes such as chipmunks.
A group of squirrels is commonly called a “scurry” of squirrels.
Size and Weight
Average squirrels grow in size from 15 to 20 inches (38 to 51 cm) in length. Their tails add an extra 6 to 9.5 inches (15 to 24 cm) to their length. Typically they weigh about 1 to 1.5 pounds (450 to 680 grams).
Squirrels are native to the Americas, Africas, and Eurasia. In the United States, they are found in every state except Hawaii.
The grey squirrel is an invasive species in Great Britain, having been introduced from North America in the late 19th century. They currently pose a threat to the brown squirrel native to that region.
From tropical rainforest to semi-arid desert, squirrels live in almost every habitat. They only avoid extreme climatic regions like high Polar Regions and the driest deserts.
Most squirrels live in trees, but some, like the ground squirrel, live exclusively on the ground.
Find out exactly how squirrels nest here.
Hunting and Diet
Squirrels are primarily herbivore creatures but can be considered omnivores.
They survive mostly on seeds and nuts, but their meals also include beechnuts, acorns, grass, and grapes. Under some circumstances, they will eat insects and small vertebrates like birds, bugs, and amphibians.
Squirrels have an excellent sense of vision.
It is an important characteristic to have for the tree-dwelling species.
Ground and tree squirrels are mostly diurnal while flying squirrels are mostly nocturnal.
Squirrels are quite curious and playful creatures. They are known to explore and investigate anything new in their environment.
Squirrels are also known to remember past events and experiences relatively well, such as recognizing other family and possibly species members, or those that feed them in the park.
As a further example, many know the habit of a squirrel to remember where it cached (hid) nuts and will return to that spot later, or at least most (if not all) of the nuts it buries!
When it comes to being territorial, squirrels are mainly solitary creatures. However, there have been cases where two or more squirrels will live in close proximity to one another without issue.
The single biggest source of mortality for squirrels is invariably the failure of seed crops and subsequent starvation.
However, they do also fall prey to aerial predators such as hawks, eagles, and harriers.
Other predators include Foxes, Coyotes, Weasels, Rattle and Bull snakes, and occasionally Domestic Cats.
Mating and Rearing
Squirrels mate once or twice a year.
They generally give birth to three to four offspring following a gestation period of around three to six weeks. This period can vary depending on the species.
Their young are born blind and naked but grow quickly. They are generally weaned at around six to eight weeks old. Once they become adults, squirrels generally find a location for themselves, and aside from times of mating, they tend to live alone, but do mix in communal groups.
When it comes to nesting, squirrels either build their own nests or use those of other animals, such as birds. Nests are made from twigs, leaves, and bark and are usually situated in trees.
The average life expectancy for a gray squirrel from birth can be as low as 1-2 years. Beyond this, the average life span of an adult is closer to 6 years.
Records for maximum life span stand at 12 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity.
Can you keep a squirrel as a pet?
Squirrels can be a lot of hard and constant work to take care of.
If you’re thinking about getting a squirrel as a pet, make sure you know what you’re getting into. And also check around local laws and regulations about keeping wildlife.
Squirrels, however cute they may be are also wild animals and belong in the wild. They are in fact classed as a rodent in many areas.
So before you take on the challenge of taking care of a squirrel, make sure you know what you’re really getting into.
This species is widespread, and if anything, their breadth of regions is growing. So They are considered as least concern. However, as mentioned previously, the brown squirrel is under threat from the gray squirrel in some areas.
Squirrel 101 – More wildlife content.
We hope this has given you the quick squirrel 101 information on this wonderful unique creature. Be sure to check out other content from Ranger Planet, and head over to our YouTube channel for more wildlife Top 10’s, Animal facts, and information.