Animal Picture  
  Squirrels - An Overview

When settlers first arrived in North America, they found the grey squirrel in large numbers. The squirrels were a problem to farmers because they would eat large amounts of seeds and grain, but the population slowly declined as the forest habitat was taken over by farms and as squirrels were killed to reduce the damage they were doing to the settlers' crops. In the early 1900's scientists were concerned that the squirrel might become extinct. Fortunately the squirrel survived and we can enjoy watching the small mammal in its daily activities.


The grey squirrel is quite common in the Northeastern United States and Canada. It has grey fur on its back, and its underside has a soft white color. It also has a large, fluffy tail that is nearly as long as its body. Its body is anywhere between 8 and 10 inches long, and its tail is the same length. Its weight can vary from 6 ounces to 3/4 lb. In some locales, the grey squirrel can also be born with black fur.


The home range of the grey squirrel is about one hectare. The males' home range is usually larger than the females', and both like wooded areas that can supply sources of food, protection, and places to build dens. The grey squirrel is quite neighbourly and shares its home range with other squirrels. Though this is not true of some squirrels, such as the red squirrel, which will attack and chase away other squirrels that enter their home range.


The diet of the grey squirrel changes throughout the year. In August when the nuts from trees such as the oak, walnut, and beech trees begin to mature, the grey squirrel eats all the nuts it can and stores the rest. Grey squirrels store large numbers of nuts underground, and in hollow tree stumps. They dig a hole about 2 to 3 inches deep and place a nut inside. They then push it down with their nose and cover it over with dirt using their feet. They usually store only one nut in each hole and can work very quickly. In only 30 minutes they can store up to 25 nuts! During the summer, the diet of the grey squirrel is made up of insects, flowers, mushrooms, pine cones, corn, and apples.


The squirrel's natural enemies include the raccoon, opossum, and feral cat. Hunters do catch squirrels for their pelts, and many are also killed by automobiles.

  Life Cycle

The young are born about 45 days after mating. They are born with their ears and eyes closed, have no hair, and must stay very close to the mother for warmth. They suckle milk from their mother, and in about five weeks, they are fully furred and are able to see and hear. They begin to take short trips out of the nest and after eight and nine weeks, they are weaned from their mother's milk. At about four months of age, the squirrels have established a home range and no longer rely on their mother. The male squirrel has no part in the raising of the young.

  Special Features

The average life span in the wild is three to six years. In captivity they can live to be 15 to 20 years!

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