They race across our deck and railings. They dig in our flower pots when we aren’t looking. Sometimes they help themselves to the yummy heads of our favorite new blooms. We’re constantly filling in holes where they’re burying new acorns or digging up last season’s crop. Another day a squirrel was digging and digging in one of our youthful spring flower beds. By the time he was done, until just a tail could be seen above ground. Gradually, the snowball began backing out of the hole while apparently filling it as he retracted. Within a few seconds, the squirrel was fully visible again. Then I witnessed to my disbelief and amazement, the squirrel replacing all the mulch he had removed back over the pit. His busy little paws quickly spread the mulch around the region. After he finished, I peeked at his handiwork. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would not have understood that a hole had been in this place in our backyard. Squirrels are certainly amazing little creatures.
They can be broken down to three main lineages. Two of the groups are relatively small. Both of these groups primarily include the oriental giant squirrel and the neotropical pygmy squirrel. The third and by far the largest group, can be divided into three subgroups. The three subgroups will be the flying squirrels, tree squirrels, and mainly ground living squirrels. Squirrels in these categories vary greatly in size, with the African American pygmy squirrel weighing around a third of an ounce and the Alpine marmot weighing up to 18 pounds. Yes, 18 lbs! The Alpine marmot is also around three and a half feet long, while the pygmy squirrel is as short as 3 inches.
An interesting fact about squirrels is that early spring is the toughest time of the year for them to find food. Nuts buried during the autumn can be dug up and eaten prior to the nut beginning to sprout. When the nut sprouts, the it’s no longer available for the squirrel to eat. Therefore, there are several chewed off twigs throughout the spring season. Squirrels will quickly switch to fruits, seeds, fungi, nuts, pine cones and other green plant when available. Some squirrels, when desperate for food, will change to meat and eat insects, eggs, small birds, and even rodents. It is during these times, that a squirrel will rob a nest of freshly laid eggs or float on the young. They’re some species of squirrels which will regularly dine on snakes, shrews, lizards, and rodents when they can locate them.
In North America, there are probably squirrels in your neighborhood. They live across the country and continue to populate in large numbers. They can have multiple litters in a year and have a new litter every three or four months. Their gestation period is generally between 30 and 60 days, depending on the size of these species. The kittens as they’re called, then remain with their mom for seven to eight weeks. Initially after birth, they are blind and remain in the nest. Once on their own, the new litter normally stays within a two-mile radius of the birthing nest. Nature does affect the juvenile squirrels with most of them not alive beyond their first year of life. The ones that do, can typically be seen chasing each other from tree to tree, racing across the back yard, or dodging cars on our roadways.