There are times when it feels like the squirrels in our yard are just as much a part of our family as our pets. Seldom do we look out our window or walk around our property, without a few squirrels scampering nearby. They race across our deck and railings. They dig in our flower pots when we are not looking. Occasionally they help themselves to the tasty heads of our favorite new blooms. We’re constantly filling in holes where they’re burying new acorns or digging up last year’s harvest. Another day a squirrel was digging and digging in one of our young 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 in as he retracted. Within a couple of seconds, the squirrel was fully visible again. I then witnessed to my disbelief and amazement, the squirrel replacing all of the mulch he had removed back over the pit. His busy small paws quickly spread the mulch around the region. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would not have known that a hole had even been in this place in our backyard. Squirrels are certainly amazing little creatures.
They can be broken down to three main lineages. These two groups primarily include the oriental giant squirrel and the neotropical pygmy squirrel. The third and by far the largest group, can be split into three subgroups. The three subgroups are the flying squirrels, tree squirrels, and mostly 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 lbs. Yes, 18 lbs! The Alpine marmot can be about 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 before the nut beginning to sprout. Once the nut sprouts, the it is no longer available for the squirrel to eat. Once buried nuts are off the menu, squirrels then need to rely heavily on the buds of trees for food. Thus, there are so many chewed off twigs through the spring season. Squirrels will immediately switch to fruits, seeds, fungi, nuts, pine cones and other green plant when available. Some squirrels, even when desperate for food, will change to meat and eat insects, eggs, small birds, as well as rodents. It is during these times, a squirrel will rob a nest of freshly laid eggs or float on the young. They are some species of squirrels which will regularly float on rodents, shrews, lizards, and mice when they can locate them.
In North America, there are probably squirrels in your neighborhood. They live across the nation and continue to populate in massive numbers. They can have several 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 the species. The kittens as they are called, then remain with their mom for seven to eight weeks. Initially after arrival, they’re blind and remain in the nest. Once on their own, the new litter normally stays within a two-mile radius of their birthing nest. Nature does influence the juvenile squirrels with most of them not alive beyond their first year of life. Those that do, can typically be seen chasing each other from tree to tree, racing across the backyard, or dodging cars on our roadways.