About Squirrels: Appearance, Biology, Life Cycle, Habitat, Diet, And Behavior
Talking about squirrels in general is somewhat challenging as there are over 200 different species of squirrels around the world, with these animals appearing everywhere except Australia. Within the United States, you will only find about five of these species: ground, flying, red, gray, and fox. Even such a small number of squirrel species represents a variety of appearances and sizes, but there are still a few generalizations that can be made.
Squirrels can range in size from about five inches, in the case of the African pygmy squirrel, to three feet long in the case of Indian giant squirrels. Gray squirrels tend to be medium in size, ranging from 15 to 20 inches long with a tail that is between 6 and 9.5 inches. This species will weigh anywhere from one to 1.5 pounds. This particular type of squirrel will actually come in a range of colors, including gray, black, brown, and gray.
All squirrels have four constantly growing teeth in the front portion of their mouths. They gnaw on nuts and similar objects to keep these teeth a comfortable length, but the teeth have also become a noticeable characteristic of this wild animal. Squirrels also have padded feet, which allow them to land without injury, even from a height of up to 20 feet high. Their eyes are high and on opposite sides of the head, letting them keep watch on all of their surroundings.
Biology And Life Cycle
When a mother squirrel gives birth, she will have a litter of between two and eight babies. It is possible for some squirrel species to give birth to multiple litters within a single year, which leads to large populations. At birth, squirrels are completely dependent on their moms for between two and three months. They will usually be weaned when they reach seven or eight weeks old, at which point they will leave home, but typically won't go further than two miles away.
The time of year in which squirrels have their babies varies by species, with some giving birth in early summer and others doing so in spring. In the case of the gray squirrel and other species that have two litters each year, they will have one in early spring and the second in mid-summer. Larger squirrel species tend to live longer than smaller ones because they have a lower risk of predators. On average, a wild squirrel will live to between 10 and 12 years, with many dying younger due to predators. In captivity, squirrels can live to reach age 24, depending on their species.
The exact habitat of squirrels will vary greatly based on the type. Tree squirrels can live anywhere trees are found, such as city parks, your property, or woodlands. Flying squirrels keep a habitat that is fairly similar to that of birds, living in tree holes or nests. Ground squirrels will dig burrows and live in systems made up of underground tunnels. This habit can lead to significant damage to gardens.
The average squirrel will eat a pound of food each week and as they are omnivores, they will eat nuts, fruits, fungi, seeds, caterpillars, small insects, eggs, and more. Squirrels tend to bury food in preparation for colder months, giving them a store so they do not starve during the time of year when food sources are scarce. There is, of course, some variation between squirrel species.
Ground squirrels are one of the more commonly seen squirrels by homes and they eat plants such as seeds, roots, nuts, and leaves. They will also catch then eat caterpillars, insects, and other small animals. Tree squirrels will climb down from their trees at mealtimes when they eat flowers, berries, acorns, or nuts. They may also eat baby birds, eggs, or bark. Flying squirrels have a slightly more varied diet as they can glide through the air. They eat fruit and nuts like the other types of squirrels do, but will also eat baby birds and insects.
As crepuscular animals, you will only notice squirrels being active at dusk or dawn. If you see a squirrel jumping around between trees, then it is most likely a tree squirrel. You may also notice other squirrels burrowing in the ground or exploring tunnel systems. Because ground squirrels only have one main protection from predators, flight, they will frequently work in groups and use a whistling call to warn others of danger or predators. Despite the misleading name, tree squirrels do not actually fly. Instead, they glide across the sky by extending their legs and arms so they can coast along between trees. This is thanks to their skin flaps that let them take leaping glides spanning over 150 feet. Most squirrel species are able to run at very fast speeds, with some reaching 20 mph.
Read the How to get rid of squirrels page for helpful information and to learn more about About Squirrels: Appearance, Biology, Life Cycle, Habitat, Diet, And Behavior
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