Ten Questions: Tree Squirrels

Today we introduce a fun new series called Ten Questions. We bring you ten questions about an interesting nature subject and give you fun and interesting answers to each one. Our first subject is the tree squirrel. Why do they have those bushy tails? Can they swim? Where can I find them? We'll answer these questions and many more!

For this first article our subject is going to be tree squirrels, like the fox squirrel in my pictures. I thought I would pick squirrels first because I already talk about them so much. Here we go...


Why do squirrels have such long and bushy tails?
Squirrels have long bushy tails for many reasons. The primary use of the tail is for balance, mostly in climbing trees. Another use of a squirrel's tail is as a parachute if the squirrel falls. It can use this bushy tail to keep it warm in the winter. And it also uses its tail to communicate with other squirrels.

What do squirrels eat?
Squirrels eat a variety of things. They are mostly vegetarians, but they will eat other things too. They like all sorts of fruits and vegetables. In the forest they go for seeds, nuts, acorns, pine cones, and a lot of other parts of a tree. They also eat insects, bird eggs, and even young birds. They like dog food and also just about any small scraps a human might cast off.

Do squirrels live in my part of the world?
Members of the squirrel family are found in every country in the world except for Australia, Madagascar and the polar regions. So, yes, they probably do! If you are one of the unlucky ones, then there is always the internet full of pictures.

Can squirrels swim?
Squirrels swim using a dog paddle motion, and their tail as a rudder. Swimming is very strenuous for a squirrel, and it's not done unless absolutely necessary. Most mammals can and do swim. Some just don't do it very often because of either not much available water or it is difficult for them.

Do squirrels make good pets? 
Squirrels have been made into pets, and are known to be as intelligent as dogs. They can be trained to do tricks and other things. This is all as long as they are trained from birth. But squirrels make poor house pets since their sharp claws, and teeth can do a great deal of damage. They can even harm a human unintentionally. No wild animal that hasn't been bred as such should be kept as a pet. So the answer is no.

Why do squirrels shake their tails?
Squirrels shake their tails when they are upset or agitated, or in danger from a believed predator. Some believe they do it to distract their aggressor. It's usually considered to be a negative signal. It means "Get away from me!"

Where do squirrels live?
Tree squirrels have adapted to living in the city as well as the country. They prefer to live in tree cavities. If a squirrel cannot find a comfortable hole, it will build a large nest. It puts leafy twigs in the fork of a tree, then adds leaves, grass, and small twigs. If you see a big clump of leaves and branches in a treetop, it probably belongs to a squirrel.

Do squirrels hibernate?
No, squirrels do not hibernate. But they do stay in their home much more often during the cold winter months. They do this for the same reason that you and I like to stay in where it's warm. If their fall nut crop was small, the squirrels need to hunt for more food even during bad winter weather.

How many babies does a squirrel have each time?
Squirrels give birth to an average of two to five baby squirrels in March or April. Blind, hairless, and helpless, the little ones need a lot of care from their mother. Only the females raise the young. Male squirrels do not help. The female sometimes has a second litter of baby squirrels in July or August. Shortly before her second litter is born, the first young squirrels leave to find new places to live.

Why do squirrels chase each other?
There are very many reasons squirrels chase each other. Sometimes it is to show dominance, usually for rights to food. Male squirrels will chase females as part of their mating ritual, which can be as complex as that of any other animal. Juvenile squirrels will chase each other for the same reason puppies, kittens, and human children do. They are simply playing.


How did you like this interesting bit of trivia? Obviously we can't answer all questions in just one article, but if we get good feedback and a lot of comments we might just revisit this subject with another ten questions.

Comments

  1. What do Squirrels eat? The Sunflower seeds and suet cakes in my bird feeders. The rascals.
    I thought they did hibernate. Great informative article!

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  2. This is a great post for people that know nothing about squirrels.

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  3. I agree with Ginnymo, this is a great post for those wanting to learn more about our squirrel friends.

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  4. Thank you for answering the questions my grandkids ask me about squirrels. We have one that lives in our backyard and they love him/her. They are amazing to watch.

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    1. You are very welcome. Squirrels need their story to be told. Not many big nature people talk about our amusing little friends.

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    2. I was wondering if the males live with the females in the giant Nests? It stated the males don't help but do they all live together?

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    3. Thank you. I've lived with squirrels for 60 years now in my area. Many people especially children love watching their antics and tricks. They are the ultimate survivalists! Decent comedians, and excellent tricksters! But from the gardners point of view they are trouble! Bulbs, blossoms and tasty snacks are up for grabs in the garden to them; their favorites, just like their cousins the bunnies. But exotic, oriental, dainty heirloom lily bulbs are a bit of an expensive snack. I want to know why one squirrel would , threaten and trap and almost bark at another squirrel as he held him hostage at the tip of the branch today!? Also why don't I ever see baby squirrels climbing around like I see baby rabbits? This is dumb but do they nurse? And do they make big like stick type nests in trees or burrow in ground branches?

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  5. great article- thank you! I like this idea of 10 questions. I hope you continue with it. I'd like to know about racoons and wild turkeys seeing as we don't have them in the uk.

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    1. We have racoons everywhere here, they come out at night and if you are very still will come right up to you lol, we have to make sure our food and keys are put up tight because they are known thieves, I highly recommend a camping trip to any State park in Texas the wildlife is amazing

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    2. Raccoons can be dangerous. I was trapped in a screen room at night. Zippers down with a cooler and a raccoon, 8-/2 months pg. Another time. My huge dog was going hog wild barking; a raccoon IN his dog house!

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  6. Thank you for this informative article! I am an avid squirrel watcher and lover. They keep me entertained throughout the day while I am working! Hope to see more articles like this in the future!

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  7. Excellent! Ten ?'s brought answers to many questions, some we hadn't even thought of asking.
    Keep up the great work.

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  8. Thank you, I wanted to know why this squirrel was shaking it's tail all of a sudden, then I saw a cat in the next yard. I love to see them eat the bird seed we put on the deck. My Grandfather used to be able to mimic their sounds much to our amusement! When he was young in North Carolina they made a good meal when times was tough back in the day.
    thanks again!

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  9. I love squirrels and this is a great blog! Thank you for this post! (I think you should know, though, that it's very hard to read. Whenever I try to move the article up or down to read it the green tabs on the side pop out and I can't move the post to read it.)

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  10. I had trouble reading it also.and i was told that both parents take care of the babies

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  11. here's a good question - even though there are tons of acorns on the ground, why do squirrels not take them? They seem to prefer the ones in the trees first? (my observation)

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  12. re's a good question - even though there are tons of acorns on the ground, why do squirrels not take them? They seem to prefer the ones in the trees first? (my observation)

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  13. Food still on the tree is fresher. Also, being in the treetops is safer.

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  14. Every spring I have a mom who brings their babies to my tree because I am her food source (peanuts & sunflower seeds). I can't believe that the mom & 4 babies are all sharing the same nest. By late fall the nests usually fall apart & they have no fresh leaves to build it up again. I can't figure out where they go to nest & don't know of any tree cavities or I would think they would stay there even in Spring & Summer. All year they come by every morning & evening for meals!

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  15. I just love our fox squirrels ,I watch them n have fed them with the corn cob feeder n when it comes to bird feeders they can be so acrobatic. Thanks for answering some of the ?? I've wondered about !

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  16. Thank you so much for writing this article!

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