Ten Questions: Tree Squirrels
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.