Adorable little squirrels are some of the most beloved critters in the animal world!

Graceful and lively, squirrels abound in nature but are also quite adaptable little animals.

They can readily be spotted in the country, especially forested areas, but they are also often found in city parks. Chattering noisily, they busily scurry about foraging for tasty tidbits of seeds, buds, and nuts. In fact, they are so busy, they often tend to be heedless of human presence!

All About Squirrels

by Elizabeth Gatto

Squirrels fall into the same class of mammals that other rodents belong to, like rats, mice, and chipmunks. Rats and mice are well-known to most people to be rodents, but a lot fewer would envision squirrels falling into this same category, but this is where they reside. Because of many of their physical and behavioral characteristics, they are perfect for this class of animals.

Most squirrels are quite small. In fact, the average squirrel is less than 10 inches with some being as small as four inches. Some grow to be rather large, as long as 29 inches, but this is by far in the minority in terms of the species. Those that grow to two feet or more are usually found in the mountains where there are much better areas to be able to hide which allows them to grow much larger.

The Indian giant squirrel can grow up to 36 inches and it is the world’s largest known squirrel. The smaller species of squirrels weigh less than half of a pound, but these larger ones can weigh as much as 30 pounds. The larger animals require much more to eat, and will store more than 100 times what smaller species of squirrels will store for the winter.

Squirrels have one of most recognizable looks in the entire animal world. Their hind legs are much longer than the front legs which makes it so that they can leap long distances. In fact, the construction of the animal is such that it does not walk or run at all. Instead, it leaps virtually everywhere it goes, and it can do so at a rather rapid pace.

eastern gray squirrel on the ground
Image Credit: CLS Digital Arts, Shutterstock

On the bottom of their feet they have very soft pads. These really help the animal to grip objects, which is ideal for it to climb trees, poles, and other objects to get up. This also allows them to be upside down while going down trees, even allowing them to stay stationary upside down for a prolonged period of time. The construction of the paws makes squirrels one of the few animals that are able to climb down a tree head first.

Squirrels can be found on every continent of the planet, with the exception of Australia and Antarctica. They are quite adept in making a home in any environment, and can be found in every kind of habitat on earth. This extends from the arctic tundra that can be found in Canada or Siberia, all the way to the rain forests of Brazil and the deserts of Africa. They are truly remarkable animals in their ability to survive in virtually any kind of environment on the planet.

A squirrel will use many different kinds of places for its home. The most commonly found are holes in the ground. Because of the sharp claws on the animal, it is able to dig a hole that is large enough to store food and be able to live. Squirrels will also dig other holes where they will store food during the winter. This is done in case their primary residence is taken.

While holes in the ground are commonly used, many squirrels will build nests in trees or find other areas where there are gaps and crevices to make a home out of. This can mean that the attic in your home or the shed on your property can make an ideal home for the rodent. If this happens and you are not sure how to remove them, you can hire a professional nuisance wildlife operator to help you.

American Red Squirrel
Image Credit: Paul Reeves Photography, Shutterstock

Most squirrels are herbivores, dedicating themselves to eating only plants and nuts. They have rather large incisors which are ideal for breaking open the shells of nuts to eat. Most animals would break their teeth trying to get open a walnut or almond, but this is not really a challenge for these animals. Once the nut is open, the side teeth are used to grind down the nuts to make it much easier to digest.

While most are herbivores, there are some squirrels that will eat insects and other kinds of small animals, like mice. This usually happens in areas like the desert or the frozen tundra where seeds and plants are not readily available.

The digestive system of the squirrel is similar to human beings in that they are not able to digest cellulose. This means that they have to find sources of nutrition outside of plants to be able to sustain their lives. This is why nuts have become such a staple of their diet because they provide the proteins and fats that are needed by the squirrels to survive.

Most squirrels live between 5 to 10 years. The longest known to have lived was just over 20 years, which is pretty remarkable, but that was an animal that was kept in captivity. The greater the food supply and the safer the environment, the greater the chance the squirrel has to survive longer.

Squirrels breed just once a year, which is a lot different from many of the other animals in the rodent family. In fact, rats can breed 5 or 6 times in a year. The young are born without teeth and fur, and are blind. The young are fed by the mother until they are about 10 weeks old and then they are expected to care for themselves. The gestation period for the squirrel is about 6 weeks.

Image Credit: Pexels Pixabay

The behavior of the squirrel is really dependent upon the species of squirrel that it belongs to. For example, the ground squirrel is much more social than other species, even living in large groups and storing food together. Tree squirrels, on the other hand, are solitary animals that will attack other squirrels if they approach on their territory.

Author Elizabeth Gatto’s goal is to protect wildlife when it accidentally enters peoples’ homes. If you need help with an animal on your property you can hire a dedicated wildlife control professional that uses humane control methods, such as live trapping and relocation.

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Featured Image Credit: Włodzimierz Jaworski, Unsplash