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 relentlessly in our flower pots when we are not looking. Sometimes they even help themselves to the yummy heads of our favorite new blooms. We are continuously filling in holes where they’re burying new acorns or digging up last season’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 only a tail could be seen above ground. Slowly, the squirrel started backing out of the hole while apparently filling it in as he retracted. Within a few 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 hole. His busy little paws quickly spread the mulch around the area. After he finished, I peeked at his handiwork. If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have known that a hole had been in this place in our garden. Squirrels are certainly amazing little creatures.
Around the world there are approximately 285 species of squirrels. They can be broken down to three major lineages. Two of the groups are relatively small. These two groups primarily consist of 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 will be the flying squirrels, tree squirrels, and mostly ground living squirrels. Squirrels in these categories vary greatly in size, with the smaller African pygmy squirrel weighing around a third of an ounce and the Alpine marmot weighing up to 18 pounds. Yes, 18 lbs! The Alpine marmot is also about three and a half feet long, while the pygmy squirrel is as brief as 3 inches.
A fascinating fact about squirrels is that early spring is the hardest time of the year for them to find food. Nuts buried during the fall can be dug up and eaten before the nut starting to sprout. Once the nut sprouts, the it is no more available for the squirrel to eat. Once buried nuts are off the menu, squirrels then should rely heavily on the buds of trees for food. Therefore, there are so many chewed off twigs through the spring season. Squirrels will immediately switch to seeds, fruits, 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 commemorate a nest of freshly laid eggs or dine on the young. They’re some species of squirrels that will regularly float on rodents, shrews, lizards, and rodents when they could locate them.
In North America, there are most likely squirrels in your neighborhood. They live across the nation and continue to populate in massive numbers. A squirrel’s normal life span is between 5 and 10 years in the wild. They can have multiple litters in a year and have a new litter every three or four weeks. Their gestation period is generally between 30 and 60 days, depending on the size of these species. The kittens as they’re called, then stay with their mom for seven to eight weeks. Initially after arrival, they are blind and stay in the nest. Once on their own, the new litter normally remains within a two-mile radius of the birthing nest. Nature does affect the juvenile squirrels with most of them not alive beyond their first year of life. The ones that do, can typically be seen chasing each other from tree to tree, rushing across the back yard, or dodging cars on our roadways.