Tree squirrels are mammals and part of the Sciuridae (squirrel) family – along with other rodents like ground squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs, flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. They can jump up to 20 feet high, run up to 20 miles per hour, and occasionally cause electrical disruptions.
Here are 16 more facts about tree squirrels!
1) A squirrel nest is called a drey
Squirrels build their dreys on tree crowns, using twigs, dry leaves, grass, and moss. The entrance/exit is located at the bottom to keep the rain out. Squirrels nests have a size of about 12 inches (30cm). Sometimes, squirrels build their nest with two holes, using one as an exit and the other one as an entrance. They often build more than one nest to have others in reserve if their home is attacked or destroyed by a predator or in case of lice or flea infestations.
Females prefer to nest in tree cavaties, because their offspring is more likely to survive there, compared to selfmade nests.
2) Squirrel Teeth
Except for the grey squirrel, most squirrels have 20 teeth – two upper incisors, two lower incisors, and sixteen molars. Grey squirrels have two extra premolars. Their incisors never stop growing but grind down to the correct size during eating and chewing food.
3) Squirrel Love Eating Nuts
Squirrels are herbivorous (plant eaters) and love eating tree nuts! They’re very well known to raid bird feeders to get sunflower seeds and nuts. They’re also well known for burying their nuts, just to forget about them – resulting in new trees and flowers!
They’re not very demanding gourmets, though. Bark, tree buds, berries, seeds, and some flowers are on their menu as well.
4) Some squirrels are omnivores
Which means the eat not only plant matter (like herbivorous) but occasionally small animals like insects, birds, eggs, frogs, and even other squirrels. They also seem to enjoy getting an extra source of minerals by chewing on bones or antlers.
5) Albino Vs White Squirrel
6) Squirrel Lifespan
Most squirrels don’t survive their first winter. It depends on their environment, though. Those who live in an area with winter tree seeds have a higher chance to survive. Those who survive the first year have a lifespan of 3-7 years. Kept in captivity, squirrels can reach an age of 10 years.
7) Squirrel Hibernation
Squirrels don’t hibernate. They prepare for the cold season by consuming more food in the fall to build up fat reserves for the winter when food is harder to get. In winter, they leave their drey (nest) less often, and often several squirrels share one drey to keep each other warm.
8) Squirrel vs Chipmunk
What’s the difference? Tree squirrels and chipmunks are both parts of the Sciuridae (=squirrel) family. Chipmunks are striped and smaller than squirrels. Even though they can climb trees, chipmunks prefer to stay on the ground, live in underground nests with tunnel systems, and hide the nest entrance using leaves, rocks, and sticks.
Squirrels, however, have a white underside and prefer to live in high tree crowns. Another difference between a squirrel and a chipmunk is the diet. Squirrels are herbivores and eat tree nuts, tree bark, seeds, and flowers. Chipmunks are omnivores and eat the same, plus insects and other small animals.
9) Squirrels molt 2 times each year
Which means they get a nice fluffy thick coat that keeps them warm in winter. They lose it when spring arrives, and they get a nice short coat – perfect for the summer days.
10) Squirrel see what's behind them
Well, not everything, but a lot more than humans can. Having their eyes located on the sides of their head gives them a broad vision – perfect for spotting stalking predators.
11) Speaking of predators! Many animals have Squirrel meat on their menu
Animals like the Pine marten, the fox, birds of prey (owls, hawks), just like cats and many dogs, prey on squirrels! Running away in zigzag movements and a speed of 15 miles per hour makes them no easy target, though.
12) They rarely have rabies
Rabies isn’t a big problem in the squirrel world. While they technically can get infected, only very few cases of rabies in squirrels are known.
13) Squirrels spend most of their time sleeping
So don’t feel bad if you sleep a bit too long sometimes. Squirrels sleep 18 – 20 hours a day!
14) Squirrels hate pepper, garlic, and peppermint
If your garden plants fall victim to vicious squirrel attacks, white and black pepper, garlic, or peppermint oil might help. Many gardeners would spray their plants with water, then sprinkle pepper on them.
15) Squirrel means Shadow tail
The word “Squirrel” originates from the Greek language and means “Shadow tail”
16) Squirrels can make jumps up to 20 feet
Due to their strong rear legs and their light bodyweight, squirrels can jump up to 20 feet