Friday, February 13, 2009

Nature Guide: Eastern Gray Squirrel

When you're walking or driving around the Loop Road, the wildlife you're likely to see most often is the Eastern Gray Squirrel. These creatures like Princeton Landing so much that some of them have been uninvited guests in our homes. Those of us who've had them join us may not enjoy them nearly as much as our Nature Guide Jon Latimer, who tells us more about the Eastern Gray Squirrel. Jon writes:

"Eastern Gray Squirrels are native to the eastern and midwestern United States and the southern parts of Canada's eastern provinces. They are very prolific and have adapted well to living with humans. True to their name, they have predominantly gray fur, sometimes with touches of rusty red, a white underside, and a large busy tail. An adult squirrel's body is 8 to 10 inches long and its tail can be double its length. We also have an all-black variety of gray squirrel (known as a melanistic color phase) which seems to be increasing in numbers.

"Eastern Gray Squirrels eat various seeds, acorns, walnuts, and other nuts, and the inner layer of bark of some trees. They also bury food in the ground for later use. It is estimated that each squirrel digs several thousand holes for food each season. You may have noticed a squirrel pressing its nose onto the pavement of a road or parking area and wondered what it was doing. It was licking minerals (especially salt) from the cement or asphalt. Often a squirrel will wait to the very last moment to flee an oncoming car, which can be costly.

"Eastern Gray Squirrels nest in holes in trees or build nests out of dry leaves and twigs in the forks of branches, usually more than 20 feet above the ground. They do not hibernate in winter. In fact, one of its two yearly breeding periods takes place between December and February. (The other occurs in May and June.) After a gestation period of 44 days, 3 to 5 young are born. They leave the nest about 10 weeks later. If you listen, you may hear squirrel communication. They have a variety of vocalizations, including a squeak similar to a mouse, a short bark, a chatter, and a raspy mehr mehr mehr which sounds almost bird-like. They also communicate by flicking their tail."

Click the Comments link to share your squirrel stories. We know you have them!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Go Squirrels! {=^)

Anonymous said...

I had to Google the question of squirrels licking brick b/c that's what happening on my front porch! I haves lived in the south all my life and didn't know squirrels did this to get a mineral supply. It drives my beagle crazy! Funny to watch them stare at each other thru the window!