Squirrels and Trees

After a busy day downtown, I met my wife and my youngest son at the Eaton Centre. We had dinner at a restaurant that overlooked a small courtyard. And an industrious squirrel caught my eye.

The squirrel, high atop a tree, was cutting branches with is teeth and moving the branches to a nest. Squirrels nest in trees? Indeed they do.

I had to learn a few more things about squirrels. I did a little research on the web and here is what I found out.

There are approximately 270 species of squirrels worldwide. Squirrels are found on all continents except Australia. They are a member of the rodent (gnawing animal) family. There are three main types of squirrels: tree squirrels, flying squirrels, and ground squirrels . The most common tree squirrels of North America are the gray squirrel, the fox squirrel, and the red squirrel.

The one we saw last night was a gray squirrel. Although a black squirrel was also sharing the tree nest.

Tree squirrels, not surprisingly, live in trees. Trees provide three basic needs for tree squirrels: water, food, shelter. Squirrels rarely drink water. They get most of their water from their food and dew. A squirrel”™s diet includes: seeds, nuts, fruit, buds, shoots, bark, sap, insects, eggs, berries, and fungi (mushrooms).

Squirrel”™s are very active mammals that use a tremendous amount of energy in their daily life. The average squirrel eats about two pounds of food a week. This is a little over 100 pounds of food a year. Squirrels spend most of their life in the pursuit of food. Their long incisors must endure an enormous amount of wear as squirrels use them to crack nuts, bite off pine cones, crack seeds, and gnaw bark. These incisors grow continuously throughout the squirrel”™s life at the rate of 6 inches per year.

Trees squirrels live inside a hollow part of the tree or a leaf nest. Each squirrel claims a territory and marks it with his/her scent. For protection squirrels usually build several smaller nests in addition to the main nest. They also build an escape hole in each nest. Squirrels usually live alone in their nest. Exceptions are: wintertime when body heat is needed to keep warm, and when the female is raising her babies.

Tree squirrels are not aggressive animals and will flee rather than fight when threatened. Natural enemies of tree squirrels include: birds of prey, martens, weasels, snakes, foxes and dogs.

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