Who's In the Backyard? -- Squirrels -- American Red Squirrels and Eastern Gray Squirrels


This week I promised to talk about some of the other critters in our yard besides our birds. Although I love watching the birds. In our backyard we have squirrels and this summer we not only had our usually gray squirrels but we had some red squirrels--lots of them. Most of the red squirrels have moved on now but we had so many of them. I named them all Squeakers because of the noise they made at me and at each other. We do not have black squirrels but I have seen them in my friend's backyard in New York State. Now both types of squirrels in our yard chased their own kind all around and stared at me when I was in my hammock. The red squirrel even squeaked at me when I was reading and not watching him in the tree. 

Fun Facts about Red Squirrels

  1. The most noticeable characteristics of the red squirrel are its tail and eye ring. The tail is bushy and dark red with hints of white. They eye ring is a thick white circle around the rodent’s black eyes. Their fur is a mix of grey, red or rust color with a white belly. Sometimes they have a black stripe on their sides.
  2. The average red squirrel weighs 7.5 ounces and they are between 12 inches. They are smaller than grey squirrels.
  3. Red squirrels prefer forests. They live in Arizona and New Mexico all the way up to Canada. They prefer pine forests.
  4. Red squirrels mate once (in cooler climates) or twice a year. Once in early spring (March or April) and then again in August or September in warmer climates. They have multiple mates. The males invade the females’ territory and chase them. They will drive off other males by calling or chasing them. They build a nest near their food storage. The nests are in holes in trees, in the leaves or even underground. The nests are built out of grass, moss, parts of plants, shredded bark, feathers, or fur.

  5. The baby squirrels grow inside the mother squirrel for around 35 days. The mother will give birth to 1 to 8 babies. They are born with no hair besides whiskers. Their eyes will open in 26 to 35 days and their fur will grow in 40 days.  They drink their mother’s milk for the first 70 days. They can leave the nest after 7 weeks but don’t leave permanently until 70 days. They are full grown after 125 days.
  6. The average lifespan in the wild is five years but can live up to 10 years. In captivity they live 9 years.
  7. They communicate with one another by making a variety of sounds. Their sounds can sound like rattles, screeches, growls, buzzes and chirps. They also recognize scent marks. Personally, I call them squeakers because they are always squeaking at me or each other.
  8. They eat the seeds from pine cones and will hoard pine cones. They also eat mushrooms, tree buds, flowers, fleshy fruits, tree sap, bark, insects, and even bird eggs or young snowshoe hares. Red squirrels have been known to lay out mushrooms to dry before storing them. They store their food in tree cavities, underbrush piles, or dens.
  9. They have a great sense of smell. They can smell their food hoards even when it is under 4 meters of snow.

  10. They do not hibernate in the winter.
  11. The red squirrel’s tail is used for balance when jumping from tree to tree. The tail is often about half the size of the red squirrel. They also flick their tails to intimidate other red squirrels.



Fun Facts about Gray Squirrels

  1. The Eastern Gray Squirrel has a bushy gray and white tail, a light brown face, a white belly and the rest of the body is covered with gray and brown fur.
  2. Their hands are the shape of a triangle to help them grab things easier.
  3. They can grow as big as a small cat and can weigh as much as a large bag of candy.
  4. They build their nests high in trees out of twigs on the exterior and line it with grass.
  5. They like to eat nuts, acorns and seeds.
  6. The gray squirrel has largely replaced the Red Squirrel in the United Kingdom.
  7. A squirrel’s front teeth never stop growing.
  8. A squirrel may pretend to bury a nut to fake out potential thieves.
  9. When threatened they run in a zigzag pattern.
  10. Baby squirrels are only about one inch long and weigh less than half an ounce. They leave the nest around ten to twelve weeks and are full grown by nine months.

  11. Like other squirrels, Eastern Gray Squirrels play a huge part in seed dispersing by not recovering about 25% of the seeds they hide.
  12. The female squirrels can have babies as young as five and a half months old. They usually have two liters a year each with two to four babies.  Relatives will raise orphan squirrels.

  13. Gray squirrels have excellent peripheral vision so they do not have to turn their heads to see what is going on around them. They also have pale yellow lenses which help cut down the glare.
  14. They develop a special way of landing when they fall out of trees so they do not get hurt. They spread their bodies and puff out their tails so they can catch more air and slow their fall.
  15. Their lifespan in the wild is twelve years, but in captivity they can live 20 years.


Squirrel Crafts & Activities

I asked my blogging friends for some squirrel crafts and activities and they delivered. Before I share them I do want to share the review of this true story about some squirrels

Now onto the crafts! I hoped to make a felt red squirrel using the pattern from Downeast Thunder Farm, but I haven't gotten to it yet.

1) Squirrel Life Cycle and More from Welcome to Mommyhood
2) Squirrel Learning Ideas for Kids from Homeschooling My Kinetic Kids
3) Squirrel Lessons from Teaching 2- and 3-Year-Olds
4) Autumn Coloring Pages including a Squirrel from Kiddy Charts
5) Squirrel Coloring Pages from Red Ted Art
6) Knitted Pet Squirrel from Craft Bits
9) Acorn Tracing Lines and Acorn Count and Compare from Free Printable Worksheets for Kids

Many bloggers associated acorns with squirrels, so here are some acorn crafts as well.
2) Thumbprint Acorn Craft from Fun Handprint Art Blog
3) Find the Acorn Game from Artsy Momma

I would love to hear who is in your backyard.