Our squirrels have it made. Lots of tall red pines to live in, and sunflower seeds galore that fall or are pushed from the bird feeders, as well as our “cabana” where we pile seed just for them. Stone walls for cover and caches.
American red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) are year round residents, who are active during the day. They thrive where ever are conifers are present, and love to chew on pine cones for the pine nuts. We will frequently find large piles of chewed pine cones, when they find a place to sit and feel comfortable & safe to eat.
They are smaller than grey squirrels, about half the size, but larger than chipmunks. They tend to sit high in the pines and chatter away if we disturb their feeding. Their coloring is distinctly reddish orange, especially compared to grey squirrels. Since we don’t have grey squirrels at the homestead, these little critters do not get pushed out by their larger cousins.
Red squirrels primarily eat seeds (referred to as granivores), so in addition to the pine nuts, sunflower and other bird seed are welcome in their diet. Along with the chipmunks, they make seed caches in order to store food for winter. The red squirrels stay active even in the cold, whereas the chipmunks will hibernate. We find pine cones and sunflower seeds stuffed in left over plastic pipe left in a pile, or in caches (also called a midden) made in the stone walls, under logs or a tree cavity. Although I have read they will also eat mushrooms and insects, I have not seen it happen.
The young squirrels are a treat to watch. The nest of grasses is made high in the pines or in a tree cavity, and after about 34 days of gestation, pink, nude, blind babies are born. Coming out of the nest for the first time, about one and half months old, they are curious and unafraid. They will chase each other in play, running around in circles and up and down tree trunks. Mom keeps a watchful eye out for predators – hawks, owls, bobcats or a fox in our area. Usually there are 3 or 4 babies to a litter.
By 4 or 5 months of age, they will be pushed away to go find their own territory to occupy. They can be quite territorital, especially around their middens, which may be passed from one generation to the next.
These squirrels, as others, have strong claws to grip the bark of trees and run up and down a tree trunk. They are also good jumpers, swinging throughout the trees tops, jumping from branch to branch. as noted above, they can be very vocal, with chirps, trills, and screeches all part of their vocabulary. Red squirrels inhabit the northeastern part of the USA, much of Canada, and down into the Rocky Mountain States.
Our back yard would not be complete without these little critters, but do beware. Since they are small they can fit into a fairly small hole, so if they get into a house or car, they can be quite destructive.
While I can not imagine our yard without these little guys, I understand sometimes they can be a nuisance in the wrong situation. We love them however, and are happy to have them in our lives.
What do you have in your backyard, that is just part of the landscape of life in your world?
One red squirrel atop the “cabana” to protect the sunflower seeds from another squirrel.