Frequently asked questions
I need to find more information for a school report, can you help?
On the Squirrel History page, there are several good resources that you can use.
How many different types of squirrels
There are three types of squirrels, the ground squirrel, the flying squirrel
and, the tree squirrel.
How many different kinds of
"tree" squirrels are there?
Of the ten species of tree squirrels in the northern hemisphere. The most common are
the Eastern Gray, followed by the Red squirrel, the Fox squirrel, the
Abert or Kaibab squirrels, Douglas squirrel, Pine squirrel, Japanese
squirrel, Persian squirrel, Arizona gray, and of course the Western gray
What is the largest squirrel on Earth?
The largest squirrel is the Ratufa (ratufa indica) sometimes known as the Indian giant
squirrel, it can grow to three feet in length. This species is found in southeast Asia,
and parts of Nepal.
What is the smallest squirrel on Earth?
The African Pygmy (Myosciurus, pumilio) is the smallest squirrel in the world. Its head
and body length is only two and half inches long. With a tail approximately the same
length. They are found, in Southeastern Nigeria, Cameroon, and Gabon.
I saw a television program that showed
how smart squirrel's can be.
Do you know the name of it?
It was probably "Daylight Robbery" or "Daylight Robbery 2". Both were
produced by the BBC in Great Britain. They were last shown on the Discovery Channel, in
the Fall of 1995. DC have no immediate plans to show either film again. There are some
clips from this program on the video page.
You can purchase Daylight Robbery 2 on video tape from the Video Shop in England. It is not available in
the United States. You must have the video converted, from their PAL format to the
NTSC format that we use in the U.S. before you can watch it. There are homemade
copies of both Daylight Robbery, and Daylight Robbery 2, circulating around the Country.
I never see squirrel droppings, where
Squirrels, like all rodents, have very small droppings. They are
about the size of a raisin, and light brown in color. Since the squirrel is
outdoors, and always moving, they can be difficult to find.
Do squirrels hibernate?
No, tree squirrels are active all year round. You may not see them as often in the Winter,
since they stay in their nests to conserve body heat.
How can you tell a male from a female?
There is no difference in appearance, between males and females. About the only sure way
to tell the sex of a squirrel is to turn it over and look.
Why does the squirrel have such a big tail?
The squirrel uses its tail for many things, its primary function is for balance.
This enables the squirrel to maneuver quickly without falling. It is also used as a
parachute, should the squirrel fall. It can act as a blanket in the
Winter. Squirrels also use their tail to communicate with other squirrels.
Do squirrels talk?
Squirrels do communicate, by making shrill sounds (tchrring). The pitch
and the duration of these sounds have meaning to other squirrels. Tail gestures
are also a form of communication. The most common tail gesture is the
"flicking" which means "get away!"
How fast can a squirrel run?
Squirrels look like they run fast and for there size and weight they do. There
is an old story of an Illinois state police officer that once clocked a gray
squirrel, with his radar gun at 20 mph. as it ran across a highway.
Other research has confirmed similar speeds for squirrels.
What do squirrels eat?
Most squirrels eat nuts, seeds, grain, and fruit. By far their favorite
food would be nuts, followed by sunflower seeds. Urban squirrel have
adapted to eat just about anything, including pizza, luncheon meats and all
forms of snack foods. Squirrels have been known to eat bird eggs, but this is a last
resort. When natural food is scarce, they will eat anything they can find.
Do squirrels ever fall?
Squirrels do fall, but they use their tail as a parachute and when they land their
tail is used as a cushion. They rarely get hurt from a short
fall. But they can sustain broken bones, or severe spinal injuries from a awkward landing.
Can squirrels swim?
Squirrels swim using a "dog paddle" motion, and their tail as a
rudder. Swimming is very strenuous for a squirrel, and it's not done
unless absolutely necessary.
How far can a squirrel jump?
On the ground they hop. Usually moving twelve to twenty inches at a
time. It is not uncommon for a squirrel to hop or jump up to six feet in one
bound. Of course, if you have ever seen a squirrel race through a
tree, you know they can easily jump between branches of greater distances.
Do squirrels fight?
Playfully when they are young, and again later during the mating season. Squirrels
are not normally aggressive,&; although they'll nip at other squirrels feeding in or
invading their territory.
Where do squirrels live?
Squirrels build nests called "dreys". They are made of twigs and
leaves. The interior is lined with fur, feathers or other soft material
for comfort. There are normally two exits in this type of nest, and
they're built high in a tree between two strong branches. High enough to
provide protection from ground predators, but not too high or the nest will be
destroyed by the winds. Squirrels also will build a nest, called a
"den", in a hollow tree cavity.
How long do squirrels live?
Squirrels in captivity have lived to be twenty years old. Most Gray squirrels
will die before their first birthday, not due to predators or the lack of
food. But by being run over by vehicles. If they survive their
first year, they should live five or six more years.
What happens to squirrels when they
Squirrels die for a variety of reasons, usually a natural death occurs while the squirrel is hiding or in its nest. The body may by removed by a predator, or it may simply decay before it is found.
When do squirrels mate?
Squirrels mate in the late Winter or very early Spring. This time may vary
with location, and the weather conditions. The best time to see a squirrel's
acrobatic skill is, during the "mating chase".
When are the babies born, and why
don't we see them?
Baby squirrels are born in the spring, without fur. They're blind, and weigh
in at one or two ounces each. There are usually four in a litter.
The mother will keep the young in the nest and nurse them until they're ready to venture
out of the nest, on their own. This is usually in eight to ten weeks. You
may see a mother squirrel move her babies, she will carry them by mouth, one at a
What do you call a group of squirrels?
Squirrels are solitary animals. They do not have a hierarchical structure, and therefore,
no group name was established.
What are young squirrels called?
They are called babies or infants while in the nest. Then for their first year
they're referred to as Juveniles. After their first year, they become
adults and are simply called squirrels.
Does the male squirrel help take care
of the babies?
No, the male squirrel leaves after the mating. The female raises the
babies by herself.
What is the difference between urban
squirrels and rural squirrels?
Urban squirrels tend to have a smaller territory, they sometimes have to share
resources to survive. They also have learned, to coexist with
humans. While rural squirrels are more protective of their territory, and they
have more natural predators to deal with.
What is a territory?
Squirrels claim an area, usually one to seven acres in size. They will build their
nest in this space. They will find, and store their food in this
area. The squirrel must keep other squirrels from invading this
space. Squirrels mark their territory by urinating on the surrounding
trees. This warns an intruding squirrel, that it's trespassing.
Why do squirrels hide their food?
Gray and Fox squirrels hide their food in many places, so if another squirrel or
animal were to find it, the entire year's supply would not be
lost. Sometimes they hide food temporarily, until they can move it to a more
convenient location. This is called "scatter hoarding".
The Red and Pine squirrels will dig a shallow pit, this is referred to as a
"midden" where they store the cones they've cut or found. This
supply will then be covered with leaves, or other debris, which creates a cold and moist
storage environment. This practice is known as "larder hoarding".
Should people feed squirrels?
Squirrels get food from many sources, if there is an abundance of food the squirrel
will store it for the future. So, feeding them does not make much
difference. The one thing you should "never" do is hold a nut with
your fingers for a squirrel to eat. Since the squirrels eyes are on the side of its head, it
cannot see what is in front of its mouth. A finger feels about the same as a shelled nut.
Should I feed squirrels peanuts?
Only if they are unsalted. To much salt is not good for the squirrel, it
increases their heart rate. This in turn, can contribute to an early death.
I saw a squirrel with one leg
missing, will it be able to survive?
Squirrels, like all animals never show pain or disability. They learn to
do what other squirrels do, sometimes in different ways. If a squirrel
cannot adapt, then it will likely die.
Do squirrels make good pets?
No... Although squirrels can, and do live in captivity. It is an unnatural
environment for them. They need to run and climb. They make poor house pets
since their sharp claws, and teeth can do a great deal of damage. They can even harm a
human unintentionally. It would be cruel to keep a wild animal caged where it cannot
mate or interact with other animals. On the other hand, squirrels kept in a cage for
study or treatment will often live longer then their wild counterpart, since there
are no worries about food, water, or weather. Most Cities, Counties
and States have rules about keeping wild animals as pets. A permit is often
required. It would be best to inquire before you try to adopt a disabled
Is there one place that has more
squirrels, then all others?
In the United States the largest concentration of squirrels is in Washington, D.C.
Specifically, in Lafayette Park across from the White House. Some
call it the "Squirrel Capital" of the World. Squirrels roam free and
are well feed by the thousands of Government employees and visitors that tour the park
Do squirrels eat other animals?
Squirrels do not normally eat meat. They will, when faced with hunger and
no other source of food eat bird eggs, insects or pick at a
carcass. There are also reports of male squirrels that attempt to eat infant
squirrels. While this is true, it is so rare, it is not mentioned very
I've heard squirrels referred to as vermin. Is this true?
Squirrels are considered vermin, usually by insurance companies. They use the definition of vermin, "birds or mammals that are difficult to control", as a means to preclude a claim for the damage a squirrel can do.
Do squirrels kill trees?
Squirrels (the Red squirrel in particular) can destroy trees by tearing and/or eating the
bark. They can become a nuisance in some "pine forests" and may need to be
controlled. It should be noted that most squirrels live in trees, and therefore
would not destroy their home. In the United Kingdom the Grey squirrel has
become a major problem to their trees. Many squirrel's have been destroyed in
an attempt to control this yet unexplained problem.
Do squirrels really fly?
No, but some species do glide. The flying squirrel gets its name from the
folds of skin between its body and arms. With its arms extended the flying
squirrel forms a wing, similar to a bird. The flying squirrel can glide great
distances, as it searches for food.
Why can squirrels eat poison mushrooms
and not die?
Squirrels eat mushrooms, plants, and bulbs, that may be poisonous to
humans. This is due in part to their short digestive tract which can handle
Can I poison a squirrel that is doing
damage to my house?
No...It is illegal in most States to kill squirrels by poisoning. Where it is allowed, it
requires a special license or permit. It would also be extremely unwise to use
poisons, since birds, cats, dogs, and other domestic animals will often feed on many
of the same grains as squirrels.