A Brief History of the Squirrel

The tree squirrel is a very special animal. It is one of very few wild animals that have adapted to humans and learned to coexist with man. It can live on both natural foods and hand outs. The squirrel is an acrobatic wonder to young and old. Its large tail makes it the most recognized mammal on Earth. It amazes us with daring high wire acts, as it races through the tree branches. Its determination to find a way to get seeds from a so called "squirrel proof" bird feeder is a delight to watch.

The Gray squirrel has been traced back 50 million years, from a fossil record made in North America. It is a rodent (Rodentia) in the Sciurus family. The species called Sciurus Carolinensis.

The squirrel's common name can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, where Aristotle used the word "skiouros," skia meaning shade, while "oura" means tail. Thus the meaning "he who sits in the shadow of his tail" was recorded. Centuries later the French created a noun "esquirel" to describe this animal. From this the present word "squirrel" was derived. The word Gray is spelled "Grey" in the English speaking counties of Europe as well as in Canada.

There are over 365 species of squirrel's or squirrel like mammals through out the world. These are divided into seven families. The three most common squirrel families are the ground squirrel, the flying squirrel and the tree squirrel. The Gray squirrel is probably the most common of the tree squirrels. They inhabit most of the northern hemisphere.

The average Gray squirrel is fifteen inches long and weighs about one pound. Its diet consists of nuts, seeds and fruit. They will eat scrapes from the trash including bread, meat and even snack food. The life span of the squirrel is approximately six years. Most urban squirrels do not reach their first birthday. This is due not to predators, but rather to automobiles. Compared to its rural counterpart, which often parishes from the lack of food.

There is also the Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) they are smaller then the Gray. Eight to ten inches in length, with fur that ranges from red to black. Most will have a white belly and a long fluffy red tail. Some subspecies can have red or black ear tufts. These grow more pronounced as Winter arrives. The Red squirrel is found in coniferous forests, where it feeds on the seeds and cones of the Pines, Fir's and Spruce trees.