Hey kids! Did you learn anything about slugs in the March issue of Official Kids Mag? We sure did! This month we’re going to take a closer look at a feisty little creature who is always busy scurrying around. Squirrels.
Squirrels are fast climbers especially when going up and down trees. To help them climb down trees head first, their ankles turn 180 degrees to face in any direction so they can grip the tree coming down without falling. Squirrel feet are odd because they have four toes on the front feet and five toes on the hind feet.
Squirrels are backyard acrobats able to climb fences, jump from tree limb to tree limb and are smart enough to get into most bird feeders. They can jump about 15 feet, and can grab a limb or tree trunk after falling 20 feet or more. When running, they can bounce along in two to three feet strides, almost dancing across the ground.
Tree nests, called dreys, are what they build to live in. They usually live in deciduous trees (the ones that lose all the leaves in the winter). Sometimes they manage to get into a building attic and build a nest. They can make a mess by chewing on wires, so if you see one at your house coming in and out of a building, make sure you alert your adult. Chewing on wires is a fire hazard.
Speaking of chewing, another weird fact about squirrels is their front teeth never stop growing. They keep them worn down by chewing on all the nuts they find. They eat fruit and nuts from trees such as red and white oak, hickory and beech. They store their food by burying it all over. It’s common to see little holes in the grass where they have been digging.
In the Spring, some of the nuts they buried have started to sprout and can’t be eaten, so they may get hungry enough to also prey upon insects, frogs, small rodents, and small birds, their eggs. During the gardening season, they also raid gardens for tomatoes, corn, strawberries, and other garden crops.
Fox squirrels and gray squirrels are the most common in Arkansas, and you can often tell the the young squirrels from the old by how fluffy their tail is. The tails of the young ones aren’t as fluffy.
Fox squirrels are the largest tree squirrel in North America and can weigh a little over two pounds with some having a dark almost black coat. The color of their coats can vary from brown to almost black.
The Eastern gray squirrel tends to be larger and stronger than other squirrels, and construct their dens on large tree branches and hollow tree trunks. Sometimes they use abandoned bird nests, and they line their dens with moss, dried grass and feathers.
Southern flying squirrels have also been seen around the Ozarks. These nocturnal little furry friends don’t actually fly, they glide through the air using a flap of skin, called a patagium, between their front and back legs. They are about the size of a chipmunk, and they store food like other squirrels, especially acorns. They also eat insects, buds, mushrooms, mycorrhizal fungi, carrion, bird eggs and nestlings and flowers.
Did you know?
- A group of squirrels is called a Scurry.
- In Greek, the word squirrel means shadow tail.
- There are more than 200 squirrel species around the world.
- Squirrels can find food buried beneath a foot of snow.
- Squirrels are born blind.