Squirrel sightings are an everyday occurrence around here and don’t usually grab our attention (unless they are emptying out our bird feeders!). Recently, however, their behaviors have changed and the whole family is enjoying watching them – the family member pictured below perhaps the most.
The red squirrels around here tend to be elusive and we usually only see them at our bird feeder. The grey tree squirrels in our yard aren’t as shy, however, and have been busy preparing for the coming winter. We’ve been watching one repeatedly cram its mouth full of leaves, run up a tree, and jump to the next one over where it is padding its nest. Then there’s the fun of watching squirrels bury, dig up, and rebury acorn stashes over and over. Silly squirrels! And one squirrel has been coming right up to our front door to make use of our natural coir welcome mat. Is it eating it or stealing it for another use? We’re not sure but our cat, Summer, sure loves the visits. She asks to have the door opened every morning in hopes that it’ll be there. So, with all this squirrely fascination, we thought we’d learn a bit more about them…
Be sure to click the links to learn more
- We’ve been observing Eastern Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis), which is one of well over 200 species of squirrels. They are native to the Eastern and Midwestern United States and Eastern Canada.
- Squirrels are generally split in to two groups: tree squirrels and ground squirrels. There are also flying squirrels.
- Tree squirrel nests are called “dreys”. Ground squirrels nest in underground burrows.
- Baby squirrels are called “kittens”.
- While grey squirrels’ coats can change in color slightly with the seasons, there are some color mutations. Both black and white squirrels have been spotted.
- Researchers have shown that smaller animals, including squirrels, can process visual information more quickly than others. They equate this to seeing in slow motion which gives the animal more time to react. Hmmm… We’ll have to process that a bit.
- Find lots more facts about squirrels here, here, and here.
Did you know that there is a National Squirrel Appreciation Day? It’s true. Mark your calendars for January 21st and try out some of the fun activities below to celebrate.
- Discover what squirrels prefer for treats by setting up a buffet like this one (scroll about half way down) and record your observations. Do some research first to learn what’s safe for the type of squirrels in your area to eat (did you know peanuts and corn are not the best thing for many squirrels?). Please remember to feed squirrels from a feeding station, never by hand, and place it away from your house and any bird feeders you have.
- How about constructing a squirrel treat obstacle course? Could be quite entertaining (and some STEM skills could be incorporated)!
- Here’s a simple and fun squirrel seek game.
- Think it’s easy for squirrels to remember where their caches are? Try your hand at it: Gather a collection of natural, easily identifiable objects (mud balls, smoothed stones, etc) to represent your acorns and bury them throughout your yard. Be sure to keep count of how many you bury. Move on to other daily activities and return a couple of hours later or even the next day and try to recover as many of your “acorns” as you can. To learn more about how squirrels find their caches and why they rebury them, read this article.
- Of course you can find LOTS of cute squirrel crafts and activity ideas and books for all ages. My children love art projects so we’ll definitely be making this collage.
A few our suggested reads to get you started…
- Squirrels, by Brian Wildsmith
- Nuts to You!, by Lois Ehlert
- Squirrels and Their Nests, by Martha Rustad
- The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, by Beatrix Potter
- Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide, by Thorington Jr & Ferrell
Download our printable squirrel profile sheet to record what you have learned about squirrels and to include in your nature journal.
Have a squirrely good time!