Welcome to all squirrels and squirrel friends! The small photos on this page are "clickable" to show bigger versions. So take a look around!
There are more than 250 living species and about 50 genera known in the squirrel family. They are found in most tropical and temperate regions of the world except Australia, Madagascar, and the major desert regions of Africa. Squirrels range in size from the pygmy squirrels of Africa, which are about 13 cm (5 in) long, to the giant squirrels of Asia, which are about 90 cm (36 in) long.
Though tree squirrels bury nuts in the ground for later consumption, many of these nuts are never found, and the dispersal of many plant species is an indirect benefit of having squirrels in your area.
Tree squirrels are quite dexterous and agile. They are adept at grasping limbs and other vegetation, making great leaps between branches and trees. They are active primarily during the day and spend their nights asleep in the trees. They build nests, usually high in the trees, with leaves and twigs. I have also seen them strip long sections of bark off branches and small tree trunks to use in their nests.
The Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus Carolinensis) is the most commonly known squirrel in this area. It is found in cities as well as the countryside. Sciurus means "shadow-tail", this covers most of the squirrels. Exceptions are prairie dogs and some of the ground squirrels with smaller tails. The Eastern Gray Squirrel is the longest-lived species of squirrel. Living as long as 12 years in the wild and even longer in the capitivity of nature centers and zoos.
The North American Red Squirrel is classified as Tamiasciurus Hudsonicus, and though it is the most widely distributed species in North America, it is not easily found in this area. The red squirrel is found in the higher elevations of the mountainous area of western North Carolina. It is also known as a "Boomer" in this area. This term is used in Charles Frazier's "Cold Mountain" when talking about the red squirrels chattering in the trees. I am happy to report that we saw one here at the house on Monday, November 8, 1999. This is quite significant, being that we had lived here for 11 years and had never seen one before. He came out from a stand of Rododendrons and was hunting for food among the leaves.
The Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans) is a nocturnal squirrel found in this area as well. I have seen them at my house, too. A couple of years ago, we had some nest in a bird house that was in a tree. They would come out at night to eat, glide and squeak. You could see them most mornings peaking out of the bird house before they tucked in for the day. They have very large eyes, and a folded layer of loose skin along each side of the body, from the front to the hind leg. When outstretched, this skin supports the animals as they glide from tree to tree. Adults weigh between 2 and 3 1/2 ounces. This picture was taken in the summer of 2001 on our porch at night. Flying squirrels have been out on the porch alot this summer, much to the fascination of the cat, who is inside looking out the door.
The gray squirrel of the Eastern United States and Canada is actually representative of more than two dozen species of the genus Sciurus. Gray squirrels do not hibernate in winter, but become dormant in their nests during extreme cold spells. Most gray squirrels occupy a very small home range - less than 1.2 acres during their lifetime. No other undomesticated mammel in North America has been as successful in living in harmony with humans.
These pictures are of white squirrels, and no, I did not alter the photos nor dye the squirrels (that would probably be painful for me...)! The pictures were taken in Brevard, NC where there are a lot of white squirrels. They are not albinos, since some have a few gray areas on them, and they have brown eyes. We have seen up to 5 in a very small area. They are officially protected in the city of Brevard, North Carolina.
Personal Squirrelly Observations
On a more personal observation, the squirrels around here have an amazing variety of color to be the same kind of squirrel. From light silver to some with very dark gray with brown on them. But all of them are very fond of "helping" me with my plant boxes. I plant flowers and they dig them up and plant nuts and just dig. We played this game on a daily basis till some plants died and I moved the boxes off the deck to an area that no squirrel nor human will find them. Oh well! Guess it was like a new toy to them. They haven't been nearly as destructive on the bird feeders as the raccoons and bears have been. I've given up and thrown birdseed on the ground, so it's first come, first serve. This has attracted more birds that ground feed as well as a neighbors cat. The squirrels make such a racket when they see the cat that the birds are forewarned. So this has been a benefit to having the squirrels around. A few are rather territorial of our deck and will growl at the others and do this teeth chattering thing that you just have to see as it is hard to describe. I have seen squirrels that have come by for a couple of years, recognize them by their scars and color variations. We also have some newcomers that had to have been born this year as they were small when they first came by and sure have grown this summer.
This is a favorite squirrel napping spot. Especially when it rains, they stay dry and protected, and near food! The previous paragraph was written in 1999, so I have a few more observations to report in 2000. When trying to plant flowers in the plant boxes, the same results as years past were occurring, BUT I thought of something! After I planted the flowers, I put small pebbles that I purchased from the home improvement store (Lowe's), all around the flowers so that no dirt what-so-ever showed. AND, it worked! No digging, no throwing of the flowers, just beautiful flowers all summer. Granted it makes the planters weigh about 50 pounds apiece, but it worked! To reward the squirrels for their good behavior, I am throwing out peanuts for them. They really like that! So we both win. We also have a really sweet squirrel coming around, I call her "Tuft Ear" as she has a small tuft of fur on one ear. She is very tame and she doesn't try to run off all the other squirrels when there is food out. I'm not sure why she is so generous when some squirrels can be down right mean when it comes to food.
Do squirrels nibble on the house? Yup! So did a groundhog and birds nest under the eaves of the house, and bears drink out of the birdbath. You live in the woods, you live with nature! Though I could have lived without the squirrel that got in the house a couple of weeks ago. The cat slept through it! The squirrel came in through the upstairs bathroom window (bit through the screen), came down the stairs, went into the living room, jumped up on the couch and looked out the window. I was at work, but my husband "heard" something and saw the squirrel. The squirrel wasn't upset at all! My husband just "lured" him out the open door with a trail of peanuts. Thank goodness he didn't have a "squirrelly" accident on the couch...
References and Links
Squirrely Q hits the road for an afternoon of driving. He doesn't have his license yet, so you better watch out! He's headed for the mall, but he'll be home before dark since squirrels can not get a permit for after dark driving. Squirrely also had to take on an extra job to pay for this Stealth, and his insurance runs a little high. Being kind of squirrelly and all.
And now for Squirrely's Aerial Adventure! Here he is standing on the hood of the plane with Tony doing his preflight check of the plane. He is about to take off from the Asheville Airport. Hope all goes well, because he is not a Flying Squirrel.
And as any good passenger would do, he buckles up for takeoff! He can hardly wait for the inflight peanuts to be passed out! He better put on his headset so he can here the tower commands. I think he may need a booster seat to see over the dashboard of the plane...