Squirrels are members of the family Sciuridae, consisting of small or medium-size rodents. The family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa, and have been introduced to Australia.
Their teeth never stop growing. Gnawing keeps squirrels’ teeth from growing into their necks.
When frightened, they dart back and forth to confuse predators. This doesn’t work with cars, however, so most city squirrels don’t live longer than a year.
Gray squirrels bury their acorns all over the place, then forget where. Forgotten acorns become trees. This forgetfulness is the main way oak and other hardwood forests grow and spread, scientists say.
Gray squirrels are called “living fossils” because they haven’t changed much in 37 million years. Although considered granivores, they will eat almost anything.
Squirrels are impressive. They can leap 10 times their body length. They can turn their ankles 180 degrees to face any direction when climbing. They have good eyesight, and they can learn from copying other animals—even humans.
They also come out in the daytime, making them one of the few wild mammals that many of us have a chance of seeing. Whether you think they’re a nuisance or an adorable addition to our cities, there are a whole bunch of reasons to find them fascinating.
Tree squirrels are commonly seen everywhere from woodlands to city parks. Though they are terrific climbers, these squirrels do come to the ground in search of fare such as nuts, acorns, berries, and flowers.
They also eat bark, eggs, or baby birds. Tree sap is a delicacy to some species.
Flying squirrels are a third, adaptable type of squirrel. They live something like birds do, in nests or tree holes, and although they do not fly, they can really move across the sky.
Flying squirrels glide, extending their arms and legs and coasting through the air from one tree to another. Flaps of skin connecting limbs to body provide a winglike surface.
These gliding leaps can exceed 150 feet (46 meters). Flying squirrels eat nuts and fruit, but also catch insects and even baby birds.
A female carries her young for a gestation period of 33 to 46 weeks and gives birth to two to eight offspring at one time. Babies are called kits or kittens and are born blind. They depend on their mothers for around two or three months.
Tree squirrels run fast and jump long distances on tiny branches high up in trees. Ground squirrels dig long tunnels very fast. Many squirrels chatter and use their tails to communicate a complex language.
All squirrels have very sharp teeth and flexible front paws and are very smart about opening containers and solving other food-related challenges. Squirrels have sensitive hearing.
Squirrels have big eyes that see very well but they are on the sides of their heads, so they don’t see what’s at the tip of their nose.
That’s one reason it can be dangerous to feed a squirrel it can’t see your fingers and might accidentally bit you if you get too close.