Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Behavior Of Squirrels

I had a comment yesterday from Bill of Wild Ramblings that I want to answer. Bill is very knowledgeable about many nature related things, and he's a great storyteller. Take a look at his blog for me today, and leave him a comment. You'll be happy you did. Bill wondered what behavior differences I've noticed in the different species of squirrels I've encountered. I can't just answer that in a few words in the comments section, so I decided to write a post about that very subject.

The first thing I want to say about it is that these are my own personal observations about squirrels in my area. It may be different for other squirrels in other places and environments. The squirrels I encounter are all forest dwellers, so they're a little wilder than a typical neighborhood squirrel. So let's see what I've noticed about each of them!

I'll start with the fox squirrels. These are the most abundant squirrels in my area. I grew up with them in my neighborhoods, and they're also here in the forests I visit. I think the fox squirrels are the most outgoing of all the squirrels I've seen. They're not afraid to approach a human. And they will even seem to try to interact with me a little bit when they are brave enough to come close.

They seem very friendly, but they are feisty too, so they can have a temper. They're not at all afraid to show their anger at a person, chattering away as if they're yelling angrily at you. They're also not quick to run away. They are perfectly willing to challenge any human if they feel the need.

The picture above is an eastern gray squirrel. I don't have much experience with them because they're not as common here as they are everywhere else. For that reason, I wrote a post about a week ago mistaking it for a fox squirrel. That white eye ring gives it away as a gray.

I'm just now beginning to see more of these gray squirrels. They seem a little more afraid of humans than the fox squirrels. That may be because they are not as numerous here as the fox squirrels are. I usually only catch glimpses of them in the thick bushes and trees. When they come out, they maintain a distance from me. The picture above is the best one for these grays that I have so far. He ran away soon after.

This next squirrel above is the mysterious black squirrel. His tail looks reddish because the sun is shining brightly from behind him.  These are actually just gray squirrels with black fur. They keep in tight knit groups, but around here they are numerous. I seem to live in the middle of one very large population of black squirrels. Not many people can say that.

Black squirrels here in the forest are very wary of humans. I almost never see them up close. The ones I see in my neighborhood are a little more out going. The forest blacks behave very similarly to the grays. The only difference is that there are too many black squirrels to stay hidden for long. They don't like to approach humans, and they run away to hide if they see me watching them, even from a distance. These squirrels don't like to be alone though. Usually if I see one black squirrel, there are more very near.

And lastly, there is the American red squirrel. These are the cutest squirrels I've ever seen. They are smaller than all the rest here. The fox squirrel being the largest is at least twice as big, while the grays and blacks are not quite as big as the foxes. I consider these to be the most intriguing little squirrels of all.

Red squirrels seem to be very solitary little creatures. I never see more than one at a time. All the others can be found together at times. These reds also seem to be the most curious. They scare very easily. They will run and hide, but soon you will see the squirrel pop its head out to look at you. Sometimes they will even come back to get a look before scurrying off again. This behavior seems to match chipmunks more than the other types of squirrel.

The only other type of squirrel in this part of Michigan is the flying squirrel. I have never seen one of them because they are nocturnal. One of them would be a wonderful sight to see though.

This is my general observation on the species of squirrels I've encountered. I'm sure I could come up with more, but this probably covers it the best in blogging length. And like I said before, their behavior may be radically different where you live. Different environments can influence any animals behavior. How do the squirrels behave where you live?

Thanks, Bill, for the idea for the post. And thanks to everyone for all of your wonderful comments. They're always much appreciated. I'll leave you today with a photo of a very curious, but wary, little red squirrel.

Th-th-th-that's all, folks!

23 comments:

  1. I loved this post, not because I asked the question, but because of your answers. You have the most amazing capability of seeing things that many people miss. Little observations of everything you encounter. What I really love about your blog, and the reason I read it every day, is your ability to communicate with everyone. You are educating hundreds of people about the natural world, through your eyes, in a way that no one else is doing. Your adventures are irresistible, there is little doubt about that.

    I'm most interested in the behavior of fox squirrels since we don't have them in western New England. They seem like a bold version of the gray squirrel and feisty like the red squirrel.

    Thanks for the very nice things you say about my writing blog. I am deeply honored from one of those I consider to be a master at blogging.

    Bill

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  2. Wonderful commentary on squirrels and their behavior and your observations. I had to laugh at your disclosure in the beginning though - kind of reminded me of sitting in an SEC speech at a conference although theirs would be more like: "First I'd like to say this is soley my opinion and does not reflect the opinion of the squirrels or the group of squirrels or any one squirrel."

    But seriously! Great post and I agree that those red squirrels are adorable!

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  3. I would add that the red squirrels are the most feisty and destructive. They are a terrible problem if they find a way into your house! And they will sit there and tell YOU to get out.

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  4. That really is super information of all kinds of squirrels. I never knew there were that many varieties. We have the gray squirrel here and they are feisty and not really afraid of much. I will have to really look at them now and see if I see any different kinds of squirrels here. Thanks for that good info.

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  5. I have never seen a Fox, Red, or Black Squirrel. For some reason I thought the Fox and Red were one and the same. It is interesting that you have all 4 in your area. Thanks for the informative and entertaining article/post. Yep...you are good!

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  6. You are now writing as an expert about squirrels. Your onservation on the squirrels is amazing and interesting.

    Cheers.

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  7. It's great to learn a little about the character of the animals you encounter Ratty. Where I live in the UK we only ever see the common grey squirrel and it's quite a cheeky character who will come down to ground to steal nuts and things put out for the birds...there used to be a red squirrel around here as well but they have became very rare and I haven't seen one since I was a child...they were more sociable with each other than the grey squirrel who is usually seen alone but also more skittish and never so bold as to come take food from a built up area.

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  8. Great post Ratty!! You are lucky to be able to see so many different kinds of squirrels. All I ever see now are the grays. Wish I'd see the red ones again but I think they are all gone due to so many gray ones.

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  9. Wow! You are someticulous and full of patience to have successfully done all these... I can't just imagine someone can write about squirrel's attitude without a lot of troubles... ^^

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  10. Your image of the back squirrel, and the way you describe thetail and then how theimages shows it is really perfect.

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  11. "Th-th-th-that's all, folks!" SUch a lovely journey in knowing all these squirrels. What's your mousy feeling towards squirrels Ratty? Are you intimidated by them or do you find them as friends?

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  12. You sure know your squirrels Ratty. Great post, full of excellent information and great photos.

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  13. Ratty, soon I believe you have to publish a book about Squirrel. You've known so many of them!

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  14. very nice article about squirrels. but i will admit, i had a real hard time trying to avoid looking at the photos. 'coz i have this fear of creatures belonging to the rodent variety. i dont hate them. i just get MAJOR goosebumps whenever i see them. that and reptiles. aaarrgh! sorry :(

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  15. The squirrels I've seen occasionally scampering through the backyard here seem to be fox squirrels and yes, they are bold little creatures! My human's cat before me used to catch them, but I don't think I would want to run across one in a dark alley. They seem like they can be a little mean.

    My human and I both read Bill's blog every day, and we both have commented on many of his fascinating posts!

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  16. Oh you have an excellent observation, Ratty, and to be able to tell how the squirrels behave, is remarkable..

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  17. Here in the DC area we have only gray and some black squirrels. I've never seen a fox or red squirrel. I work at the University of Maryland College Park. For some reason, the squirrels that live on campus are much bolder than those that live elsewhere (maybe the educational atmosphere...). They let you come very close before they run away. Once recently I saw a group of students standing around a large oak tree where 2-3 baby grays were clinging. They were stroking the babies and even holding them! I've almost never even seen a baby squirrel, let alone touched one, but once my husband and I watched a mama squirrel moving her brood, one by one, from one tree to another. It took quite a long time. She went back and forth across our yard, carrying the babies in her mouth. We always wondered what happened afterwards because the blue spruce she moved them to was quite accessible to cats, but we never saw them again.

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  18. I love learning more about squirrels. I've never seen the black one - he is very cute. I've seen the other two. I talk to them now while on my garden walks. Some like to interact and some don't. They are always so cute to watch.

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  19. Wow.. a comprehensive post yet so simple to grasp and quite an interesting one too. Great observations Ratty..! and thanks heaps for sharing with us. ^__^

    Wish I could see a squirrel for a change, cause we have way too many chipmunks over here. hehe..

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  20. I'm a little late to the game on this one, but nice detailed post! We have squirrels everywhere, but they are pretty much all eastern grays here in western Oregon. I did blog about them last week, but without the observational details you have provided. Thanks!

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  21. I live in Baltimore and I saw a black squirrel which freaked me out because they dont really live here, and i never saw one in my life. But the ones here are definitaly not afraid of humans, they come right up to you and ask for food. But I think its just cause I live in baltimore. (they are going to get fat).

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  22. I don't know if this has ever been heard of. I live in an apt. building. I had a red squirrel that turned out to be my buddy. I was feeding her nuts. Every morning she would hang on my screen to let me know she was there. She would greet me outside every time I came home. She knew my voice and would always come within inches of me and always follow me to my apt. I knew this is the same squirrel because of her markings. She was like a dog. I just moved into a different apt. same complex and I swear she followed me. Acts exactly the same. Can they follow your scent? Has anybody ever heard of this? Just curious. I know I'm not crazy, but is the squirrel the same?

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    1. I'm not sure if the squirrel could do this, but I also don't know of anything saying it couldn't It could very well be the same squirrel.

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