Thursday, April 6, 2017

Squirrel Behavior

I've had comments over the years wondering what behavioral differences I've noticed in the different types of squirrels I've encountered. Most of these comments are from several years ago when I saw lots of squirrels running around out there. I had become somewhat of an authority on squirrels. It's too hard to just give my thoughts on these fun little critters as short answers in the comments section, so I decided to write a post about this very subject of squirrel behavior.

The first thing I want to say about it is that these are my own personal observations about squirrels in my old area in Michigan. It may be different for other squirrels in other places and environments, even though they seem about the same here in Iowa. 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 were also there in the forests I visited. 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 where I've been as they are other places. For that reason, I wrote a post some years back mistaking this one for a fox squirrel. That white eye ring gives it away as a gray though.

I soon began to see more of these gray squirrels. They seem a little more afraid of humans than the fox squirrels. That may be because they were not as numerous there as the fox squirrels are. I usually only caught glimpses of them in the thick bushes and trees. When they came out, they maintained 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 my old forest they are numerous. I seem to have lived in the middle of one very large population of black squirrels. Not many people can say that.

Black squirrels there in the forest were very wary of humans. I almost never saw them up close. The ones I saw in my neighborhood were a little more outgoing. 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 would 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 reds 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 in groups at times. These reds also seem to be the most curious. They scare very easily though. 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 I've heard of in places where I've lived is the flying squirrel. I have never seen one of them because they are nocturnal. One of those would be a wonderful sight to see though. Wouldn't it be great to see a squirrel gliding through the air?

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 animal's behavior. How do the squirrels behave where you live?

Thanks to everyone who has ever asked about squirrels. Those comments have always been 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!


  1. All of your squirrels look happy and healthy and I enjoyed your observations. We had red ones and grayish silvers ones in Oregon....the latter ones were native and the reds were considered invasive, taking over the grays territory, even tho they were much smaller. Here in Florida, the squirrels I see are kind of scrawny and dirty brown looking .... I worry about them a little.

  2. How interesting! We only have fox squirrels here - and there are a LOT of them!

  3. We took 5 flying squirrels out of the cabin attic 2 years ago, Their mother had chewed an opening to get in.

  4. You're à bit of a squirrel expert. I like that last one poking his head out of the tree

  5. Great post! Love the squirrels. We have the little red squirrels here in PEI. We found one who would let you touch him for a peanut in the shell.

  6. This was a very informative post about the different kinds of squirrels. Fox squirrels are indeed little rodents with attitudes. It's funny how they all have different personalities.