There are over 289 types of squirrels in the world and they are extremely different. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits I have picked up so far!
Different Species of Squirrels
Types of Squirrels in the World: The Complete List of All 289 species! It turns out that the world of squirrels is a heck of a lot more diverse than most people think. The squirrel family includes small animals like chipmunks and large animals like marmots and groundhogs.
Black Squirrels: What Are They and Where Do They Come From? Black squirrels are a genetic mutation of regular tree squirrels that have other differences beside coloration. Studies have suggested that these squirrels are better adapted for cold weather survival and may soon become the dominant species in northern climates.
White Tailed Antelope Ground Squirrels These are what you see when you go hiking in the canyons around Las Vegas! The ability of these critters to survive the extreme desert heats of Nevada amazes me. These ground squirrels looked pretty cute but the warning sign at the Visitor’s Center said that they like to bite 🙂
Flying Squirrel Facts These guys can’t really fly but they are cute as heck and can glide from tree to tree. There are 43 different species of flying squirrel in the world and two of them live in the United States. These are nocturnal animals and most people never seem them. These squirrels have a “kangaroo cousin”, called Sugar Gliders that are an interesting study in evolution.
Japanese Flying Squirrels There are Giant and Dwarf species of flying squirrels in Japan! These are beautiful animals and I would love to travel to see them myself one day. Flying squirrels are not common so it amazes me that Japan not only has them but also has “dwarf” and “giant” species.
Ground Squirrel Facts These guys are super interesting! There are a bunch of different types of ground squirrels and they seem to have super powers! Some of them are immune to rattlesnake venom while others can turn their brains off for months at a time. Many people confuse ground squirrels with chipmunks but they are different species.
Red Squirrel Facts These confused the heck out of me! It turns out that American red squirrels like Pine Squirrels are different species than the famous Eurasian red squirrels found in the United Kingdom. Both of these species are also different, and smaller, than the reddish Fox squirrel.
Giant Squirrels of the World Some of these guys are three feet long and weigh over five pounds! These squirrels are massive in comparison to the gray tree squirrels that I have running around in my backyard. There are actually several of these massive animals that fall into the flying squirrel category.
Why Do Squirrels Fight Snakes? Because squirrels are awesome is why!!! As incredible as it sounds there are species of squirrels that have evolved to do battle with snakes. Some have developed an immunity to rattlesnake venom and there is also indications that they alter their fighting techniques depending upon whether the snake is venomous or not. The squirrels do not always win when they fight snakes but sometimes hey do and they always put up one heck of a fight.
Are Squirrels Territorial? Most species of squirrel are not territorial but a few will fight you! What it all comes down to is availability of resources. If there is plenty of food and abundant nesting sites then squirrels are pretty chill and communal. But, just like people, when food, water and shelter become scarce then everyone gets pretty uptight about territory. The notable exception are Pine squirrels and their close relatives as these animals are always fiercely protective of their space.
What Do Squirrels Eat? Squirrels are omnivores and will eat anything that tastes good. They tend to stick to foods that are easy to obtain such as nuts, fungi and vegetation. They have been know to eat eggs, insects and other food sources that they happen to find but, in general, squirrels are not active hunters of prey.
Do Squirrels Eat Bird Eggs? Sure! When squirrels get hungry enough they have been known to sneak into chicken coops to eat chicken eggs. If they are willing to bust into a coop in search of eggs then you would have to think that any bird eggs they find in a tree nest would also be on the menu.
Can Squirrels Swim? They can but don’t like to. They do the cutest little doggy paddle! During several of the famous squirrel migrations from the past century people reported herds of squirrels swimming across rivers. Not all of them made it safely across but many did. There is a very famous squirrel that does water skiing demonstrations (I am not kidding). The squirrel wears a life jacket but he can swim if he needs to.
Where Do Squirrels Sleep? In little hammocks? It really depends upon the species. Some build nests in trees while others create underground burrows. Tree squirrels will sleep in either a den (old woodpecker nests) or a drey (large nest made of twigs) while ground squirrels sleep in caverns inside their burrows.
Why Do Squirrels Chase Each Other? Because it is fun! Sometimes it is part of a mating ritual, sometimes it is to defend territory and sometimes it is just to have fun! It is fun to watch them scamper around and play. Sometimes it looks like they are playing an intense game of Tag.
How Do Squirrels Survive in Cold Weather Are those cute little fur coats enough? Squirrels employ multiple techniques for making it through winter. Their coat gets thicker, they put on stores of fat, create stashes of food and hunker down in groups for shared bodily warmth. When they need to create a little extra warmth they will shiver for a few minutes.
Do Squirrels Eat Meat or Are They Vegetarians? Squirrels eat more than just your birdseed and meat is on the menu. The most common example is the opportunistic eating of baby birds by flying squirrels. That being said, squirrels are not really hunters and typically do not seek out meat based foods.
Do Squirrels Remember Humans? They will if you are worth the effort. There are lots of examples of people who have raised orphaned baby squirrels, released them to the wild and later have the squirrel return for friendly visits and snacks.
Do Squirrels Mate For Life? Not a chance! Squirrels are opportunistic reproducers. It is not uncommon for a female squirrel to mate with multiple males while in estrus and have a litter of mixed parentage babies. The only monogamous squirrels I have read about are some of the flying giant squirrels. I assume that because these species are so rare that once a couple finds each other it makes sense to stay together.
Where Do Squirrels Hide Their Nuts: Food staching behaviors vary between different squirrel species. Most tree squirrels create multiple caches and will sometimes store them in ridiculous places like car engines. American red squirrels will create a massive central food cache called a midden and will fiercely protect it. Ground squirrels keep their food supplies inside their burrows.
Can Squirrels Be Trained: Squirrels can absolutely be trained! There is a famous squirrel that has been taught to water ski and there were LOTS of trained squirrels in the movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” starring Johnny Depp.
Do Squirrels Migrate: There are a couple of documented cases of mass squirrel migrations in this country but these are rare events. Squirrels typically stay in one place and will only move out when resources become scarce. They do not migrate for the winter as they have several other cold weather survival techniques.
Do Squirrels Have Good Eyesight? Are They Colorblind? Squirrels have some funky eyes and they put them to good use! Squirrels have excellent peripheral vision so they can see all around themselves at all times. This is a handy feature to have when there are so many predators that want to eat them. While squirrels can see some colors studies suggest that they are red/green colorblind.
Do Squirrels Hibernate? Some do, some don’t. There is an arctic squirrel that hibernates for several months and some other ground squirrels go into a light stupor. Tree squirrels do not hibernate and employ multiple techniques such as fattening themselves up and storing food caches for winter survival.
When Do Squirrels Have Babies? Twice a year. They typically have a litter in the spring and another one in the fall. However, if a mother squirrel loses a litter she will go back into estrus and potentially have a third litter.
Squirrel Sounds: What Noises Do They Make and What Do They Mean?: Mainly the noises are alarm calls but they also do some chattering for mating and hunger. The noises (barks, screams and chirps) are readily identifiable and are paired with different flicking motions of their tails.
How Long Do Squirrels Live? It depends upon the species of squirrel as well as whether the squirrel is a male or female. If a squirrel manages to escape from predators in the first two years of life then it can expect to live for 6-12 years. For most species the females will live longer than the males and across all species they live longer in captivity than in the wild.
Are Squirrels Nocturnal? Most squirrels are not nocturnal but a few of them are! The most famous nocturnal squirrels in the United States are the Northern and Southern Flying Squirrels. The fact that these squirrels are nocturnal means that most people have never even seen a flying squirrel even though they could be living in your backyard. I didn’t know that there were flying squirrels in the woods behind my house until our cat caught one and dropped it in our kitchen!
How High Can Squirrels Jump? This is the type of stuff that real squirrel lovers want to know! Squirrels have incredibly powerful hind legs that help them leap several feet high. The jumping ability of squirrels, both in the vertical and horizontal directions, makes it tough to keep them out of bird feeders.
Squirrel Tail Information A squirrel’s tail is a pretty interesting device! The tail is used for temperature regulation, predatory defense, communication and fall protection. One thing I learned is that squirrel tails make fantastic fishing lures and there is a company that will pay for them!
Flying Squirrels vs Sugar Gliders They might look the same but they are REALLY different. Both species are mammals but flying squirrels are rodents while sugar gliders are marsupials. Both of these animals have a history of being turned into household pets.
Ground Squirrels vs Chipmunks Both of these guys are small but it is easy to tell them apart! The trick is that chipmunks are smaller, have more round ears and a bushier tail. The noises made by the two species are also quite different so you can often tell them apart just by listening.
Squirrels vs Rats A lot of folks call squirrels “tree rats” but that is not an accurate name. While it is true that both species are rodents there are many differences between them. A squirrel is much more than a rat with a bushy tail.
What Animals Eat Squirrels? Who are the top predators that think squirrels are tasty? There are many animals that hunt squirrel and the list includes foxes, coyotes,weasels and aerial predators like hawks and eagles. If you have ever watched a squirrel run across the yard or street in a crazy zig-zag pattern what you were watching was the standard defensive behavior used just in case there was a hawk in the vicinity.
Can My Dog Get Sick From Killing a Squirrel? Probably not but here are a few things to look out for. Squirrels typically are not carriers of any significant diseases so there is no need to worry about that. However, some people who hate squirrels will poison them with rat bait. If your dog caught a sick, poisoned squirrel then monitor the dog closely for any signs of secondary poisoning.
Do Squirrels Carry Rabies? Not usually. However, if you or you pet do get bit by a squirrel then it is probably a good idea to get yourself checked out. It is more likely to get scratched by the super sharp claws of a squirrel than bitten. Either way, if you get scratched or bit then make sure you thoroughly clean the wound and keep an eye on it.
Can Squirrels Chew Through Aluminum? Yep, they are tough little critters! If you are trying to “squirrel proof” a chicken coop or figure out how to keep them out of your attic then you will need something harder than aluminum. Squirrels’ front teeth are extremely sharp and constantly growing. The constant growth means squirrels must always be gnawing to keep them short..I suspect chewing on aluminum would be a nice way for a squirrel to keep its teeth trimmed.
Squirrel Houses for Sale: I didn’t know that this was a thing! It turns out that squirrels love using these houses, especially during nesting season. I created a list of houses that are for sale on Amazon. The one from Coveside has the best balance between cost and features but the one from JCs Wildlife looks pretty interesting and would make a great gift if you don’t mind spending a little extra money.
Squirrel Feeders for Sale: My buddy and I make these feeders in our shop in Baton Rouge. We sell the feeders through Amazon so you can get free two day shipping and so we do not have to process payments or fulfill the orders. Feeding squirrels is a blast and you can use these to keep them away from your bird feeders. If you decide that you do not want one of our feeders then I have some guidance on what types of feeders to avoid.
What Are The Best Things To Feed Squirrels: Whether you are trying to attract squirrels to your feeder or trying to raise a baby or pet squirrel it is important to feed them the right things. If you are feeding a pet squirrel then it is absolutely critical that you provide hard material such as antlers for the squirrel to gnaw. Squirrels have to gnaw to keep their teeth sharp and short and need more to “eat” than just food.