What is a Squirrel?
Squirrels are an animal that belongs to the "Sciuridae" family. Many types of squirrels fall within this category. But all of them have their own distinct characteristics.
Different features make the tiny animal very interesting to researchers who are associated with various experiments that are being performed in the field of science. Many people like to keep these animals as pets. Thus, it becomes essential for us to know all the squirrel related facts.
Types of Squirrels
The African pygmy squirrel is the smallest and grows only five inches from head to tail, and the Indian giant squirrel is the largest since it can grow up to three feet.
The United States is home to different types of squirrels belonging to both tree squirrel and ground squirrel groups. This differentiation is made based on their nesting, living, and hiding habits.
- Red Squirrel
- Grey Squirrel
- Flying Squirrel
- California Ground Squirrel
- Thirteen Lined Ground Squirrel
- Arctic Ground Squirrel
- Rock Ground Squirrel
- Belding Ground Squirrel
- Columbian Ground Squirrel
- Franklin Ground Squirrel
Squirrel Life Cycle
These little, cute and agile mammals either live on the high branches of a tree or underground tunnels dug by them depending on which squirrel group they belong to.
They mainly feed on fruits, nuts, seeds, and leaves, although some of them eat insects and other small animals as well. The squirrel's life cycle includes nesting, mating, giving birth, and growing into adults.
Nesting - The first phase of the squirrel's life cycle. The tree squirrels either live in the nests built with twigs and leaves in tree branches, and others find tree cavities to build nests for sleeping.
Mating - Squirrels generally mate in late winter or during the early spring. Both male and female squirrels mate with more than one partner through their mating process. Still, it is an essential stage of a squirrel's life cycle. Like several other animals, the squirrels also undergo a typical process of courtship before mating. It is called a mating chase.
As a female squirrel approaches estrus, her body scent attracts males up to 500 meters away, and the males start crowding her territory and wait. Sometimes there are violent fights among the males to gain over the female.
Gestation Period - The gestation period of squirrels varies between 33 to 46 days, and some of the squirrels breed twice in a year; the first from December to February and the second from May to July and the litter size may vary from 2 to 8.
The squirrel litters are born around an inch long, pink without any hairs and blind. It takes five weeks for their eyes to open fully and in six to seven weeks the babies learn to focus clearly on the objects and the hairs become thicker and fuller.
Fully Grown Squirrels - Squirrels become fully grown in eighteen weeks, and the squirrel's life cycle continues again. While they live longer in captivity, their life span in the wild depends on several reasons. These cute little mammals have no defense mechanism except to sense danger and hide. They always chatter and whistle among themselves and warn each other of imminent danger.
Despite all these, most of the squirrels living in the wild do not live more than one year due to frequent attacks by the predators. In the urban and suburban areas cars also cause death to many of them.
Are Squirrels Herbivore or Vegetarians?
Most squirrels are vegetarians.
This means that their diet mainly contains fruits, vegetables, and nuts of different kinds. There are other kinds of squirrels, like the flying squirrels, that eat birds of small size, birds' eggs, etc. This is the answer to the question, “do squirrels eat snakes or not?” Certain types of squirrels mainly depend on a vegetarian diet, and other kinds of squirrels mostly depend on non-vegetarian food.
This information can be revolting to some people who are thinking of keeping these animals as pets. Who knew that the answer to the question about squirrels eat snakes could be a ‘yes.’ This is going to help us gather information about the different types of squirrels found both in the wild and domestic habitats.
What do Squirrels love to eat?
Squirrels are different depending on their body features, habitat, and feeding habits. While some squirrels are found in wild forests, others are found nesting in our courtyard or even in our homes. As there are a diverse number of places where squirrels are found, the feeding habits must be different.
Nuts - Nuts are an essential part of the diet of these rodents. The squirrels have the habit of gnawing on thins, so the shells of the nuts are very important. Nuts that are found inside shells perform both the functions of providing the squirrel with chewing exercise and it gives the squirrel the much-needed fatty acids. These fatty acids provide energy to the rodent and protein. Thus, nuts are an essential item that exists in the diet of the squirrels.
Vegetables & Fruits - Squirrels do not depend entirely on nuts. They need other nutrients like vitamins and minerals for a healthy functioning body. Therefore, the squirrels depend on different kinds of vegetables and fruits to meet these requirements. Most of the wild squirrels are fond of apples and so they choose a habitat that will have plenty.
Peanuts & Acorns - These types of nuts are low in nutritional value and squirrels do not prefer these. Peanuts are not a type of nut, but the animal can consume this if the shell on the outside is not covered with any fungal growth. This is a type of parasite that can kill the animal. Thus, the squirrel can live without a diet that does not contain much consumption of peanuts and acorns.