Squirrel Awareness Alert! – The Facts You Should Know
October is Squirrel Awareness Month. Honestly, it is. It’s also Spinach Lovers Month, and I mean no disrespect for spinach lovers, but you won’t see any of them hopping from tree to tree or gliding across your back yard at night. So, I will do my best to make your aware of squirrels. Because when you see one outside you know they are aware of you.
You've heard the tales [pun intended]. Now, here’s the real story:
Squirrels are rodents, a kind of mammal whose front teeth (called incisors) keep growing throughout their life and are very strong. So they are excellent at gnawing and biting. The English word rodent comes from the Latin language meaning to gnaw. The English word squirrel comes from the Greek language and means Shadow Tail.
Wild squirrels live on every continent except Antarctica and Australia. Other squirrel-free zones are the southernmost part of South America and the island of Madagascar. Harris County, Texas is not a squirrel free zone. The squirrels that you should be alert for in Harris County are: Eastern Gray Squirrels, Eastern Fox Squirrels, Southern Flying Squirrels, and Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels.
Squirrels are usually separated into three groups or body types.
- Tree squirrels live in trees in nests called dreys or in holes in trees. They are active during the day. They have very bushy tails.
- Flying squirrels also live in trees, but because they are active only at night you are less likely to see them. Instead of jumping from tree to tree they can stretch out their skin and glide.
- Ground squirrels live in and on the ground. This group includes chipmunks, groundhogs, and prairie dogs.
You can find more information about tree squirrels here:
Hello, Squirrels! Scampering Through the Seasons / by Linda Glaser; illustrated by Gay W. Holland
Using the annual cycle of the seasons Glasser clearly and accurately introduces the life cycle of the gray squirrel and its interaction with its habitat. A final page introduces different kinds of squirrels.
- Tree Squirrels by the Humane Society of America has facts about tree squirrels, advice on problems with them and squirrel-proof bird feeders
- Dennis Deck of the Portland, Oregon Tracking Club has a page in his Reference Notebooks devoted to tree squirrels with excellent color photographs of squirrels, squirrel tracks and their after eating leavings.
You can find more information about flying squirrels here:
Flying Squirrels / Mary Ann McDonald
These tiny gliders are common throughout the eastern United States and Canada, but because they sleep all day and glide and eat all night you will seldom see one. A thin flap of skin stretches from their ankles to their wrists. Like most squirrels they are great jumpers. Using their powerful hind legs they climb and jump from a high tree. Then they stretch out their flap of skin, called a patagium, and using their flat tail like a rudder they gracefully glide to another tree.
- FlyingSquirrels.com Website owner Steve Patterson says, “This website was conceived with the aim of helping children ‘connect’ to the natural world. Accordingly, we encourage school children in employing the information presented here for use in their school projects, essays and reports.” This marvelous site is a treasure trove of pictures and information about North American flying squirrels including, but not limited to: their origins, anatomy, shelter, diet, life cycles, predators, range maps, and lots of high quality pictures. And –a delight for librarians—they even have a current (March 2009) “Flying Squirrel Bibliography for Children”, and Mary Ann MacDonald’s book listed above is one of its “TOP PICKS.”
You can find more information about ground squirrels here:
Prairie Dogs / Marybeth Lorbiecki; illustrations by Wayne Ford
Ford’s spectacular color photographs illustrate this introduction to the various species and habitat of these vigilant ground squirrels. Short sidebars called “Prairie Dog Funfacts” break up the detailed text on their life span, social interactions, predators, tunnels, mounds, and their intricate communications.
- Black-tailed Prairie Dog from the Mammals of Texas online edition has lots of facts and a link to a map that shows you where they live in Texas.
- Animal Fact Guide also has some information on prairie dogs.
- Prairie Dog by the National Geographic Society has some basic facts, photos and sounds.
- While you’re visiting the National Geographic Society site take a look and a listen to the Groundhog page. You’ll hear why it’s sometimes called a Whistling Dog. Plus Marmota monax is the only ground squirrel, indeed the only squirrel, indeed the only rodent, with its own day and tongue twister!
Now you know the facts about squirrels. Remember to be aware when you step outside.
Next week: Fun Stories about Squirrels!