Animals / Mammal Facts / Rodents - Most Populous Group of Mammals / Squirrels - Big Family of Alert, Short-Faced Rodents / American Red Squirrel - Woodland, Small, Frosty North American
American Red Squirrel - Woodland, Small, Frosty North American
American red squirrels (aka chickarees) inhabit a variety of forest habitats, from the pine forests of Canada's cold northern regions to the deciduous woodlands that grow as far south as Arizona. Although the squirrel's name suggests that it would have red fur, in reality the fur changes color throughout the year, ranging from a dark brown to ginger. The underside is covered in much paler shade of fur and the eyes have white rings around them. The tail is not quite so bushy as some other squirrel species and it is more than half the length of the body. They grow to be about 6.5-9 inches (16-23cm) in length, which is a decent size for a rodent, smaller that other squirrels in North America but still larger than chipmunks.
Red squirrels live solitary lives. They forage for food during the day and do not hibernate. They do become less active in the coldest regions during winter, when they survive on caches of food. They must carve out a territory where they can make a burrow and store their caches. Their home quarters they make in tree hollows and similar small hideaways, for example the abandoned holes of woodpeckers. In areas where severe frosts occur, they make dens in underground burrows so that they have a little more insulation from the icy weather. When breeding, females are only receptive to males for one day. And after they have mated, the male and female separate and head their own ways. The female will care for the young on her own. Up to 8 may be born in a litter.
Red squirrels eat a wide range of foods. Their diet largely consists of vegetable matter (seeds, fruits, nuts, bark, buds and mushrooms), but they will also feed on eggs, young birds and small mammals when the opportunity arises.