Common Squirrels Species Living in the US

Cute gray squirrel on the fence.

Basic information about squirrels

Almost all of us have seen squirrels many times in our life. They are cute, tiny and naughty creatures. They can be found easily running or jumping quickly from one tree to another within a blink of a human eye.  These adorable tiny creatures are rodents and belong to the Sciuridae family. Sciuridae family includes small to medium sized rodents like chipmunks, marmots, and prairie dogs. The origin of the word ‘squirrel’ is from the Greek word Skiouros that means ‘shadow tail, and most probably squirrel has been named after their unique furry tails. The squirrels are earliest known rodents, and they can be date back to Eocene period.

【Read more about Rodents】

The most prominent feature of squirrels is their four front teeth that grow continuously and help them to crack nuts and tree. Squirrels got exceptional eyesight, spiked ears, hairy tails and flexible hind legs. These features help them to run and move quickly from one tree to another. Furthermore, they own four toes on their forefeet and five toes on rear feet. They are both mammals and omnivores and fed on anything they find, but because of being an inhabitant of trees, mostly you will see them eating nuts, pine cones, seeds, roots, insects and other stuff like this. However, sometimes they can also feed themselves by eating newborn birds and birds’ eggs.

Squirrels gestation period vary from species to species. It depends on size, but usually, it is around 40 days. They can breed twice a year, once in a month of February and March and the other in the June and July. Mother squirrel can give birth to minimum two, and maximum eight juvenile squirrels and they are totally dependant on their mother for their survival for almost a period of two to three months. So keeping in view the number of kittens (baby squirrels), and a number of breedings in a year it can be said that squirrels have vigorous population.

Different types of squirrels living in the US

According to Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), currently almost more than two hundred squirrels species are present all around the world, and they can be divided into three major categories and many further sub-categories. Among all variety of squirrels present in the world, the major difference exists is their sizes. There are squirrel species that is as short as few inches long and on the other hand is an Oriental giant squirrel species that looks like a cat because of their enormous size. These giant squirrels belong to group tree squirrels. Three major categories of squirrels are ground squirrels, tree squirrels, and flying squirrels. The sub-categories are numerous like Douglas, Albino, Antelope, Idaho, Rock, White and Black, Spotted, Richardson and many others.

If we talk about common squirrel species peculiar to the US then we can say, the US is a residing place of five different species of squirrels. These five different species includes red squirrels, gray squirrels, fox squirrels, flying squirrels and ground squirrels. These squirrels differ from each other in term of characteristics. However, basic features like legs, eyes, ears and sharp claws are similar in each category. Here we will discuss these squirrel species in brief along with those characteristics that differentiate them from each other and according to which they are classified.

1. Red Squirrels

The squirrel species with the most beautiful and vibrant colors are the red squirrel. They are tiny, adorable and contain fur that changes its color with the changing weather. In winters their fur becomes gray-red, and in summer it becomes orange-red with a white color on the belly area. Furthermore, they also develop the bunch of fur on their ears during a winter season. The other name of red squirrels is pine squirrels, and they usually exist in the pine forests of northern states of US that are considerably a colder area. Other features of red squirrels are:

  • They have smaller size as compared to other tree squirrels
  • The species contain reddish fur along with white underneath area
  • They have white ring around their eyes
  • The tail is less dense and can vary its color from yellowish-grey to reddish-brown

2. Gray Squirrels

In the United States, two sub-categories of gray squirrels exist. These two species are eastern gray and western gray. These subspecies are categorized according to the region of living. Eastern gray squirrels usually live in the northeastern United States, and western gray squirrels reside in three detached areas along the western shores. However, eastern gray squirrels have also occupied the western United States too. Gray squirrels are usually large, and their name does not indicate their color. They can be found in the variety of colors like brown, cream, black, and even in red color. Few other distinguished features of gray squirrels are:

  • They possess soft, thick fur that is gray from upper part and white from under part
  • Their head and sides are colored with yellowish brown color
  • They also contain white ring around eye
  • The ears are more prominent and pointing

3. Flying Squirrels

Same like Gray squirrels, two different sub-categories of flying squirrels are found in the US. These two species are southern flying squirrels and northern flying squirrels. The northern flying squirrels reside in elevated regions of California, Arizona, Michigan, Alaska and Adirondack mountains. Whereas, the southern squirrels are the inhabitants of an area located around US eastern half and that is considerably at lower heights. Flying squirrels are usually very small in size, and their population is greater as compared to the gray squirrels. However, they can hardly be seen because of their nocturnal behavior. These squirrels cannot fly; rather they can glide from one tree to another smoothly. They possess membrane of skin on the both sides of their body, and these membranes help it to take long jumps. Few other distinguished features of flying squirrels that can help to identify them are:

  • Because of their nocturnal behavior, no one has seen them majorly, and are different from other squirrel species in the Northwest
  • They are usually good-natured with soft fur
  • They possess large black eyes to help them see at night
  • Their feet contains more fur than red squirrel that makes a fine outline

4. Ground Squirrels

Ground squirrels are very small rodents, and different species of ground squirrels can be found in the United States. As their name refers, they usually choose to dig burrows and holes in an open environment. This species of squirrels lie in ground squirrels category. The white-taled antelope squirrels live in the southwestern area of United States. Its weight is only 3.5 to 4.0 ounces and is known as the smallest squirrel. Other sub-categories of ground squirrels living in the US are the thirteen-lined ground squirrel, spotted a green squirrel, and California ground squirrel. Few other eminent features of ground squirrels that can differentiate them from other species are:

  • They are easily identifiable due to their small size.
  • They are mostly found in agricultural areas, but can also be seen in urban areas

5. Fox Squirrels

Fox squirrels are found almost in all regions of United States except the eastern coast. Among all other squirrel species living in the US, Fox squirrels are the largest one with the body size of 17 to 27 inches. They possess two different color groups. One group has dark-coloured fur with various shades of color like gray, tan, and black while underneath is of gold color. The other groups contain squirrels with reddish, or orange colored fur. The former group possesses black colored heads with ears, feet, and noses being white in color. Few different tips to identify them are:

  • They possess reddish-orange color fur
  • They have bushy tail just like a fox, that is why they have been named as fox squirrels
  • They can also be identified as they are large

How to identify squirrels in your property

As we have already mentioned, squirrels can be seen and found anywhere and almost all around the world. They can live anywhere from a rural area to urban area and from highly populated area to forests. Being friendly in nature, they are quite familiar with human beings, and because of this habit, they sometimes can create a serious problem for you when they start living in your property region. It can b your office, home, flat and any other place. In your home, they can be commonly found in the upper story of your building, and the reason is quite obvious; their ability to climb at heights easily and quickly.

Because of their adorable looks, we might love to see them playing around the trees, climbing and going down. However, they can be serious trouble if they start residing in your home/property because in that case, they will start chewing your wood, papers and other important stuff, as you should not forget their excellent chewing abilities. Therefore, it is necessary to keep a sharp eye on every corner of your property to check if they have started residing at your location or not. Here are few tips to check squirrel presence in your home.

1. Squirrel damage

The damage squirrel will do on your property depends on a type of squirrel that has invaded your area. For example, if the squirrel that is hiding in your territory is tree squirrels then most probably it will damage your upper portion mostly. As they like to dig holes, they will do same to your house. They will dig a hole anywhere and would cause severe damage to your property.

2. Squirrel droppings

Another tip to identify squirrel is to check through their droppings. Their droppings are similar in size of jelly beans or raisins and they are 5 to 8 mm long. Their shape is cylindrical and have pills like shape. Through their droppings, it can be identified if the invader is a squirrel or some other rodent. However, some inexperienced person may confuse squirrel droppings with that of a mouse. To avoid any confusion keep in mind that squirrel droppings are longer than mouse droppings.

3. Squirrel calls

Squirrels can also be tracked through their voice. They make annoying sounds when any other animals try to attack or enter their location. Through concentrating on a sound that they produce, you can easily identify them. Additionally, you may use tools to call the squirrel. These tools are designed in such a way to make noise similar to the squirrel call.

4. Squirrel tracks

To track a squirrel a piece of cardboard with the flour spread on it can help you out. Place it anywhere around the area being suspected as a squirrel residence. When squirrel moves over its feet will make a track and as it has already mentioned their rear feet contain five toes and front include four toes, presence of squirrels can be identified.

Fun facts about squirrels

There are few facts about squirrels that are unknown to many people, but they are interesting and unique to know. Few of them are mentioned below:

  • Baby squirrels are blind at the time of their birth
  • During heat season, the male squirrel can smell a female squirrel from a distance of one mile.
  • Their four front teeth continue to grow throughout their lives
  • Squirrels are only wild animal who will take their food even from human hands because of their friendly and trusting nature
  • They run in erotic paths to mislead their chaser.
  • Squirrel communicates with another squirrel through scent making and different vocalizations. Furthermore, they also use their tails as a communication tool. They jerk their tail to make another squirrel alert of any potential danger.
  • They do not exist in the continent of Australia and Antarctica.
  • They sometimes hide more food for winters rather than they consume. They hide seeds in different areas and forget to eat resulting in growth of trees and plant.
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