A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Squirrel Research

I did do some research on squirrels and they turned out to be quite fascinating.  All of that chasing I saw was apparently part of their mating behavior.  The males chase after the females in groups but only the largest and oldest male squirrel gets to mate with her.  There are two mating seasons, January-February and July-August resulting in two litters per year of 3 to 5 young each.  It's amazing we are not knee-deep in squirrels!  The winter litter leaves the nest in the spring but the fall litter stays with the mother through the winter.  Male squirrels and young females without litters den together for warmth.  I always thought they were solitary and wondered how they kept warm in those nests way up in the branches exposed to the weather.  They don't use those nests during the winter.  Instead, they use their preferred nests in tree hollows which are warmer and not exposed to the elements.  Their nests are much sturdier than they look.  They are a framework of sticks with leaves and vines woven on them.


Squirrels' teeth grow continuously forcing them to gnaw continuously.  I can attest to that!  My shed which is made of wood has many holes gnawed into it.  I have a real problem with squirrels getting into the birdseed in the shed.  I bought a 20 lb bag that was on special at the grocery store in the fall.  I don't get a lot of birds at the feeder during the winter so I thought it would last me almost until spring.  A squirrel got into it in the shed and spilled it all over the floor in an effort to get at the sunflower seeds.  I hate to waste what has been spilled, so every few days I shovel some of it up and dump it under the feeder for the ground feeding birds.  And squirrels too, I discovered in my research.  If they can't get at the feeder, they dine on whatever falls out.  I have a "squirrel proof" feeder.  It is metal so they can't gnaw it to pieces like they did to my wooden ones.  The perch on it is spring-loaded so anything heavier than a bird closes the feeder.  It has worked well for years.


Now that I know so much more about squirrel behavior, I will be watching them more closely.  I am most interested in seeing young squirrels.  According to what I read, they also chase each other around.  I don't recall ever seeing small squirrels so I am wondering if they are like pigeons and the young attain adult size before leaving the nest.  I didn't find any information on the size of squirrels when they leave the nest, only their age, 10 weeks. 


Post a Comment

<< Home