Grey squirrel, grey squirrel, shake your bushy tail

I decided to do something a little different for “Species of the Week” today. I saw some prints in the snow, and thought: “Gee, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to identify species this way as well?”

Animal prints I found in the snow:

Image

OK, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when about five seconds of internet research revealed the owner of these prints to be:

The Eastern Grey Squirrel: Sciurus carolinensis

 Image

I know, I know, not very exciting for anyone who lives in Ontario. Grey squirrels are ubiquitous around here (unless, in my experience, you’re trying to research them). This year, they have taken up permanent residence at our bird feeder. Thank you husband for the lovely photos.

Image

Here are a few things you may not know:

The Eastern Grey Squirrel is found in Europe and North America. They are native here in Ontario, but are considered a pest in BC and parts of Europe. In 1909, a group of 8 were imported from New York and released in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Since then, they have become a very competitive invasive species there.

Eastern Grey Squirrels come in two main varieties, grey and black. Black ones, however, are less common the further south you go (which may mean the black fur has some sort of heat retention function). Their large tails serve many purposes. They are rudders for balance and steering, a shade, a blanket, and a tool for signalling to other squirrels (and taunting my cat at the window). The word squirrel comes from the words “shadow” and “tail” in Greek. Squirrels can move up to 25 km per hour.

They have a highly varied diet which includes nuts, fruits, buds, bark, insects, eggs, mushrooms, and, as I’m sure you’re aware, backyard birdseed. Through trial and error, we have discovered there is no such thing as a squirrel-proof bird feeder. Anyone who advertises something as such is trying to sell you a feeder that is also bird-proof.

Check this out, just for fun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWU0bfo-bSY

Grey squirrels hoard food in late summer and autumn for use in colder months.  I really wonder if this season of giant dense snow banks has left many of them baffled and hungry.

Sources:

http://www.hww.ca/en/species/mammals/eastern-grey-squirrel.html

http://cwf-fcf.org/en/discover-wildlife/flora-fauna/fauna/mammals/eastern-grey-squirrel.html

http://nature.ca/notebooks/english/easterngreysquirrel.htm

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Posted on March 23, 2014, in Species of the week, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. That’s a terrific print you captured. The snow has to be just right to get that detail. You don’t get that in GRASS! Do ya?
    -Old Mr. Winter

    LOL
    Thanks for a really nice post on these furry scurriers. I’m starting to see some snow tracks from our little red squirrels lately. (There aren’t any gray ones here at Balsamea.) Generally they are hiding in a winter half-sleep, but they pop out now and then.

    The video is a trip.

    I haven’t been stocking the bird feeders since last spring, but when I did, a product called Squirrel Away worked. It’s a powder you mix with the seed that is an irritant to them but not to the birds. As a test, I tried putting out a seed cake without the repellent, and they wiped it out in two days.

    Now somebody will tell me that the powder is toxic to pollinators or something.

    Like

  2. There’s a thought. I could fill the feeders with free acorns and beech nuts. But Buddy (the dog) wouldn’t cooperate. He doesn’t allow any fur-bearers in his yard.

    Like

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