Squirrels are nimble, bushy tailed rodents found all over the world. They belong to the Sciuridae family which includes ground squirrels, chipmunks, prairie dogs, tree squirrels and marmots. There are more than 200 species of squirrels and they are categorized into three types. These three types are tree squirrels, ground squirrels and flying squirrels. A group of squirrels is called a scurry or dray.
Since there are so many types of squirrels, they range greatly in size. The smallest squirrel is the African pygmy squirrel. It grows to 2.8 to 5 inches (7 to 13 centimeters) in length and weighs just 0.35 ounces (10 grams). The Indian giant squirrel is the world's largest known squirrel. It grows to 36 inches (1 meter) long and weighs up to 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms).
A Squirrel's Characteristics
Squirrels are generally small animals that vary in size. This mammal has slender bodies with very bushy tails and large eyes. A squirrel’s fur is soft and silky and most are thick. They have four of five toes on their paws. Unlike most mammals, squirrels can descend a tree head first. They do so by rotating their ankles 180 degrees so the hind paws are backward-pointing and can grip the tree bark. Squirrels have an excellent sense of vision and sturdy claws for climbing.
A Squirrel's diet
Many people think that squirrels only eat nuts, but this isn't true. Squirrels are known as omnivores. A squirrel’s diet consist primarily of a wide variety of plants, including nuts, seeds, conifer cones, fruits, fungi, and green vegetation. Some squirrels, however, do consume meat. To prepare for cold months, squirrels will bury their food. In the winter months they have a store of food they can eat when supplies are scarce.
A Squirrel's Habitat
Tree squirrels typically live in wooded areas, since they prefer to live in trees. Ground squirrels dig burrows, a system of tunnels underground, to live in. Some squirrels also hibernate in burrows during the winter to keep warm. Flying squirrels make their homes in tree holes or nests that are built into the crooks of branches.
Fun Facts about Squirrels
- Squirrels communicate with each other through various vocalisations and scent marking. They also use their tails as a signalling device, twitching it when uneasy to alert other squirrels of potential danger.
- When a squirrel is scared and feels that it is in danger, it will at first remain motionless.
- Squirrels are extremely intelligent creatures.
- Squirrels are born blind.
- Squirrels are very trusting animals and are of the very few wild animal species which will eat out of a person's hand.
- Flying squirrels can’t fly like birds but they can glide between trees.
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