There are over 40 species of squirrels around the world. Some of them are based on the ground, while others live in trees. These species vary in size and weight; the average body length of an adult squirrel is 18 inches inclusive of its tail, and it weighs around two pounds. It is covered with thick black, gray or reddish-brown fur. It uses its bushy tail to drop to the ground smoothly and steer its direction while leaping between branches. Its sharp claws firmly grip tree trunks as it descends head-first to the ground. Squirrels have highly advanced senses of vision and smell.
Adult squirrels breed once or twice each year, usually towards the end of winter or the beginning of spring. After a gestation period of four to six weeks, the female gives birth to between three and six young ones. The newborn squirrels are blind and have neither teeth nor fur. They are reared by the mother, weaned at around eight weeks from birth and ready to mate at one year of age.
A squirrel goes actively in search of food during the day. Its front paws are used to grasp food in an almost human-like manner. Its digestive system cannot handle cellulose, so it only eats food that provides proteins, fats and carbohydrates. This includes nuts, seeds, conifer cones, fruits, fungi and insects found on the ground, and sometimes even eggs, young birds and snakes, and tiny mammals.
Squirrels make their nests of leaves and twigs between strong branches or in tree holes. They sometimes find openings in houses and make their nest in warm, dark and relatively unused areas like the eaves or attic. Towards the end of fall, they collect and store food in tree holes or underground. They do not go into hibernation in the winter; their keen sense of smell allows them to detect their hidden stash of food supply during the cold months.
Predators and Defensive Behavior
Coyotes, weasels, red foxes, bobcats, raccoon, opossums, large snakes prey on squirrels on the ground. Wild birds like hawks, eagles, falcons and owls also attack these rodents from above. Depending on the circumstance and perceived severity of danger, a squirrel will either escape from a predator or put up a fight. It can turn its feet to fully face backwards; this coupled with its light, slender body enables the animal to quickly run up the closest tree and jump between branches to safety. Its natural body color serves as excellent camouflage on tree trunks. It swishes its bushy tail from one side to the other as a distraction to the predator.
When a squirrel picks up the distinctive sound of a rattlesnake, it kicks up sand and flicks its tail ferociously from side to side as a defense mechanism. This increases the body heat of its tail, which emits infrared rays to drive the snake away. If caught by its tail, the squirrel breaks off the tail and flees; the tail will eventually grow back.
Squirrel Repellent Using the Rodent’s Sharp Sense of Smell
Squirrels in your yard, garden of flower bed not only may mean uprooted vegetation, ruined flowers and bark stripped off trees; it may also mean destruction of electrical wiring and even spilled garbage bins. A very effective squirrel repellent is a granular product like Shake-Away Rodent Repellent, which takes advantage of the natural sensitivity of this creature’s nervous system. The granules smell fresh and minty to humans, but the concoction of natural oils in this squirrel repellent aggravates squirrels and drives them away from the yard.