Are You As Squirrelly As A Squirrel?

Have your parents or your teachers ever told you you’re acting squirrelly? They mean you’re being a little hyper or overactive. The word, of course, is derived from how a squirrel acts, and it’s a pretty good description.

(Photo by Chris Cheng)

Squirrels are fast and graceful, full of energy as they scurry about in search of food. They are rodents, like mice and rats. Other wildlife we see in Will County that are also rodents include beavers, chipmunks, groundhogs and muskrats.


Eastern gray squirrels are just one of the kinds of squirrels we have in Illinois. Fox squirrels, red squirrels and southern flying squirrels also live in our state.


The easiest way to tell if the squirrel you see is a gray squirrel is to look at its fur. Gray squirrels have mostly gray or grayish-brown fur, but their underbellies are white. Red squirrels and fox squirrels both have more reddish fur. Southern flying squirrels have flattened tails instead of the bushy tails of the gray, red and fox squirrels.


Learn more about eastern gray squirrels below.


Fun Facts


  • Eastern gray squirrels only weigh about 1½ pounds. They are about 17 inches to 18 inches long, and their tails are usually 6 inches to 10 inches long. That means their tails can be more than one-third their total body length.

  • Squirrels are famous for eating nuts, but that’s not all gray squirrels eat. They are omnivores, which means they eat plants and animals. In addition to nuts, they eat plant leaves and buds, fruits, berries, corn, wheat, insects, frogs and bird eggs.

  • Have you ever seen a squirrel bury a nut in the ground to save for later? They hide a lot of nuts, but they never find most of them. Scientists have found that about 74 percent of the nuts they bury are never dug up. Some of these buried treasures grow into new trees and plants.

  • Squirrels nest in holes in trees, but they also sometimes build nest, called dreys, in tree branches. They use sticks, twigs, dry leaves and grasses to build their dreys.

  • None of the squirrels that live in Will County hibernate, so we see them out and about all year long.

  • Eastern gray squirrels live in the eastern United States and Canada and are not usually seen too far west of the Mississippi River. They like forested areas, but squirrels are also a common site in urban and suburban areas.

  • All rodents, including squirrels, have four teeth — the front two top and bottom teeth — that never stop growing. Because they gnaw on nuts and other foods so often, the teeth do not get too big to cause problems.

  • Squirrels are fast. They can run at speeds of up to 20 mph! They’re also good climbers and jumpers. Have you ever seen them zipping up and down a tree or across a power line?

____________


Follow Willy's Wilderness on Facebook for more kid-friendly nature stories and activities.