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Nutty Facts About Squirrels

Most of us don’t think twice when we see squirrels zipping around and up and down trees, looking for nuts to hide away for winter.

Photo courtesy of Debi Shapiro

These critters are common across Illinois, living in just about any habitat with mature trees. Several different types of squirrels live in Illinois, but the most common is the eastern gray squirrel.

Did you know?

  • Like all rodents, squirrels have big teeth for eating, and their teeth never stop growing. They can grow up to 6 inches per year, but during chewing they grind against each other, which stops them from getting too long.

  • Squirrels are pretty forgetful. They bury their nuts all over, but can’t find as many as 74 percent of their buried treasures. This is bad news for the squirrels, but good news for forests, because it allows more trees to grow.

  • Sometimes, squirrels only pretend to bury their nuts. If they think they are being watched by an animal that may steal its nuts, they will dig a hole and cover it up without ever putting a nut in the hole.

  • More than 200 different species of squirrels exist worldwide. Probably the most fascinating is the flying squirrel. It doesn’t actually fly with wings like a bird does, but it can glide more than 150 feet through the air.

  • Squirrels are surprisingly fast. They can run up to 20 miles per hour.

  • Squirrels have a good sense of smell, which comes in handy when searching for their buried nuts. They can sniff them out even if they are buried under a foot of snow.

  • Baby squirrels are called kits or kittens. They are born blind and without any fur. To help keep them safe, the babies spend about 10 weeks in a nest with their mother.

  • When squirrels are scared or frightened, they quickly run back and forth. This helps them avoid being captured by their predators, such as hawks.


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