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Does anyone really understand the behaviour of squirrels?

Does anyone really understand the behaviour of squirrels?

Does anyone really understand the behaviour of squirrels?

Free Squirrel Red photo and picture

The Red Squirrel is a small boreal species of squirrel that is found across North America in coniferous and mixed forests from seal level to elevations of 2300 m.  It also happily makes its home in urban and suburban areas.  It is the most common of the 2 species of squirrels in the Cariboo.  They feed on seeds, fruit, nuts , tree buds, berries, mushrooms, leaves, and twigs.Free Autumn Beauty photo and picture

Squirrels seem to spend much of their day aimlessly scurrying from here to there, up, and down trees and setting on branches complaining that I am hanging up laundry under “THEIR” tree.  Though we do not totally understand the connection between trees and squirrels, squirrels are a very important part of the natural ecosystem.  The balance between them helps to spread tree seeds and create stable squirrel populations.

It is mid-winter now and though squirrels do not hibernate they will have long periods rest where their metabolism slows down and they may sleep for several days.  When they wake up hunger is the first thin to come to mind.  They spent the fall months collecting, drying, and storing huge number of cones, mushrooms, and berries in large middens and various hiding place within their territory.  Studies have shown that they will remember about 80-90% of the food they have hidden.  They don’t have search long for the huge cone middens and you will often find them sitting in a branch peeling out the individual seeds from the cones and discarding the debris at the base of the tree.  These middens are used for many years by successive generations of squirrels.

Free Squirrel Tree photo and picture

In Winter and early spring, you will often see small branch debris, especially Spruce branches littering the ground. Rather than eating just the buds while sitting on the branch the squirrels will nip of the tip eat the bud on the tip of the branch and discard the rest of the branch on the ground.  I do not find this damaging to the trees.  Here this is mostly done on Spruce trees, and we seem to have good natural balance of squirrels in the area.  Their branch nipping is very much like my pruning.  They take a tip back to a joined and normally that will create new growth of multiple branches in the spring.  During some years evergreen trees will produce heavy loads of cones, these are called mast years.  We do not understand how but squirrels seem to anticipate these mast years and bearing larger litters in the spring before the cones appear.  It is also possible that this pruning helps create the formation of cone bearing buds.  

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