Oct 09 2013

Cute, Curious, Combative

Published by at 7:30 am under Mammals

Red squirrel (photo by Shawn Collins)

So cute!  But watch out, he’s fierce.

His small size, soft red fur, fluffy tail and big eyes are certainly cute but the red squirrel is also curious and combative.  I think his food habits made him that way.

Unlike gray and fox squirrels, red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) don’t bury one nut at a time.  Instead they gather food in a big cache called a midden in a hollow tree or underground.  This takes a lot of time and effort:  climb the trees, walk the branches, bite off the green cones, watch them fall, scurry down later and collect the cones, repeat the process. Along the way they pause to eat at the same prominent locations leaving debris piles, also called middens, that seem to say “I am here!”

The red squirrel defends a 1 – 8 acre territory against everyone, especially other red squirrels.  He’s curious about new arrivals but then, watch out!

First line of defense?  Shout at the competition!  Burst into a sudden loud chatter that slows to a wheezy hiccup.  Really mad?  Jerk your tail and stamp your feet.  Really, really mad?  Chase!

In coniferous forests that’s usually another red squirrel but in mixed forests gray squirrels also get a verbal beating and relentless pursuit.  Though the red squirrels are only 1/2 to 1/3 the size of the grays, the red ones always win.

I, too, have been ejected from a red squirrel’s territory.  He used his voice.  Click here to read about it.

Now that winter is coming the red squirrels are changing into their drabber winter coats and rushing to increase their middens.  They have no patience for anyone.

Cute… ?

Don’t push me!

(photo by Shawn Collins)

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Cute, Curious, Combative”

  1. Laurieon 09 Oct 2013 at 8:34 am

    Are these squirrels sometimes called “pineys”? I had never noticed them until I was bird-watching at a nature center in Indiana, and another watcher lamented the pineys coming in and chasing the birds from the feeders.

  2. Kate St. Johnon 09 Oct 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Laurie, I’ve never heard that name but red squirrels eat mostly pine cone seeds so the name is apt.

  3. Hollyon 09 Oct 2013 at 7:36 pm

    I just finished reading Marcia Bonta’s October entry to her blog – on red squirrels – Then I switched to your blog and saw the red squirrel. I thought my computer had jumped back to a picture I had somehow missed. But just a coincidence. I love red squirrels, even the feisty ones. One pops up in my yard a few times a year.

  4. Kate St. Johnon 09 Oct 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Holly, wow! the coincidence is amazing.

  5. Marcy Con 10 Oct 2013 at 1:28 am

    These are the guys who will CHEW your feeders and anything else they can sink their teeth in…we had one at the old place actually drag an old shirt down off the porch and under the steps in the winter time…We had old blankets and things out for a stray dog to stay warm in a box and this critter came on the porch and decided it would work better for him, under the cement steps and dragged it thru a small crack on the side. It must have thought this would make a warm bed instead of leaves. Usually is you have pines around (pine squirrel), you will see these guys….they maybe small, but they are much worse than the gray and fox squirrels…but they do take cute photos…love that white eye ring and belly….

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