Body Size and Shape:
- Squirrels typically have a slender, elongated body with a bushy tail.
- Their size can range from small (e.g., 8-12 inches) to medium (e.g., 17-27 inches), depending on the species.
Fur and Coloration:
- They are covered in dense fur that can vary in color, including shades of gray, brown, red, or even black, depending on the species.
- Some species may have distinctive markings or patterns on their fur.
Eyes and Ears:
- Squirrels have large, round eyes, which provide them with good vision.
- Their ears are generally small and rounded, though they can be quite sensitive to sound.
- One of the most iconic features of squirrels is their bushy tail. It serves various functions, including balance, communication, and providing warmth.
- The tail can be as long as or even longer than their body.
- Like all rodents, squirrels have sharp, chisel-like incisor teeth that continue to grow throughout their lives. They need to gnaw on objects to keep their teeth from overgrowing.
Limbs and Paws:
- Squirrels have four well-developed limbs equipped for climbing and jumping.
- Their paws have sharp, curved claws that aid in gripping surfaces.
Habitat: Squirrels are highly adaptable and can be found in a wide range of habitats, including forests, urban areas, and parks.
- They are primarily herbivores, with diets consisting of nuts, seeds, fruits, and sometimes fungi. Some species may also consume insects.
- They are highly agile and are known for their ability to leap from tree to tree and navigate complex terrain.
- Squirrels build nests, called dreys, which are typically made from twigs, leaves, and other materials. These nests are often found high in trees.
- Squirrels communicate with each other using a variety of vocalizations, including chirps, barks, and whistles. They also use their body language.
- Squirrels can be solitary or live in small groups, depending on the species.
SQUIRRELS IN YOUR AREA
Squirrels are a common sight in Washington and Idaho, representing various species like the Eastern Gray Squirrel and the Western Gray Squirrel. These adaptable rodents thrive in both urban and rural environments, and are often seen darting through trees, scavenging for food, and storing nuts. They play a vital role in forest ecosystems by helping disperse seeds, contributing to plant growth. While admired for their agility and distinctive tails, squirrels can also be a source of occasional garden or property damage due to their digging and munching habits. Nonetheless, their presence adds a touch of wildlife charm to the Pacific Northwest landscape.
Squirrel habitats in Washington and Idaho encompass a diverse range of ecosystems. In both states, these adaptable rodents can be found in coniferous and deciduous forests, urban parks, and suburban areas. They often inhabit wooded regions, utilizing tree hollows and leafy dreys as nests. In more urbanized environments, squirrels adapt to human structures, nesting in attics and hollows in buildings. Abundant food sources, such as nuts and seeds from local tree species, make these states ideal squirrel territories. Their ability to thrive in various settings reflects their remarkable adaptability, contributing to their widespread presence across the Pacific Northwest.
SQUIRREL BEHAVIORS, THREATS, OR DANGERS
Squirrels are generally not considered dangerous or aggressive to humans, but they can pose a few potential threats or nuisances:
Property Damage: Squirrels may cause damage to homes, gardens, and electrical wiring. They have strong teeth and may chew on structures to gain entry or to wear down their constantly growing incisors.
Crop and Garden Damage: In agricultural areas, squirrels can be a nuisance by foraging on crops, fruits, and vegetables.
Transmission of Diseases: While rare, squirrels can carry diseases like leptospirosis, tularemia, and ticks which can potentially be transmitted to humans.
Vehicle Accidents: Squirrels, like many small animals, can dart into roads and cause accidents if drivers swerve to avoid them.
Competition with Birds: Squirrels can be competitive with birds for bird feeders and birdhouses, potentially affecting bird populations.
Nesting in Homes: They may nest in attics, crawl spaces, or chimneys, which can lead to unpleasant odors and damage.
If you're experiencing conflicts with squirrels, humane and ethical methods of deterrence and exclusion are typically recommended.