Saturday, October 13, 2012

Some Random Squirrel Trivia For Squirrel Awareness Month

Since we're in the middle of Squirrel Awareness Month, and since I've been having a hard time coming up with new lines for the SAM carol (see my previous posts), I thought I'd offer up some interesting squirrel facts.

There are 278 species of squirrels in the world. They are native to every continent except Australia and Antarctica.

Squirrel species are grouped into three broad categories: ground squirrels (including chipmunks, marmots, and groundhogs); tree squirrels; and flying squirrels.

Gray squirrels have a bite force of around 7,000 pounds per square inch (psi). For comparison, most humans have a bite force around 500 psi.

Like other rodents, squirrels' incisors grow constantly throughout their lives. They must keep them worn down by gnawing to avoid having the teeth become impacted.

Squirrels cannot vomit.

Flying squirrels are able to glide between trees for distances of 150 yards or more. They do so using a flap of skin, called the patagium, that extends on each side of the body between the forearm and leg.

The word "squirrel" comes from two Greek words: skia meaning shade or shadow, and oura meaning tail.

The earliest squirrel known from the fossil record was protosciurus, which lived in North America around 37 million years ago.

Many ground squirrels hibernate during the cold winter months. However, tree squirrels do not hibernate. This is a common misconception.

Most adult tree squirrels, including the eastern gray squirrel, nest alone. However, in cold weather several squirrels will temporarily nest together to share body heat.

Squirrels can control the flow of blood to their tails. This helps the squirrel to regulate its body heat by altering the blood flow. It also helps ground squirrels defend against predators such as snakes that hunt by detecting heat, by allowing the squirrel to make itself look bigger and more threatening.

Squirrels' sweat glands are in the pads of their feet. On a hot day a squirrel may leave tiny wet footprints on a sidewalk.

Squirrels are diurnal, or awake and active during the day. Tree squirrels are most active early in the morning and late in the evening.

Gray squirrels often build more than one nest, or drey, especially when raising young. This way, if one nest is damaged or threatened by a predator, they will have a backup nest to move to.

Squirrels love pumpkins, and are adept at carving jack-o-lanterns.

Phew, that was hard work!

Before burying a nut, a gray squirrel will lick the nut to apply its scent to it. This helps the squirrel locate the nut later.

A gray squirrel weighing about a pound needs to eat its weight in nuts, seeds, and other food every week.

During hibernation, the body temperature of the arctic ground squirrel can drop to below freezing, as low as 27 degrees F. This is the lowest naturally occurring body temperature of any mammal.

Eastern gray squirrels, which are about 15 inches long, can jump up to six feet vertically and eight feet horizontally.

Prairie dogs live in "towns" that may contain dozens of family groups, and can cover hundreds of acres.

Rabies is virtually unknown in squirrels. There is no record of a human ever being infected with rabies through a squirrel bite.

Tree squirrels can rotate their hind feet 180 degrees at the ankles. This helps them to quickly and easily descend tree trunks head first.


  1. I saw for the first time a black squirrel. Is this unusual?

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  3. No, they are actually quite common in the Midwest especially in areas near the Mississippi River.

  4. Squirrels in fact can vomit & some do when they're ill. I've seen it happen before when a non-releasable gray squirrel had a urinary tract infection. As for squirrels licking their food before burying it as means of helping them locate it later, that is also incorrect. Squirrels carry their food in their mouth which already puts their scent on the stashed goods & once buried the scent wears off. Squirrels rarely ever remember where they hid/buried their food so when they dig up food it's usually always food that was hidden/buried by another squirrel.

    1. Indeed they do vomit. At our office, we have several Eastern Grays that visit in the morning and evening, and we've seen them vomit. There does seem to be a misconception about this that is widespread: perhaps the growth of an incorrect and poorly researched article...

  5. my squirrel got into a jar of coconut oil, ate too much, felt sick after about 20 minutes, and vomited it back up.

  6. Umm the last time i checked a crocodile has the largest bite force ever measured at nearly 4000psi. You are telling me a squirrel has almost double that amount? Why isnt it written and documented anywhere!? Just saying