Alaska continuously across Canada
to the northeast U.S. South to the Appalachian states and northern Rocky
Coniferous, deciduous, and mixed forests.
Mass: 140 to 250 g; avg. 194.50 g
(4.93 to 8.8 oz; avg. 6.85 oz)
Head and Body length= 165-230mm Tail
length=90-160. Fur color is quite variable and even varies between winter
and summer. The dorsal coat is usually brownish or olive-red in color.
During the summer, a black stripe can be seen on the side. The belly is
white or cream color. The tail is often edged with white. There is a white
band encircling the large, black eye. The tail is not as thick or bushy
as other North American squirrel species.
In warmer climates there are two breeding
seasons, in the late winter and mid-summer. In colder climates, there is
only one, taking place in late winter. Females are receptive to males for
one day. Many males chase the female, attempting to mate with her. After
mating, the male and female seperate, leaving the female to care for the
young alone. She gives birth, after a 38 day gestation period, in a lined
den or tree hollow, to 1-8 young. The young develop very quickly and are
weaned 7-8 weeks after birth. At 18 weeks they leave the nest. Juvenile
mortality is high, with owls, hawks, and pine martens taking many individuals.
About 25% survive to sexual maturity, which is achieved around one year
after young are born. Red squirrels can live up to 7 years in the wild.
Red squirrels are solitary, diurnal
animals that are active throughout the year. Their peak activity times
are at dawn and the late afternoon. They den in old woodpecker holes, tree
hollows, or any other small crevice near their home range (usually 1-2.4
hectares). In the northern part of their range, red squirrels often spend
the winter in a system of underground tunnels. They are very vocal and
loudly scold intruders in their home range. Vocalizations consist of rattles,
screeches, growls, buzzes, and chirps. Red squirrels often migrate if their
local food supply runs low. During these migrations they will often cross
water and are good swimmers.
Red squirrels are not picky eaters.
They consume seeds, fruit, nuts, bark, buds, shed antlers, reptiles, insects,
tree sap, pine cones, fungi (including mushrooms that are poisonous to
humans), eggs, young birds, mice, and young rabbits. Red squirrels store
many seeds and nuts underground, in piles, or under rocks for the winter.
They are able to relocate seed caches buried 30cm underground and 4 meters
below snow with their tremendous sense of smell. Many seed stockpiles are
not recovered, however, and red squirrels are a key tree planter and seed