Sciuridae – Squirrels

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, it’s not hard to see why we are nuts about squirrels

The etymology of their name, derived from the ancient Greek word meaning ‘shadow-tailed,’ hints at the remarkable role their bushy tails play in their lives. These adaptable creatures utilize their tails for many purposes, from communication through various tail movements and flicks to maintaining balance during acrobatic feats in the treetops. Additionally, their tails serve as multifunctional tools, protecting them from the elements of impromptu raincoats or windbreakers and even as makeshift parachutes during daring leaps.

Tree squirrels within the Sciuridae family are renowned for their arboreal prowess. With sharp claws and agile limbs, they easily navigate tree branches, displaying impressive feats of agility and coordination. Among their ranks, flying squirrels stand out for their unique ability to glide through the air, utilizing specialized patagium—a skin membrane—between their limbs to extend their glides. This adaptation allows them to traverse considerable distances between trees with remarkable grace and precision.

On the other hand, ground squirrels exhibit a different set of adaptations tailored to their subterranean lifestyle. These industrious rodents are skilled excavators, creating elaborate burrow systems that serve as both shelter and storage. The interconnected tunnels provide refuge from predators and harsh weather conditions, demonstrating the ingenuity and resourcefulness of these burrowing species within the Sciuridae family.

A fascinating behavior observed in many squirrels, particularly those that do not hibernate, is their caching behavior. Instead of storing their food in a single location, these squirrels engage in a strategy known as scatter-hoarding. They meticulously hide their food in hundreds of different locations, relying on their remarkable memory to retrieve these stashes when needed. This behavior not only safeguards their winter food supply from potential theft but also showcases their cognitive abilities and spatial memory.