Friday, September 26, 2008

Squirrels Grow Forests

Squirrelly Forests
Gray squirrels’ faulty memories turn out to be good for forests, but the nut-hoarding habits of their red cousins are not, according to scientists.

The bane of suburban gardeners and backyard bird feeders, the ubiquitous gray squirrel buries walnuts, acorns and other nuts across the landscape in a pattern called "scatter hoarding," a Purdue University researcher said.

Some nuts are forgotten and have a chance to germinate and sprout into black walnut, oak and hickory trees needed to regenerate steadily retreating hardwood forests.

The red squirrel, which invaded the U.S. Midwest from higher latitudes within the past century, usually piles nuts in a few above-ground caches, where the seeds dry out or are eaten.

Seven times as many walnuts gathered by gray squirrels germinate compared with walnuts hoarded by red squirrels, ecologist Rob Swihart said in a statement released by Indiana University.

Fur-Ball Facts

• Squirrel fish have large and deep brown eyes just like our little tree squirrels. And that is why they are called squirrel fish. So if you think your squirrel is acting a little fishy—there’s a reason.

• The gray squirrel’s success has a lot to do with his ability to vary his diet from location to location and season to season. One was once observed rolling goose eggs almost as big around as himself away from an unguarded nest.

• Gray squirrels have acute vision, acute hearing and a cute little furball face.

The flying squirrel uses his tail as a rudder when he glides from branch to branch, sometimes a distance of 200 feet or more. Gliding on a thin membrane on each side of his body, connecting his front and back legs, is what makes this all possible.

"A more gentle, docile, and graceful animal than the flying squirrel does not exist; and though without anything striking in the way of color or markings, it is nevertheless one of the most beautiful of our mammals."
—C. Hart Merraim

Monday, September 15, 2008

You Caved in to Squirrel Pressure

Estate planning for your squirrel is not so far- fetched. You have to think of your squirrel’s future. You aren’t going to be around forever, you know. The best thing you can do for your squirrel is challenge him. Spend some time on an elaborate baffling system. If you can make your squirrel use his head, he will be able to deal with others if something happens to you.

Whomever he deals with is going to be a whole lot smarter than you, so your furball will have to learn to handle the daily challenges that will be hurled at him. You like to tell everyone you’re easy on your squirrel and that you prefer to feed him, but let’s face it, he beat you. He outsmarted you and you’re too ashamed to admit it.

You caved in to squirrel pressure and that is why you feed him. Go ahead, say it! Self-denial is a dangerous mental health condition. You have to be truthful with yourself. It’s not that you’re all that stupid. A squirrel is really a smart animal.

The way to challenge your squirrel is to start with a simple obstacle to the feeder and then add more degrees of difficulty. Your squirrel will work on one item at a time and assign it to memory. He never forgets a tactic once it’s developed. It is very entertaining to watch a squirrel go through 27 obstacles to get to one bird feeder.

It’s not only good for the squirrel, but this way you can also tell your friends you haven’t given up and given in to a squirrel with a masters degree in making you look like a fool.

--Keep Smilin', Dick E. Bird

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Furball Facts #2

• The intelligence and agility of the squirrel is truly amazing. With a little practice, they can learn to walk on utility wires, climb metal poles and jump to bird feeders from swaying limbs, buildings or poles.

• Squirrels are not dumb animals and many hunters return home empty-handed. Man is not the only enemy it must watch for. From the air hawks and owls are a threat, on the ground it must be wary of dogs, coyotes, foxes, bobcats and even house cats. In the northern woods the marten pursues it with skill.

The tail of a squirrel is used as an umbrella in the rain and to whip unruly youngsters. There have been reports of two or more getting their tails tangled and having no success untangling them, in some cases leading to starvation.

Grounded Squirrels
They are called ground squirrels for good reason; they spend the majority of their lives in underground burrows. They hibernate underground for months, sleep underground during the summer, avoid predators and inclement weather by retreating underground, and litters are born and raised underground.

With so much of their lives spent underground, the burrow itself is a complex network of winding tunnels and chambers. Burrow systems can extend up to 12 yards underground and go as deep as a yard. A single burrow system can have five or more exits, five grass-lined sleeping chambers, a lavatory and in winter a hibernaculum—the hibernation chamber.

The hibernaculum is a closed system consisting of the hibernaculum chamber, a drain tunnel to carry away moisture and an exit tunnel that reaches almost to the surface. In spring, the animal emerges above ground by digging the exit tunnel to the surface.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Furball Facts

There are several kinds of mange found in wild animals, but the kind that affects squirrels is not contagious to dogs, cats or people. The mites that cause mange are microscopic and burrow into the skin. The changes to the skin include hair loss, thickening and wrinkling, and scab formation. The mites are transferred through body contact in their communal nests as well as physical contact during mating season. Squirrels keep warm over the winter by having several squirrels in the same nest. They often don't leave the nest during cold spells. Losing large areas of fur in the winter can be a serious problem and many squirrels die from it. Bacterial infections and other problems may develop because of their weak condition. However, mange is not always fatal and the hair may grow back. There are medications that can be mixed into their food available from veterinarians, but they can be difficult to give to wild animals, even squirrels who feed at known locations. I have heard a mixture of brewers yeast and peanut butter spread on bread can help.Some people think that the squirrels shouldn't be fed, because they come into close contact as they eat at feeders. But these people haven't watched squirrels for long. Not only do they sleep together to keep warm, but they touch and chase each other all day long. They can be very entertaining.They don't eat enough sunflower seeds to harm themselves. In fact, sunflower oil in the seeds provides a high calorie food that helps them stay fat and sassy. Feeding them a variety of foods will provide them with more nutrients to help them combat the health problems they may have.
• Squirrels are territorial, they have even been known to gang up on a rattlesnake. The size of a squirrel's brain is about the same size of an average walnut. That helps explain the rattlesnake move.
• Squirrels eyes are located high, and on each side of their head. This allows them a wide field of vision, without turning their head and the choice of many fashionable hairstyles the rest of us cannot enjoy.
• The gray squirrels diet consists of nuts, seeds and fruit. It will eat bird eggs, bugs, and even an animal carcass if there is no other food source available. Actually a squirrel will eat anything that does not eat him first.
• The sweat glands of a tree squirrel are located on their feet, between the foot pads and on their paws between the toes. This is why you seldom see a squirrel sweat.
• The male tree squirrel takes twice as long, as the female, to groom itself. The squirrel population in your backyard should be enough evidence that this is working very well for him.
• The most common type of squirrel bite is a result of feeding a squirrel by hand. Always feed your squirrels from a bird feeder. That is why bird feeders were originally invented. It wasn't until the late 1980's that people realized that they could also use these feed and seed dispensers to attract birds also.
• The average adult squirrel needs to eat about a pound of food a week to maintain an active life-style. That's right, your squirrels are all way above average.