They have chisel-like front teeth, powerful legs, flexible ankle joints, furry paws, sharp claws, keen eyesight, sensitive whiskers, and they always have a multi-function colorful blanket at the ready. Their menu varies with the seasons, and December is their season for feasting on high-energy nuts and frosty tree fruits, and, of course, the seeds at your bird feeder. As I write these words, I’m watching one gnawing away at a black walnut from the security of a tree limb barely twenty feet from my door on the wilder side of Oakland County.
Squirrel behavior is directly related to our behavior, and that is the key to understanding the antics and behavior of squirrel species that inhabit the woodlands, towns and cities of Oakland County. Here’s a late October primer on three species that do well in our midst. But first, a secret exposed: tree squirrels have ankle joints that allow their feet to rotate 180 degrees. This feature gives them the ability to climb headfirst down window screens and perform masterful leaps to and from branches and bird feeders.
There is nothing shy about the Eastern Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), the smallest of our native tree squirrels. Now as summer fades, it’s full speed ahead for this rusty-red fur, white belly, endless energy, tail-flicking creature of the trees! Armed with an attitude of conspicuous confidence and extremely loud chatter, these colorful characters do not hesitate to charge at invading gray squirrels twice their size saying, “My tree! My nuts! Back off!”