Back to Wildlife Info
Drawing by Delaney Brown, age 11
All About Squirrels
By Lillian Louden-Mosio
What did the squirrel say to his girlfriend?
I'm nuts about you.
What did the girl squirrel answer back?
"Your nuts so bad yourself."
We see tree squirrels everywhere, running across the road, jumping from branch to branch, scrambling up trees to hide some nuts. Though squirrels aren’t rare on our island, they do happen to be quite interesting little creatures.
Tree squirrels are seen in an assortment of colors: gray, white, black and red. What colors have you seen? They usually live for 5 to 7 years, and an adult squirrel measures 20 to 30 cm long, which is about the same length of your dad’s shoe. Its tail is larger than its body and is used to help the squirrel balance when jumping. Squirrels’ padded feet allow them to jump from high altitudes without injury.
Ask your parents to take you for a walk in the Grand Forest and see if you can spy a squirrel jumping and using its tail for balance!
Drawing by Mia Cretarolo, age 10
The squirrel’s mating season begins in the late winter, when it’s still cold and dark, and they usually mate twice a year. When the male squirrel is ready to mate, he makes a small sneezing sound. The female squirrel gives birth to 4 to 8 babies, called kittens.
Squirrels are very alert and fast. They have double-jointed hind legs which helps them climb up and down trees up to twenty miles an hour – that’s as fast as your parents can drive in your school zone! Squirrels’ eyes are positioned so that they can see almost behind themselves. How far can you look behind you without moving your head?
Are squirrels completely vegetarian (which means they don’t eat any meat)? Nope! Squirrels have a big appetite; in a week they’ll eat their body weight in various nuts, seeds, tree buds, berries and sometimes, small insects and small birds.
Squirrels are very nimble due to their sharp nails that allow them to have a sturdy grip on trees. They also have sharp teeth that continue to grow even as adults – which does not happen to you – and can break hard shells of nuts, and sometimes cause a hassle by chewing electric wires in people’s houses. They sharpen their teeth by chewing branches of trees. How do you sharpen your teeth?
In our part of the country, there are four kinds of squirrels: Douglas Squirrels, Eastern Gray Squirrels, Western Gray Squirrels, and Flying Squirrels.
The reddish-brown squirrels that you see are called Douglas Squirrels (they're a type of Pine Squirrel). Douglas squirrels are very active during the day, but much like you, when the weather is bad, they like to snuggle in their nests. The Douglas Squirrel's summertime fur is reddish-brown with a dark orange underbelly. They become more grey in the winter time. What color would they be right now?
Two types of squirrels in Washington look very similar -- Eastern Gray Squirrels and Western Gray Squirrels. Both of them are gray with big, fluffy tails. Eastern Grays like to live in cities and areas with a lot of people.
How do you know which kind of gray squirrel lives in your yard? Here's a hint - if you live on Bainbridge Island, your squirrels are either Douglas Squirrels or Eastern Gray Squirrels. In Southern Puget Sound, you might have Western Gray Squirrels. Western Gray Squirrels are larger than Eastern Gray Squirrels, and they're also a threatened species in our state.
Read more about ways you can help wildlife or about how to tell squirrels from chipmunks.
Below: Pictures of squirrels that have been treated at the Shelter.