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Monday, November 5, 2012

Feeling Squirrelly

Martok
with Sue Weaver, Hobby Farms Contributor

We have gray squirrels (pictured) and fox squirrels on our farm, but they don't like each other. Photo courtesy iStockphoto/Thinkstock (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy iStockphoto/Thinkstock
We have gray squirrels (pictured) and fox squirrels on our farm, but they don't like each other.

Do you have a lot of squirrels on your farm? We do. That’s because nearly all of our trees are oaks or hickories. We have to compete with squirrels for our yummy acorns, and that isn’t fair. But they can have the thick-shelled hickory nuts—ptooie!

Did you know that the squirrel family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, flying squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, woodchucks and prairie dogs? All we have are tree squirrels here on our farm.

The word “squirrel” comes from Anglo-Norman “esquirel” and that’s from Old French “escurel.” It first appeared in a document written in 1327, but squirrels were around a long time before that. The oldest squirrel fossils are from rodents similar to flying squirrels that are 35 to 40 million years old!

Flying squirrels have loose folds of skin between their front and hind legs. They don’t really fly; they glide through the air on the stretched surface of this skin. Depending on air currents, flying squirrels can glide 150 feet or more from a height of 60 feet. They turn easily while gliding, and they control the direction of their glide by tensing and turning their legs and bodies and flapping their tails. Flying squirrels live in Arkansas, but Uzzi and I have never seen one.

What we do see a lot are Eastern gray squirrels and Eastern fox squirrels. Both kinds live on our farm but in separate areas. They don’t like each other very much, and when they meet, they fight!

Fox squirrels are brown with reddish-tan underbellies. They are chunky (because they eat our yummy acorns) and 10 to 15 inches long, not counting their tails. Gray squirrels are, you guessed it, gray with silvery-white bellies; not counting tails, they’re 8 to 10 inches long. Sometimes we see an all-black or all-white squirrel; these uncommon colors occur among gray squirrels, too.

Imbir the horse told us about another kind of squirrel that drove Mom and Dad bananas when they lived in Minnesota: They’re called pine squirrels. Pine squirrels’ range includes the northern United States and the western mountain states but not the Ozarks. They like to live where pine trees grow because pine nuts are their favorite food. Pine squirrels are littler than other squirrels—only 6 to 8 inches long—not counting their tails. Pine squirrels are rusty red with a whitish belly, gray sides and ears that are tufted in the wintertime. Pine squirrels are active and noisy and very, very good at raiding bird feeders. Imbir’ says they gnawed holes in the walls of Dad’s Minnesota workshop and then chewed holes in the horses’ plastic grain-storage containers. That made Dad mad. But it gets worse. Mom loves antlers but Mom and Dad don’t hunt, so when she found moose antlers at a sale, she was thrilled. She had Dad hang them outside on his workshop, and the pine squirrels chewed off all the tines.

Do you have squirrels on your farm? Do you like them or do you wish they’d go away? Leave a comment. Uzzi and I want to know!

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Feeling Squirrelly

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Reader Comments
We used to have a few squirrels by our home in Colorado. They would actually climb on the side of the house!! It was so funny!!
Katrina, Saratoga Springs, UT
Posted: 1/21/2013 11:31:46 AM
We don't have any squirrels!
Kendra, Harrisburg, IL
Posted: 11/15/2012 5:50:03 AM
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