You see them chasing each other up and down the tree and along the branches. You hear them scurrying across your roof. You catch them carrying nuts on the way to their secret stash.
Squirrels are everywhere. And once you learn more about them, you may see these critters as neighbors rather than pests. There are three main types of squirrels in Texas (tree, ground and flying squirrels) and eight different squirrel species.
The most common type of squirrels are tree squirrels, which include the Eastern fox squirrel and the Eastern gray squirrel. While fox and gray squirrels appear similar, they differ in distribution, size and behavior. Fox squirrels are commonly found throughout Texas, while gray squirrels reside only in East Texas. Gray squirrels are more social, smaller, faster and tend to be more skittish. Fox squirrels usually hide when threatened instead of fleeing. Tree squirrels are what people typically picture when imagining a squirrel.
Texas has one species of flying squirrel: the Eastern flying squirrel. Despite the name, flying squirrels don’t actually fly but rather glide from tree to tree and can glide up to 100 yards. Flying squirrels are nocturnal, are smaller than other squirrels and tend to be more timid.
Ground squirrels have the greatest number of species (five) of Texas squirrels. One species, the rock squirrel, resembles a tree squirrel and lives in rocky outcrops in the Hill Country and West Texas. Despite the name, this ground squirrel can climb trees fairly well. The other types of ground squirrel in Texas look more like prairie dogs: the Texas antelope squirrel, thirteen-lined ground squirrel, Mexican ground squirrel and spotted ground squirrel. The thirteen-lined ground squirrel resides in North Texas, while the Mexican, spotted and Texas antelope squirrels are found in West Texas.
Squirrels are known for burying seeds and nuts for future meals, and they sometimes forget their stash’s location, resulting in many of the trees we see today. Squirrels can bury several thousand nuts over the course of a year. When storing their food, they are methodical as they bury them in various locations and organize them based on shapes, sizes and types to help remember their location. It’s their own unique memory device! Squirrels also practice “deceptive caching,” in which they pretend to bury food if other squirrels are watching, only to sneak away to their actual stash.
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