Monday

Mammal Monday — Actin' Nutty

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.

© Suzanne Gabriel | #inthewildhood

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.

© Gerald Colca | #inthewildhood

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.

© Mike Thomte | #inthewildhood

To learn more about the about the animals that call Texas home subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Whether in print or through our mobile app, choose the version that works best for you.

5 comments:

  1. Thank you. I enjoyed the article very much.

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  2. Very interesting.💓 watching nature.

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  3. They’re very smart and quite interesting. Love watching the birds chase them. Can’t keep a peach or pear on my tree for squirrels....Guess we got live in harmony.

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  4. I enjoy watching them as they travel their "highways in the sky." Recently, I actually observed a squirrel plucking a tomato from the vine and scampering off with it. Didn't know they had a taste for tomatoes!

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