Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Things are Gettin' Squirrely

Four Eastern Gray Squirrels, Sciurus carolinensis, are foraging for seeds below our bird feeder at Eulett Center today. Their presence confirms reports of a very healthy local squirrel population this year. The genus name "Sciurus" is derived from two Greek words, "skia", meaning shadow, and "oura", meaning tail. The name means "sitting in the shadow of his tail", in reference of a common squirrel pose. In our area, Eastern Gray Squirrels breed twice a year, from December to February and again from May to June. Gestation lasts 44 days. The first litter is born sometime around February or March; the second around June or July. There are normally two to six young in each litter, but this number can be as high as 8. The young are weaned at 7 weeks and leave the nest after 10 weeks. At about 6 months old, the squirrels are ready to reproduce. Gray squirrels have been known to live up to 20 years in captivity, but in the wild they usually only live about a year, though some live up to 12 years, if they can avoid predators, disease, acidents, and starvation. In addition to the Gray Squirrel, the fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) and southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) are other squirrels that live in Adams County. Eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) and woodchucks (Marmota monax) are also members of the squirrel family which inhabit our area.