What is a squirrel?!

What do you think of when you hear the word squirrel? A cute, puff-tailed creature that bounces quietly through the treetops? Or maybe that cheeky critter that raids your family’s bird feeder no matter what obstacles you set up?

A squirrel is actually any animal belonging to a group of rodents called Sciuridae. There are over 250 species of animals in the Sciuridae family! The squirrel group includes tree squirrels, flying squirrels, ground squirrels, chimpmunks, marmots, and prairie dogs:

Where are they found?

Squirrels live in many parts of the world. Here are some places that they don’t normally live: Antarctica, Greenland, the southern part of South America, Madagascar, and Australia. (Squirrels were introduced to part of Australia in the 19th century.)

Different types of squirrels live in different ecosystems. Some live in temperate forests and others in tropical forests. Some live in grasslands and some live in arid (dry) areas.

Different squirrels have different shelter and food needs. Some squirrels nest in trees, some burrow underground. Many types of squirrels eat nuts, seeds, and fruit. Some squirrels eat insects, eggs, and fungi too.

So many types of squirrels, so many interesting things to learn!

Squirrel Awareness Month Activities!

We have a task for you! Get outside (or visit a library or nature center) and learn about the squirrels in your area.

Activity 1 – Survey your local squirrels. It’s squirrel journal time!

Here are some questions and tasks to guide your survey:

  1. Are there any squirrels in your local area? How many types are there? Are they native or non-native? (Non-native means they were they introduced from somewhere else.)
  2. Photograph or draw pictures of all the types of squirrels in your local area.
  3. Do your local squirrels hang out in groups or are they solitary? (Solitary means they are alone a lot of the time.)
  4. What do they do all day? Squirrels can be really fun to watch. They jump, play, scurry, collect and bury food, and do all sorts of interesting things. Sit and watch awhile – see what your local squirrels get up to!
  5. Why do you think people sometimes get frustrated with squirrels? Can you think of solutions to squirrel-related problems?

Activity 2 – Get creative. Squirrel-themed fun!

It’s time to get creative! Why not try make a comic about a squirrel or about a funny family of squirrels? Or, come up with a seriously squirrelly joke.

Feeling crafty? Why not make a squirrel-themed quilt block, knit a squirrel out of yarn, sew a felt squirrel, or make a squirrel ornament.

Want to build something? Build a squirrel out of LEGO bricks or other building blocks. You could create an entire squirrel habitat with a place to shelter and some food. Or maybe you’d like to build a squirrel diorama in an old box using materials like sticks, leaves, and pebbles.

Now that you’re more squirrel aware, it’s share time! Share what you’ve learned with friends and fam.

Indian giant flying squirrel (Petaurista philippensis). Image: Rhett A. Butler

Happy Squirrel Awareness Month!

Additional resources:

Animal Diversity Web: Sciuridae

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