Squirrels are welcome guests in the garden at any time of year. However, the furry rodents are only attracted to the vicinity of humans when they cannot find enough food in the forest. Squirrels inhabit coniferous and mixed forests, as well as parks with predominantly old stands of trees that produce sufficient seeds and nuts. There, the animals scurry busily over the ground during the day or jump from tree to tree, always on the lookout for food and suitable hiding places to bury their supplies.
Behavior of squirrels
Squirrels have a good sense of smell through which they manage to retrieve most of their stores in winter, even with a thin snow cover. Supplies that have not been found begin to germinate in the spring. For this reason, squirrels contribute an important ecological part, for example, to forest growth. By the way, it is said that if squirrels are particularly diligent in gathering supplies in the fall, there will be a hard winter.
Squirrels are so-called omnivores. Depending on the season, they feed mainly on fruits, nuts and seeds. They use a special technique to crack walnuts and hazelnuts in seconds. They gnaw a hole in the shell and then lever out large pieces. But small animals such as insects, larvae or snails are also on their menu.
Squirrels spend their nights snuggled up in their drey. This is the name given to the ball-like nests made of twigs, grass and moss, which are usually built close to the tree trunk and are closed all around except for a small opening. Usually, the clean rodents build a second nest in order to feed in it or to find a quick refuge from hunters.
Although squirrels may live in small groups and share a drey, they are usually solitary. In the mating season from late January to late summer, they look for a mate and move into a drey together. As a rule, females have offspring twice a year. After about 38 days of gestation, the mother raises the litter, which usually consists of two to five young, by herself. She drives away the males even before the little kittens are born. Four months later, the young are independent and leave the nest. For some time after that, they stay near their mother’s nest. After that, they also have a home range, which reaches a size of one to fifty hectares (2.5 to 125 acres).
Thanks to their keen sense of balance and physique, squirrels are excellently adapted to life at airy heights. The densely hairy tail is almost as long as the squirrel’s entire body and serves as a steering aid when jumping, running and climbing. While it warms the animal in winter, it provides shade on hot summer days. The color of the fur varies regionally, ranging from reddish brown to grayish brown to black. Males and females cannot be distinguished by color. However, the squirrels only wear the striking long ear puffs in winter.
How to attract squirrels to your garden
If you want to attract the rodents to your garden, offer them plenty of food or a place to sleep. However, when placing them, remember that domestic cats hunt squirrels as well. If you want to hang up a feeder in the garden for the climbing artists, you can additionally stock it with nuts, corn, dried fruit and carrots. If you have a hazelnut bush or perhaps even a walnut tree in your garden and live near a forest or park, you can often observe them at close range during these weeks.
Autumn is a busy time for rodents, as they are now gathering supplies for the winter. In addition to walnuts, acorns, beechnuts and chestnuts are also in demand. The ingredients of peanuts, on the other hand, are not optimal for squirrels and should therefore never be offered as a complete food. When squirrels have become accustomed to humans, they can be easily observed, in some cases even fed by hand.