The Little Red Squirrel


Love it or hate it, the red squirrel plays an important role in our forests’ ecosystem. As it forages for and stashes food, it also drops and spreads seeds, which helps with forest re-growth. It is also food for other mammals and birds of prey. 

     The red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) is a little reddish coloured rodent with a whitish underbelly and a bushy tail.

     Its length is 35 cm (11.8 in), which includes its 10 cm to 15 cm (3.9 in to 5.9 in) tail. It weighs around 200 g (7 oz).

     Its large dark eyes are enhanced by the oval white ring around the eyes’ outer edges. 

     The red squirrel is bold, agile, noisy, busy, and chatty to name a few of its characteristics. It is diurnal, which means it’s active during the day all year round. When it’s not stockpiling food, it’s always looking for more to eat.

     The red squirrel eats a large variety of foods including:  pinecones and other cone seeds, bird seed, sunflower seeds, hardwood nuts, peanuts, buds, flowers, fruits, mushrooms, insects, birds’ eggs, and even mice.

   The red squirrel mostly lives and spends much of its time in trees, including coniferous, deciduous and mixed forest, but it can also dig burrows in the ground.

     It makes its one entrance nest in old holes and hollows in trees. 

    It sometimes decides to move in to buildings to find protection, to store food or to build nests.

           A squirrel can cause extensive and expensive damage by chewing wires, pulling out insulation and destroying other materials from buildings. Prevention is the best cure for this.  To keep a squirrel from moving in, there should be no entry points, so check around the exterior of buildings.  Further prevention might be to choose not to have bird feeders at all.

     If bird feeders are out, critters will visit. Can we really be angry at them for just trying to survive?

     With its cute antics, many of us enjoy watching this attractive little critter in our backyard environments.

     March and July are the two breeding times for the red squirrel in our province.  Females are receptive for mating for one day. After mating, the male and female separate.  In April and August, the single parent female will have one to eight young, born after about 38 gestational days.  Only about 25% of young squirrels will grow to adulthood, but those that do can live up to seven years in the wild.

     Finding large piles of middens (coniferous scales from tree cones) is a tell-tale sign that squirrels are nearby.    

          The red squirrel does not hibernate, but like us it will stay inside in cold weather and will come out on nice winter days.

          The Nova Scotia Provincial Wildlife Act lists red squirrels under furbearers and other harvestable wildlife. They can be hunted or trapped from November 1 to March 31. There is no bag limit for red squirrels.

     Folks encountering problems with squirrels can contact their local DNR office for further advice.   

     Love ‘em or hate ‘em (I love ‘em), the little red squirrel is a wildlife neighbour that is here to stay, and we humans can choose to learn to live in harmony with it.

     Facts for this article were taken from

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