Eastern Gray Squirrel
Squirrels are classified as rodents along with porcupines, beavers, gerbils, etc. putting them in 40% of all the mammal species, which makes up the largest order of mammals. They have large, shiny eyes relative to the size of their head, mounted in a high position on either side of their angular face. Their wide field of vision allows them to see not only what is in front of them, but also part of what is behind them—aiding them in escaping predators.
Because they are rodents their teeth never stop growing. At a growth rate of almost six inches/year, constant gnawing helps keep them short—deck railings, wooden lawn furniture, shingles, tree bark, etc. are all possible targets to aid this process. Squirrels have strong legs that allow them to jump over 20’ and are able to survive, unharmed after a 100 foot fall.
Squirrels build leaf nests high up in the trees or in tree cavities. They will also use what humans have provided in the way of roofs, attics, balconies, nest boxes set out for birds, rafters in buildings, etc. Squirrels will usually take cover in buildings in the winter—leaf nests are not used for this purpose. Squirrels do not hibernate and are active year round.
Squirrels are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. Their diet varies with the seasons; spring time they will consume flowers and buds on trees, nuts, fruits, seeds, also bugs. If food is scarce they may raid a nest and eat bird eggs or nestlings. In the fall they will gather and cache acorns to rely on over the winter.
Eastern gray squirrels have two litters a year. Their gestation period lasting no more than 40 days, with the first litter arriving between February and April. The second litter is born in the fall—in August or September. Babies are born naked and helpless with their eyes closed and their ears folded down. They will not venture out of the nest for 6-7 weeks and are weaned at 8-10 weeks. The mother, the sole parent provider, usually drives the spring litter away shortly after weaning when the fall breeding cycle begins. The fall litter will stay with the mother over the winter.
“The most remarkable yearly event for gray squirrels from a human perspective is the “fall shuffle,” when the seasonally frenetic activity of collecting, eating, and burying nuts is accentuated by the dispersal of both adults and juveniles, perhaps in search of that “perfect” home site. Automobiles kill many squirrels at this time of year.” (Wild Neighbors)
Salmonella - can be harbored in squirrels but no documented case of squirrel to human transmission has been noted