Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
The red squirrel is one of two tree squirrels found within College Woods. Its fur color differs greatly from its counterpart, the gray squirrel. The red squirrel has deep red fur with a white belly and a white ring around each eye. During the winter, it has tufted ears. It is much smaller than a gray squirrel; the average red squirrel is less than 1/3 the size of a gray squirrel. The red squirrel’s tail is thinner than that of other tree squirrels.
The red squirrel resides in coniferous forests throughout the northeastern United States and the Rocky Mountains. They construct their nest in tree cavities or abandoned woodpecker holes.
Red squirrels primarily feed on the seeds of coniferous trees. These squirrels are generally larder hoarders. This means that they create one or two large caches of food, known as middens, and defend these middens from other squirrels. However, in some areas red squirrels will practice scatter hoarding instead.
Red squirrels are solitary and very territorial; both males and females will actively defend their territories from other squirrels. However, during the breeding season females will tolerate the presence of males. Depending on the abundance of food in their location, red squirrels will have one or two litters of young each year. An average of four young is in each litter. The mother cares for her offspring for about 10 weeks, at which point the young squirrels are fully independent and disperse to find their own territories. The average red squirrel lives to be about 5 years old.
Fun Fact: Red squirrels have been known to consume the sap from sugar maple trees. They do this by gnawing a hole in the trunk, leaving for a while, and returning when the sap is ready to eat.