Red Squirrel

Red SquirrelRed squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) are found in spruce forests over most of Alaska. They average 11 to 13 inches including the tail and are rusty in color. They are solitary but pair for mating in February and March. They have 3 to 7 young who are born blind and hairless weighing about ¼ ounce at birth. They are weaned at about 5 weeks but remain with the female until adult size.

Much of the red squirrel’s time in the summer is spent cutting and storing green spruce cones. There may be several bushels of cones stored in a cache. The caches (middens) may have a diameter of 15 to 18 feet and a depth of 3 feet. They also cache mushrooms on tree branches. They eat seeds, berries, buds, fungi, insects and birds’ eggs.

Nests may be a hole in a tree trunk or a tightly constructed mass of twigs, leaves, mosses and lichens in the most dense foliage of a tree and are completely weatherproof. The ground middens are used for food storage and there is usually one large active midden in each territory.

The home range of a red squired is about ½ to 1 acre. Red squirrels are active all year but remain in nests during severe cold and inclement weather. The main predators of red squirrels are hawks, owls and marten.

Red squirrels may damage trees, cutting off twigs by the bushel but they are also helpful because the disperse plant seeds of spruce and other trees.

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