Tree squirrels are the members of the
They do not form a single natural, or
The best known
- Subfamily Ratufinae
- Genus Ratufa(Asian giant squirrels)
- Subfamily Sciurillinae
- Genus Sciurillus(South American pygmy squirrel)
- Subfamily Sciurinae
- Tribe Sciurini (mostly American tree squirrels)
- Subfamily Callosciurinae (Asian tree squirrels)
- Genus Callosciurus (Oriental tree squirrels, introduced into Europe and South America)
- Genus Exilisciurus (Asian pygmy squirrels)
- Genus Funambulus (Asian palm squirrels, introduced into Australia in the 1920s)
- Genus Glyphotes(sculptor squirrel)
- Genus Nannosciurus(Asian dwarf squirrel)
- Genus Prosciurillus (Sulawesi dwarf squirrels)
- Genus Rubrisciurus(Sulawesi giant squirrel)
- Genus Sundasciurus (Sunda squirrels)
- Genus Tamiops(Asian striped squirrels)
- Subfamily Xerinae
- Tribe Protoxerini (African tree squirrels)
- Genus Epixerus(African palm squirrels)
- Genus Funisciurus(rope squirrels)
- Genus Heliosciurus(sun squirrels)
- Genus Myosciurus(African pygmy squirrel)
- Genus Paraxerus(bush squirrels)
- Genus Protoxerus(African giant squirrels)
- Tribe Protoxerini (African tree squirrels)
Relationship with humans
Squirrels are generally inquisitive and persistent animals. In residential neighborhoods, they are notorious for tenaciously trying to circumvent obstacles in order to eat from
Squirrels are sometimes considered
Tree squirrels may bury food in the ground for later retrieval. Squirrels use their keen sense of smell to search for buried food, but can dig numerous holes in the process. This may become an annoyance to
Homeowners in areas with a heavy squirrel population must be vigilant in keeping
Squirrels are a serious
Some homeowners resort to more interesting ways of dealing with this problem, such as collecting and placing fur from pets such as domestic
Once established in a nest, squirrels stubbornly ignore fake
To discourage chewing on an object, it can be coated or covered with something to make it distasteful: for instance a soft cloth doused with chili pepper paste or powder. Capsaicin and Ro-pel are other forms of repellent. To remain effective, the coating must be reapplied regularly, especially if it is exposed to the weather. Poisoning squirrels can be problematic because of the risks to other animals or children in the building, and because the odor of a dead squirrel in an attic or wall cavity is very unpleasant and persistent.
An alternative method is to wait until squirrels have left in search of food, and then close up all their access openings, or to install one-way
Squirrels are often the cause of
Squirrels cause economic losses to homeowners, nut growers, and forest managers in addition to damage to electric transmission lines. These losses include direct damage to property, repairs, lost revenue and public relations. While dollar costs of these losses are sometimes calculated for isolated incidents, there is no tracking system to determine the total extent of the losses.
As roadkill and traffic hazards
In regions where squirrels are plentiful, tire-flattened
An effort to mitigate these hazards to both squirrels and humans is the Nutty Narrows Bridge in Longview, Washington, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It provides a way for squirrels to cross a busy street safely.
As urban wildlife
Tree squirrels are a common type of urban wildlife. They can be trained to be hand-fed and will take as much food as is available because they cache the surplus. Squirrels living in parks and campuses in cities have learned that humans are typically a ready source of food. Urban squirrels have learned to get a lot of food from generous or unknowingly 'careless' humans. Humans commonly offer various nuts and seeds; however, wildlife rehabilitators in the field have noted that neither raw nor roasted peanuts nor sunflower seeds are healthy for squirrels, because they are deficient in several essential nutrients. This type of deficiency has been found to cause metabolic bone disease, a somewhat common ailment found in malnourished squirrels.[dubious ]
In the US
In many areas of the U.S. squirrels are still hunted for food, as they were historically.
In the UK
For most of the history of the
Some Britons are eating gray squirrel as a direct attempt to help the native
Risks of eating
As with other wild game and
In 1997, doctors in
Relationship with trees
The biggest source of food for
In the Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit epic poem, a squirrel assists in constructing a bridge from India to Sri Lanka to help Rama rescue his wife Sita. Rama rewards the squirrel by stroking his back with his three middle fingers, thus giving the Indian palm squirrel the three white stripes that appear on its back. In Norse mythology, the squirrel Ratatoskr is a messenger who scurries up and down the trunk of the world-tree Yggdrasil, carrying malicious gossip and insults back and forth between the dragon Níðhöggr, who sits at the bottom of the tree gnawing on its roots, and the hawk Veðrfölnir, who sits at the top of the tree keeping watch. According to Richard W. Thorington, Jr. and Katie E. Ferrell, this legend may have originated from the red squirrel's habit of giving a "scolding alarm call in response to danger", which some Norsemen may have imagined as insults.
In Irish mythology, the goddess Medb is said to always have a bird perched on one shoulder and a squirrel on the other, serving as her messengers to the sky and the earth respectively. In Europe during the Middle Ages, squirrels were sometimes used in bestiaries as symbols of greed and avarice on account of their storing of nuts, but, in the nineteenth century, British natural history books often praised them as thrifty for this same reason. A myth told by the Ainu people of Japan holds that squirrels are the discarded sandals of the ancestral deity Aioina, possibly because squirrels move in spurts like footsteps. The Kalevala, a Finnish epic poem collected in the nineteenth century but rooted in much older oral tradition, contains references to squirrels, including mention of a white squirrel being born of a virgin.
Literary references to squirrels include the works of Beatrix Potter, Brian Jacques' Redwall series (including Jess Squirrel and numerous other squirrels), Pattertwig in C. S. Lewis' Prince Caspian, Michael Tod's Woodstock Saga of novels featuring squirrel communities in the style of Watership Down, and the Starwife and her subjects from Robin Jarvis's Deptford novels. The title character in Miriam Young's 1964 children's book Miss Suzy is a squirrel.
An episode of the radio program This American Life called "Squirrel Cop" describes the unintentionally humorous misadventure of a newly hired policeman in trying to remove a frantic squirrel from a homeowner's living room, which results in personal injury and a small fire. First aired in 1998, this episode turned out to be one of the most popular ones of the series, prompting rebroadcasts and a lead position on the two-CD compilation Crimebusters + Crossed Wires: Stories from This American Life.
Albino and white squirrels
One of the ways that squirrels affect human society is inspired by the fascination that people seem to have over local populations of white squirrels (often misidentified as being albino). This manifests itself by the creation of social group communities that form from a commonly shared interest in these rare animals. Other impacts on human society inspired by white squirrels include the creation of organizations that seek to protect them from human predation, and the use of the white squirrel image as a cultural icon.
Although these squirrels are commonly referred to as "albinos", most of them are likely non-albino squirrels that exhibit a rare white fur coloration known as leucism that is as a result of a recessive gene found within certain eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) populations, and so technically they ought to be referred to as white squirrels, instead of albino.
A true albino squirrel. Note the pink eyes.
Albino squirrel head on, showing blue irises
A white squirrel. Note the non-pink eyes.
Olney, Illinois, known as the "White Squirrel Capital of the World", is home of the world's largest known white squirrel colony. These squirrels have the right of way on all streets in the town, with a $500 fine for hitting one. The Olney Police Department features the image of a white squirrel on its officers' uniform patches.
Along with Olney, there are four other towns in North America that avidly compete with each other to be the official "Home of the White Squirrel", namely: Marionville, Missouri; Brevard, North Carolina; Exeter, Ontario; and Kenton, Tennessee, each of which holds an annual white squirrel festival, among other things designed to promote their claim of "White Squirrel Capital".
A list of white squirrel sightings around the world is maintained by the White Squirrel Research Institute, a group based in Brevard, North Carolina.
Other towns that have reported white squirrel populations in North America (although not necessarily competing to be the "official" white squirrel capital) include
In addition to the various towns that boast of their white squirrel populations, a number of university campuses in North America have white squirrels. The
In Kentucky, the University of Louisville has established its own chapter of the Albino Squirrel Preservation Society, which maintains contact with its members and interested parties through a Facebook group by that name. The university has an open policy to give away a free t-shirt to anyone who takes a photograph of a white squirrel on campus grounds and brings it to the administration offices.
Other university campuses that have albino squirrel populations include Oberlin College in Ohio, Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky (which has had a population of albino squirrels since the 1960s), and Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio.
Michael Stokes, a biology professor at Western Kentucky University, commented that the probable cause for the abundance of white squirrels on university campuses was because they were originally introduced by someone: "We're not sure how they got here, but I'll tell you how it usually happens...When you see them, especially around a college campus or parks, somebody brought them in because they thought it would be neat to have white squirrels around."
Albert Meier, another biology professor at Western Kentucky University, added that: "... white squirrels rarely survive in the wild because they can't easily hide. But on a college campus, they are less likely to be consumed by other animals."
A story in which a
Red and gray squirrels in the UK
A decline of the
As of 2008, the eastern gray squirrel was regarded as vermin and it was illegal to release any into the wild; any caught could be releases only if one applied for and was granted a licence to do so. As of 2015, any caught in Scotland had to be humanely killed.
- American red squirrel
- Black squirrel
- Eastern gray squirrel
- Fox squirrel
- Red squirrel
- Western gray squirrel
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If you spot one of the unique albino squirrels on your campus visit and take a photo, you can receive a great prize!
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