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Thread: Red squirrels

  1. #1
    Member Roland on the River's Avatar
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    Default Red squirrels

    Does anyone know if red squirrels hibernate ? Haven't seen any except days that hit high 30's or above. got me wondering.

  2. #2
    Premium Member AZinAK's Avatar
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    Quick search resulted in this...

    Unlike some animals, red squirrels do not hibernate, go into a state of torpor, or remain inactive for long periods of time during the winter months. Hoarding great amounts of food ensures their survival in even the coldest weather. In coniferous forests, where they depend on cone supplies to get them through the winter, many animals will die off when the cone crop is limited. And since cone crops are cyclical, red squirrels are more abundant in some years than others. However, in areas such as the FWG, where they have ready access to a greater variety of food, they are usually able to make it through the winter.

    If you look under conifers at the FWG, you'll find great piles of cones placed there by red squirrels. In their hurry to amass food, they will chew off branches holding the cones and let them fall to the ground. Every so often, they will descend to stack them into piles before going back to gather more. We have found these caches under Norway spruce (Picea abies), white spruce (Picea glauca) and Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris). Most are small, but in some cases I have found caches nearly 3.5 feet deep. In addition to their industrious caching of food, red squirrels also develop a very thick fur coat. Look at the red squirrels in winter and see how much bushier their coats look compared to those in the warmer seasons. Most non-hibernating animals develop similarly thick coats, including our domestic dogs and cats when housed outdoors.

    The third ingredient for surviving winter successfully involves having a snug, warm, dry place to spend the night and those rare days, when the weather is so fierce that even red squirrels don't venture out. Cavities in trees afford much warmth, and around the FWG, nest boxes are good alternatives. Sometimes squirrels will create a winter den under a tree stump or fallen log. Whether they actually use underground dens seems open to debate. There is no doubt that they are quite comfortable going underground, and will make limited use of tunnels to store some food. During the winter months I have come across many holes leading underground (as opposed to snow tunnels which remain above ground), most with heaps of cone bracts around the entrance. Whether they are subterranean food chambers or places to spend the night, I am not sure. One way to discover this would be to dig up some of the tunnels and see what is there, but I wouldn't have the heart to do this in winter in case they are being used as shelter from the cold. Although most food is stored above ground, red squirrels will also bury some in underground tunnels. You may occasionally see these holes, somewhat larger than those of chipmunks (Tamias striatus), often with a litter of cone bracts right outside or nearby. In winter, this species also makes snow tunnels, which allow it to run from one food source to another in relative safety.


    Hope this answers your question...

    AZinAK

  3. #3

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    Negative Roland. They are not hibernators. They are active all year. In fact, February and March is when they breed. Could be the inclement weather this winter has kept them close to there den (midden) or food cache. I'm sure if you were to take a little walk in your nearby woods you could find plenty of tracks and sign to give you a clue as to their daily routine. Curious why you want to know. Do you hunt red squirrels? What do you do with them? Or do you just enjoy watching the critters?

  4. #4
    Member Roland on the River's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies guys. No, i dont hunt them. Just curius. I saw one just one day this winter before we had that storm that dumped about a foot of snow but nothing since. Since the calendar said spring arrived last week I thought i would see some activity. HaHa

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    I don't agree that red squirrels do not go into a state of torpor. Although tree squirrels do not aestivate as completely as many ground squirrels do they still, at times, enter into a physiological torpor in times of extreme cold and winter conditions. That is what I remember from animal physiology courses as well as what I have witnessed anecdotally. Most of this winter I have neither seen or heard squirrels in the woods. It is only within the last 2 weeks that I have seen their sign and heard them chattering. I believe squirrels as well as some other animals and herps are able to survive in a continuum of states between their normal state of existence and complete hibernation.

  6. #6
    Supporting Member Old John's Avatar
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    Although these little red squirrels may occasionally take an extended nap in the winter... the little B....rds in my back yard have been very active raiding the bird feeder all winter.. In the black spruce forest by my cabin, there is always plenty of evidence where a squirrel has sat chewing up spruce cones. and back when I used to still have a little hearing, you could hear them setting in some spruce tree cussing you out for invading there territory in the middle of winter.

  7. #7
    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    The squirrels here do nap two or three days in a row in bad weather.There nest are underground so if there is lots of snow they can stay under it to get to their food stashes.
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

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