Science Bloggers for Students DonorsChoose Challenge

Friday, January 23, 2009

Urban Wildlife Watch: Squirrels and Dreys

This is my second post in honor of Squirrel Appreciation Day. When I first asked myself - "What wild animals live in big cities?" Squirrels (and birds) were the first animals that came to mind.

Squirrels are rodents, so that means they are cousins to chipmunks, mice, rats, voles, and beavers. They are members of the Sciuridae family, which means 'bushy tail' and is a perfect way to describe the many members of the squirrel family - tree squirrels, ground squirrels, even chipmunks and groundhogs. But, my focus here are the typical tree squirrels. Through-out much of the Mid-west, Mid-South, and Eastern United States and Southeast Canada, the Eastern Gray Squirrel is a very common wildlife neighbor in cities and towns, big and small.

Eastern Gray Squirrels are arboreal (the live in trees) and are tied to forest or wooded ecosystems. They depend on trees for food - various types of seeds, nuts, berries, and fruits - and for shelter. For a long time I believed squirrels only lived in hollow trees. They will live in tree hollows, but they also build nests. I learned this in college when I completed a biology class research project on squirrel animal behavior. The nests are called dreys. Squirrels gather dead leaves and twigs. The dead leaves make great insulation and they wedge the materials in the forks of trees, at the higher parts of the tree.
Very large hollow in a Sycamore tree, that looks like it might be a great squirrel home.

Squirrels will make and live in several nests. As fleas and ticks become a problem in a single nest a squirrel will abandon its nest, and the female will transfer all of her babies of she has any.

Squirrel nest in a Sycamore tree in the summer time. I'm standing under the tree to get this shot. Looking at the tree from a distance, the large green leaves of the tree make it hard to detect the nest. Now that it is winter time, dreys are much easier to spot.Squirrel nests in a sweet gum tree.
Two squirrel nests in one tree. Very likely, these nests belong to the same squirrel.Close-up of one of the nests. Notice how the drey is wedged in the fork of the tree.

The series of pictures below are of a squirrel I spied in my backyard with a mouth filled with nesting material. There are some squirrel nest in my backyard, but sometimes they will build nests in "artificial hollows", like an attic, as you will see in the video below. Here is a video of the same squirrel.












6 comments:

Kim and Ayla Zook said...

Awesome information Danielle! I now can finally explain a few things to my daughter since she and I go outside searching for squirrels daily here in Alexandria, VA. Thank you for the great information!

R2K said...

I have squrrels living in my roof from time to time. Not that pleasant really :) Have to trap them.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

We have been working on squirrels in the Outdoor Hour Challenge this past week. I posted about our squirrel and how we know where he has been eating. :)

Thanks for the great entry on squirrels.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Anonymous said...

I am interested in hearing your thoughts on how to ensure Alexandria urban wildlife can be protected. Many concerned citizens bring in baby wildlife to shelters and rehabbers--many of these baby animals become "orphans" and do not need rescue. This costs taxpayers a lot of money and puts a strain on rehabbers and shelters, but if we could educate Alexandria City Council on the issue perhaps we could spare many lives.) What do you think--where could we start? Please advise.

lkw said...

Interesting post! I came across it after doing a search on squirrels and dreys after we saw a squirrel (mom, presumbly) carrying a young squirrel from tree to tree in our local botanical garden's arboretum, and wondering what she was up to. Lots of squirrels were chattering up a storm at the same time, too.

lkw said...

Interesting post! I came across it after doing a search on squirrels and dreys after we saw a squirrel (mom, presumbly) carrying a young squirrel from tree to tree in our local botanical garden's arboretum, and wondering what she was up to. Lots of squirrels were chattering up a storm at the same time, too.

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