Eastern Gray Squirrel

gray squirrel eating a pinecone while sitting on a log
Eastern gray squirrel munching on a pinecone

NPS Photo

Sciurus carolinensis

Squirrels are commonly seen because they are less shy than most animals about being out in the open during the day and are easier to spot. Squirrels are mostly herbivorous, living off of nuts, seeds, and vegetation. They collect and store food in buried caches to help them get through winter. Because they are able to store food, they do not need to hibernate to get through the winter when most of their food sources aren’t available.

Squirrels do not mate for life, and a female will pick a new partner each year. To show off for females, males will race each other up and down trees to show off how strong and fast they are. Females will have one to two litters per year, depending on how much food is available.

Like many small animals they have several predators. Predatory birds, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, raccoons, domestic cats, and snakes will all eat squirrels. Despite this, squirrels are very abundant, and the eastern gray squirrel is not considered endangered or threatened.

Did You Know?

  • Squirrels are able to turn their ankles about 180 degrees, allowing their wrists to support their body weight while climbing in any direction. Animals that cannot turn their ankles like this (i.e. cats) may be able to easily climb up trees but have a much harder time climbing down trees. Imagine trying to climb down a tree headfirst!
  • Squirrels use their tails for balance and for communication. Whenever you see a squirrel standing still twitching its tail it is usually sending some type of message such as warning other squirrels of danger or to stay away from its food caches.
Thorington Jr, R. W., Koprowski, J. L., Steele, M. A., & Whatton, J. F. (2012). Squirrels of the world. JHU Press.

Last updated: February 8, 2021

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