Red squirrels are seen around Wind Cave National Park throughout the year. They are active even in winter, they do not hibernate.
As you stroll through the forest on an autumn day, you may be startled by something chattering harshly from the trees above. Follow that surprising sound and you'll find a reddish-brown, half-pound of indignation!
The red squirrel, a type of pine squirrel, is demonstrating typical behavior: it is defending its territory by "scolding" you. Along with this sound, it will also be making threatening postures and rapidly jerking its tail. If the trespasser does not take these warnings seriously, an actual attack with forepaws and teeth may follow!
What is the red squirrel defending?
- a home range about 200 yards in diameter.
- a "midden pile" used for food storage and for a "garbage heap". It consists of conifer cones and seeds, hardwood nuts and other interesting things the squirrel may pick up.
- a nest, possibly in a hollow tree or beneath a log or rock, lined with soft vegetation and fur.
Other interesting facts:
- Red squirrels molt twice a year. In the fall they molt beginning at the tail, working toward the head. In spring they molt from head to tail.
- Their midden piles provide a source of conifer seeds for foresters. These seeds have a higher germination rate than seeds taken directly from cones off the tree.
- Red squirrels are known to harvest mushrooms and dry them on tree branches before storing them.