The Eastern Gray Squirrel’s (Sciurus carolinensis) native range stretches from northern Canada, all the way into sections of Texas and Florida. A species well adapted to survive in a wide variety of rural as well as urban environments, the gray squirrel has rapidly spread across the country, largely displacing native red squirrel populations.
Highly prolific, gray squirrels breed twice a year, once in the spring and again in late summer. Gray squirrels construct nests comprised of dry leaves and twigs called a drey, usually constructed in the crotch of a tree. Litters range in size from 1-8 young, with only one in four managing to evade predators, avoid sickness and starvation to survive to one year of age. Of those individuals fortunate enough to survive the first year, about half perish in the follow year.
In preparation for winter, gray squirrels hoard tremendous amounts of tree buds, berries, seeds, acorns and even some types of fungi in small caches for later consumption. Scientists studying the behaviors of gray squirrels have estimated a single squirrel make thousands of caches each season. To prevent other animals from retrieving cached food, squirrels will sometimes pretend to bury a food item, if they feel they are being watched.
Those who have spent time watching the antics of the gray squirrel in woodlands and parks across the country will surely note this species amazing ability to descend a tree head-first.
Gray squirrels rank as one of few mammalian species that can accomplish this amazing acrobatic feat. The squirrel does so by turning its hind paws so that the claws point backwards, allowing the squirrel to easily grip the tree bark.