American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
The American red squirrel is the only native tree squirrel in Wyoming, and they are quite abundant in mountainous coniferous forests across the United States. Their favorite activity of caching and dispersing seeds and nuts eludes to the first part of their scientific name, which means ‘treasurer squirrel.’ Besides seeds, they also eat fruit, mushrooms, insects, young rabbits, birds, and mice. These guys have red-grey fur with white fur on their bellies and around their eyes. Adult female squirrels usually have about five pups in a litter during the spring and have been found to raise their young in areas where aspen trees are common. Fully grown squirrels are about a foot long and weigh 7 oz.
Red squirrels benefit their ecosystem in many ways. They are vital to the reproduction of many plant species because when they store and bury seeds, the seeds often end up eventually sprouting. Grizzly bears depend on squirrels because they find the squirrels’ larger winter foodbanks and eat the fatty, protein-rich whitebark or limber pine nuts. The red squirrel is a keystone prey species for many animals including bears, weasels, hawks, owls, wolves and coyotes. They make a good chase because they are fast, nimble climbers, and they also have a loud warning chirp to protect their territory from other squirrels or predators. In Wyoming, a small game license is required to hunt the red squirrel. However, they feed on coniferous pine cones so much that these small squirrels are known to taste like turpentine to people.
Written by Celia Karim
PC: Anne Guzzo