Saturday, December 16, 2006

Stores for the Red Squirrel

This is the second year now that I have witnessed these small piles of Sw (white spruce) cones throughout the forest under the Sw tree of course. It is a rather unusual sight. I know that when we lived in town we had black squirrels that contributed immensely to the random planting of crocus and tulip bulbs, chestnuts, and acorns, as they cached their winter supplies. There was no other explanation for how the tulips and crocuses grew among our bushes. I have yet to figure out how these rodents ever found their hidden treasures. The numbers of successfully sprouted tulips would belie that they were not that successful.

The only settled tree dwellers found here are red squirrels [Tamiasciurus hudsonicus] who regularly chatter and chirp as they announce to all other forest dwellers your imminent arrival. There was once a black squirrel seen on the property but I am guessing that the food supply for it was not sufficiently abundant. It seems that the black squirrel, - which is actually a black phase of the eastern gray squirrel [Sciurus carolinensis], according to Burt and Grossenheider* - is only interested in “The big sugar” provided by bird feeds in the suburbs and not this paltry fare of the native forest.

So these small piles of cones must be the work of red squirrels as they set up their winter food caches. This squirrel must also have regular eating places. One will often find piles of cone shucks under a tree or on a prominent rock.

The range of the Red Squirrel tends to be to the north and west of here whereas the Grey or Gray Squirrel ranges south down all the way to Florida.

Burt and Grossenheider, “A Field Guide to The Mammals, 1964, The Peterson Field Guide Series, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass.

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