Forest Jester …

July 15th, 2012 § 6

Ozzy, My One-Year-Old, Resident Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) 

Here’s lookin’ at you kid! Every now and then, a gardener needs a bit of comic relief, and Ozzy provides plenty of laughs…

I’ve always enjoyed red squirrels, but my special relationship with Ozzy has deepened my love for the species. Life is hard for young squirrels, and less than 25% survive to maturity (American red squirrels are considered sexually mature at age one, and have a life expectancy of 3-8 years in the wild). You may be surprised to learn that —although they have many predators; including hawks, owls, fishers, weasel, coyote, fox and both wild and domestic cats— most young squirrels die of starvation during the long winter months. Many bird lovers and gardeners resent these hungry rodents, but squirrels will always be welcome both in my garden and at my feeders. After all, this woodland belonged to them first. Did you know that red squirrels play an important role in the forest eco-system as seed dispersers and tree planters? Read more about this intelligent, humorous and endlessly fascinating animal by clicking here.

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§ 6 Responses to “Forest Jester …”

  • Inger Cesar says:

    So sweet, a realy fine photo. I did not know that so many died of starvation during the winter. I wonder if it is like that in Sweden too? Many thanks for all the garden inspiration in your blog.
    Have a nice day
    Inger

  • Michaela says:

    Hello Inger, Thank you for your kind comments. And yes, I too was very surprised to find out that so many die of starvation within their first year. I learned a great deal when I fostered the orphan Ozzy, and then released him to the wild (OK, my surrounding forest!). American red squirrels do not hibernate, and if a young squirrel fails to create or inherit (from mother) a midden (store of nuts), it will not survive the winter. I just looked up the Eurasian Red Squirrel, which is native to your area, and it is fantastic looking! I imagine that it is similar in many ways, but read that it is somewhat communal during winter months. Very interesting! I hope to travel to your part of the world one day. The photographs and video I’ve seen are stunning. xo M

  • John says:

    Thank you for the call-out to the red squirrel. I have one in my backyard woods, mostly pine grove, that I call “Nutty”. He’s a bit hyper. And fearless. Chases off the much larger, calmer, and slower grey squirrels; the reference you provided suggests he is protecting his midden. Here in MA, the first spotting of the red squirrel is a rite of Spring. We see him every year, I hope it’s the same one, living a long, nut-full life in my backyard.

  • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Hi Michaela, Never resented having red squirrels eat at the feeder (unlike those other furry interlopers) but, what else can we do to assist the silly little chatterboxes? Checking out your earlier posting would be a good start, hey? xo D.

  • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    P.S. Should probably mention that both east and west boundary lines of our two acres are marked by 25 year old Red Pine and, in spite of many owls, hawks and coyotes there always seems to be a healthy population here to steal bird’s eggs or warn when giving offence; )

  • Michaela says:

    Hi John, Nutty is a great name for a red squirrel… They are truly spastic! As I write, Ozzy and his “friends” (constant bickering out there) are feasting on peanuts and dried fruit. Fostering Ozzy gave me a great respect for the red squirrel’s intelligence and humor. Great little creatures, indeed! Enjoy your friend; may he swing in the treetops for many seasons! ;) M