How many times during the day have you seen a squirrel going about its squirrel business? For me, I often see squirrels everywhere I go, but the second I start searching for them they seem to disappear! Where in the world could they possibly be?
For my citizen science project, I thought it would be a fun experience to join Project Squirrel. Their goal is to gather as much data as they can about where squirrels are found so they can get some insight on how local environments are changing. A few classmates and I decided to get together to go searching for squirrels on WCC campus. We thought it would be rather easy to find squirrels, but we were sadly mistaken.
Squirrel hunting is surprisingly difficult. On our first day out on WCC campus my group and I went to the “Bowl” to look for squirrels, but it was completely empty of them. We noticed that it was starting to rain, so we started making our way back to the LA building only to spot a squirrel out of the corner of our eyes on a tree near the GM building! We identified the squirrel as an Eastern Fox squirrel due to its reddish-brown fur and being in an open location. At that time, it was the only squirrel that we were able to find on campus.
Our next spot we explored for squirrels was the WCC Hardwoods on the west side of campus. While we were there in the Hardwoods we didn’t see any squirrels, but we did find evidence of them. At the bottoms of several trees there were tons of shredded pine cones which is visible evidence that squirrels live there. How, you might ask? According to Albert Burchsted, a field biologist with a Ph.D in animal behavior, gray squirrels often rip apart the scales of pine cones in order to eat the seeds inside.
The next time we saw a squirrel was at a very unexpected time. While we were sitting in the “Bowl” eating lunch, we noticed that there was a squirrel walking around. We then hurried over to the other side of the “Bowl” and identified it as an Eastern Fox Squirrel because of its reddish-brown fur. The next day my group and I went back to the bowl to try and find that squirrel again, but we had no luck in doing so. Although we didn’t find any squirrels, we did find more ripped up pine cones at the bases of a few trees.
One of the problems my group and I faced while searching for squirrels was being still and quiet in the woods. Because we didn’t bother to be as quiet as we could, we more than likely scared all the squirrels away from us. When squirrels feel threatened or afraid, their instinct is to freeze up and slowly go into a hiding place. The best thing to do when searching for squirrels is to find a sitting spot and stay completely still and quiet. In doing so, the squirrels will come out of their nests or hiding places rather than you trying to seek out the squirrels.
All throughout our adventures on campus trying to seek out squirrels, we kept on asking the same question. Where are all the squirrels? As it turns out, we were looking for squirrels at the wrong time of the day. According to the book Behavior of North American Mammals by Mark Elbroch and Kurt Rinehart, Eastern Fox squirrels are most active during sunrise and the late afternoon. When the day is extremely hot, squirrels will not be active at all. This information is helpful to us since we were out exploring in hot temperatures, and we were exploring just before the time when squirrels are usually active. Upon learning these new facts about squirrels, we hope to find some soon!
Burchsted, Albert. “Squirrels Often Eat Pine Nuts and Maple Sap.” Suite. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2014.
Elbroch, Mark, and Kurt Rinehart. Behavior of North American Mammals. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. Print.
“Gray Squirrel.” ESF. Adirondack Ecological Center, n.d. Web. 20 June 2014.