No, they don’t. Although some ground squirrels are inactive during the winter period because they are very scarce around October to April just like Ground squirrels and Flying squirrels. But most of them are active in all periods, they are usually most active three to four hours after sunrise to forage for food and build their nests.
They do not hibernate during the winter, rather they make sure there is enough food in their caches and larders to survive on. It can be estimated that each squirrel has up to ten thousand caches or more each period or season, this shows how intelligent and active they are.
Surprisingly they have very good sharp memories and a good sense of smell to locate and retrieve their foods wherever they store them during the winter period. You can always see a squirrel running around at all seasons, this only happens because they always prepare themselves for the winter period by filling their stomachs and larders with enough food and building multiple nests to keep them warm and away from predators.
Tree squirrel is the largest species of all squirrels ranging from 24 to 26cm, it usually has a creamy white belly and silver-grey fur. They are usually found in low elevation forested areas in the western parts. They like digging holes to store and bury their food when the winter period is around the corner. They are diurnal creatures that are always active during the day and have their sleep after sunset. When the winter period comes, they go to the warmest of their nests and take abode there that is why they are scarce during the season.
Flying squirrels are the most distinctive and special of all species, they are nocturnal creatures because they tend to be more active during the night, they run around to fend for food and materials to build their nests. They are rarely seen around because they live in heavily forested areas, they pile up their nuts and seed in their larders and stomach and usually rest during the day you don’t get to see them running around during the day.
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Squirrels are generally sensitive due to their photo-neuroendocrine system. A system that regulates reproduction, metabolism, eating, and drinking behavior, and energy utilization. This enables them to be conscious and be able to perceive when each season is coming or there is a change in the atmospheric situation.
When they notice or perceive the winter period is around the corner, they build multiple nests out of twigs, leaves, and moss in very tall trees to keep them warm from the cold weather. Squirrels also keep and spread food in all their nests, rather than keeping it in one nest, this process is called “Scatter Hoarding” a process that involves spreading food to each of their nests for them to be able to feed on it during their inactive period.
They also store fats in their bodies in preparation for the cold weather. This fat enables them to have enough energy to survive the winter period, it is also important for them because it keeps them warm, healthy, and active. The majority of squirrels build their nests in large holes of a tree or abandoned woodpecker nests. when they can not find a tree, squirrels look for leaves to make dreys and these are very conspicuous everywhere during the winter period.
These dreys are usually larger than bird’s nests, attractive, and always close to the tree trunks. Squirrels are intelligent and industrious creatures because they know how to prepare well for any kind of situation and temperature, they do this by safeguarding their nests and storing fats and foods for their needs during the winter period.
It looks like they hibernate because they slow down their metabolism and stick to their nests for months. This is possible for them because they are able to regulate their blood concentration by removing electrolytes like sodium and other chemicals like glucose and urea to store them in their bladder. This process helps them a lot to be hydrated during the drought seasons.
Some are diurnal animals because they are very active in sorting for food and building their nest during the day and get their sleep at night just like humans do. They portray problem-solving techniques and have a very good memory to the extent that they recognize whoever they have seen before.
They are intelligent creatures with good behavioral acts, which makes them spectacular among other creatures. Squirrels are a natural part of our ecosystem, they need help and help because of the increasing pressures from habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and predators, or invasive species. Whenever you find them, do well to not hurt them but make sure they are safe and you will be glad you did.
Jessica Watson is a PHD holder from the University of Washington. She studied behavior and interaction between squirrels and has presented her research in several wildlife conferences including TWS Annual Conference in Winnipeg.