Squirrels

There are two common species of tree squirrels in the Illinois area, the fox squirrel and the gray squirrel. The fox squirrels are larger than the gray squirrels and have a red underside. Gray squirrels have a white underside. Squirrels usually nest in the trees. They will use holes in the trees or make a nest out of leaves high up in the branches.

Squirrels have litters of 3-5 young twice a year. Fox squirrels are born between April and May and again between August and September. Gray squirrels are born between February and April and again between August and September. Gestation is 38 days long in fox squirrels and 44 days in gray squirrels. The eyes open in 28-35 days and the squirrels are weaned at 6-8 weeks. They leave the nest between 10 and 12 weeks of age.

Squirrels body temperature is 98-102 degrees.

If you find a baby squirrel fallen out of the tree or displaced because of tree cutting, put it in a box at the base of a tree where the mother has been seen and wait for the mother to come. (Mother squirrels keep at least two nests throughout the year. She will move the babies to the other nest). Keep people and animals away! If the baby is cold, put a hot water bottle or jar full of warm water in the box with it.

If it is near night time, keep the baby inside until morning and then place the baby in the box with a hot water bottle or jar of warm water, if necessary, at the base of the tree again. You can leave the squirrel inthe box for up to 48 hours. If the motherdoes not return before the 48 hours, then you have an orphan.

Squirrels are diurnal (active during the day) and will be seen feasting on nuts or burying them for the winter. Squirrels also eat plants, especially tulips and other bulbs. Squirrels are a very aggressive animal. Squirrels are notorious for biting and biting hard. When handling squirrels it is best to use kevlar-lined gloves to keep them from breaking the skin. Any mammal that bites and breaks the skin has to be euthanized and tested for rabies. The person that was bitten has to get the rabies exposure vaccine from the County Public Health.

Squirrels, once they have fallen down a chimney, cannot climb back up again. Lower a little rope into the chimney to give them a hand. Once they are out, cap your chimney!

If a squirrel gets from the chimney into your house, close the door to that room and leave the window open. This limits that amount of destruction the squirrel causes and allows the squirrel an escape route. If the squirrel is on the second-level or higher, the squirrel will be unable to jump down to the ground. At this point, you can set a live trap or call your local Animal Control. In the Champaign area, you can call Steve Beckman fromAnything Wild Animal Control at 217-355-2997.

Related to the tree squirrels are chipmunks and ground squirrels. Often the two are thought to be the same species, but this is not true. The chipmunk (pictured at the left) has five dark brown strips from head to tail while the 13-lined ground squirrel has 13 lines from head to tail. Both are omnivores with their diet consisting of berries, nuts, seeds, fruits, insects, young mice, young birds, and sometimes frogs and snakes.

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