Squirrels are extremely vocal. They bark, chatter, scream, and purr to communicate with one another. They also communicate through body language, by moving their tails and stomping their feet. Squirrel alarm calls are surprisingly complex. Eastern Gray Squirrels have a number of vocal and tail signals that have different meanings depending on how they are used. A squirrel’s twitching tail tells the tale!
Squirrels are nature’s foresters! They play an important role in reforestation with their habit of planning for the future by hiding nuts and tree seeds in hundreds of locations in the Fall to eat throughout the Winter. Called “scatter hoarding”, this pattern ensures that even if some of the buried food is found by other animals, enough will remain for the squirrel. Squirrels have an important ecological role, especially in forest ecosystems. They have a peculiar habit of taking seeds, which are their main source of nutrients, and burying them. Some seeds are never recovered and sprout, growing into trees.
We are lucky to have these clever, charismatic creatures living among us, but like most wild animals, the best way to appreciate squirrels is to watch them, not interact with them. Feeding wildlife is generally a bad idea, since it portrays people as a food source and could discourage natural foraging. Raccoons and other wildlife can be attracted to the same food given to squirrels. Both raccoons and squirrels will raid bird feeders, too. Some squirrels can also transmit diseases to humans, and even healthy ones aren’t above biting our fingers.