Where do they live? The small rodents occur in the widest variety of forest types, as well as in parks, gardens, cemeteries and other larger areas with plantations. They especially prefer coniferous and mixed forests – probably because of the availability of cones and multiple seeds.
How do they live? If there is always enough food and the number of competitors for food and predators is not high, squirrels prefer to stay in one particular place. In winters they live alone, but in summers – in families. Furthermore, squirrels could have not only one family – sometimes a second and third litter is possible during one warm season. Squirrels are really industrious mothers, since they take care of so many children! Squirrels frequently inhabit bird boxes or tree hollows to create a den for raising their kids or just to sleep overnight. If a readymade apartment is not available, they make nests themselves from small twigs, dry grass, leaves, mosses and lichens. In winters, if the air temperature falls below -20 0C, or in the event of long-term snowstorms, squirrels may stay in their den or nest for several days without leaving it.
What do they eat? Squirrels are seed eaters and have seeds of coniferous trees, nuts, acorns, buds of firs, pine and, less frequently, deciduous trees on their menu, as well as various mushrooms and forest berries, garden fruit and seeds of stone fruit. Creation of food stocks and food hiding behaviours are characteristic features of squirrels, (especially in autumn).
Did you know?
- When moving from one tree to another, squirrels can even make five-metre
long jumps, and, when jumping from a tree to the ground in a downward sloping
trajectory, they can even glide 10-15 metres. During jumps, the large tail is
used like a rudder for steering. In order to jump in the trees, squirrels
require very good vision that enables them to precisely assess the distance and
the correct landing trajectory.
- If necessary, squirrels are good swimmers.
- Squirrels have 4 fingers on their front legs and 5 fingers on their hind legs.
- The sharp front teeth of squirrels keep growing during the entire life of the animal. They are continuously sharpened by grinding various food, thus keeping them ready for some especially strong nut. The lower front teeth have special muscles that can press the teeth stronger together or relax - this helps when biting into the strong cases of hazelnuts or acorns.
- Squirrels are well getting on and co-operating with jays, crossbills and woodpeckers in obtaining the tastiest chunk of food.
- The scientific name of the squirrel family Sciurus has arisen from the Greek (“skia” - shadow and “oura” - tail) and literally means “animal that sits under the shadow of its tail”.
Currently five squirrels live at Līgatne Nature Trails - Tomiņa, Čita, Rudais, Buča un Bucis.