The Pine Squirrel
Subspecies: Tamiasciurus hudsonicus (American red squirrel), Tamiasciurus douglasii (Douglas squirrel), Tamiasciurus mearnsi (Mearns’ squirrel).
All three subspecies are native to North America: they can be found from Alaska to Quebec along the Rocky mountains and also they can be seen in the woods in the Appalachian mountains. Т. Douglasi is common throughout the area from British Columbia to California.
The lifestyle of the pine squirrel is very similar to the one of the common squirrel, but they have some biological features that set them apart from all other tree squirrels.
Adult squirrels are about 33 cm long. It weighs between 150 and 300 g. In summer their backs are gray or almost brown, their belly and chest are pale orange. In winter their coat is darker brown color and the ears appear tuftier than in summer.
Squirrels are quite smart animals: they can hide and find nuts and seeds, and quickly understand that people are the source of food. They usually can be hand-fed. But at the same time squirrels are rather aggressive, suspicious and quarrelsome. They can become tame, but they will never be real cuddly pets. Even if you have gained your squirrel’s trust, they will afford you to stroke their back at most. Squirrels very seldom can be handled. Young squirrels usually adapt better than grown-up animals.
Your squirrel will need a spacious cage, about 60х50х50 cm for one animal. The frame should be made of metal because the squirrel will try to escape. Over the frame you can put a metal net with cells 10-15 sq.mm each. If the cage is outdoors or on the balcony, it is best to make iron duo-pitched roof over it. If the cage is indoors, the roof is not needed. You should have a wheel and a nest outside the cage. The cage must have branches, driftwood and shelves for the animal to move around. The squirrel’s claws row constantly, so if they don’t get milled, they will get too long for the squirrel to move on the floor. At daytime squirrels are always active, they are curious and alternate activities all the time. The shedding period can be difficult: some animals become lethargic and sluggish, others, on the contrary, become too active. Spring shedding in females normally occurs immediately after mating season; in males it starts earlier and lasts until the middle of the summer.
Squirrels’ menu is quite varied, they are not too fussy and eat almost anything they see: nuts (especially hazelnuts), seeds, mushrooms, acorns, young shoots, berries, fruit, vegetables, roots, lichen, herbs, insects’ larvae, birds’ eggs and nestlings. Very often in times of hunger squirrels eat flower buds of fir trees. In early spring the squirrel gnaws the bones of dead animals. The amount of daily food depends on the season: in spring the squirrel eats up to 80 g of food daily, in winter only about 35 g.
In captivity squirrels can be fed with vegetables: spinach, red-headed cabbage, lettuce, endive, turnips, broccoli, celery (leaves and ½ of stem); finely cut fruit: berries, strawberry, raspberry, water melon, raisin, plums, apples and pears. Cereals are only a small part of squirrels’ menu, so you shouldn’t give a lot of them to your pet. Don’t feed the squirrel with cereals bought in a pet store: they contain honey and supplements that are dangerous for squirrels.
Squirrels shed. They are apt escape artists and can run away from a window of any height. Sometimes they don’t get attached to their owner. They can scratch in a very painful way. Squirrels are wild animals, so in captivity they tend to create a lot of problems both for people and for themselves.
Squirrels very rarely get ill, but in captivity they can become very stressed.
Average life span is from 1 to 3 years.