October goes to the squirrels: They have their own awareness month
COLUMBIA - There’s a month for everything — even squirrels.
October is Squirrel Awareness Month and MU’s campus is full of these big-tailed creatures.
“Squirrels are fun to observe and fun to watch,” said MU Extension Fish and Wildlife Specialist Bob Pierce. “They're part of the biodiversity that we have here on campus.”
There are two types of squirrels on campus: the fox squirrel and the gray squirrel.
“By far the most common species that we have on campus is the fox squirrel and, of course, we have both species, but fox squirrels are a little larger,” Pierce said.
Squirrels will eat just about anything in times of scarcity.
“They store food and stash food for rough times of the year and typically will bury nuts and fruits with the idea of being able to find them again,” Pierce said. “They have a sense of smell and can often relocate those food items and dig them back up.”
Squirrels live to be around 3-4 years old in cities, according to Pierce. They reproduce twice a year, he said.
"They have maybe two or three young in each litter," Pierce said. "Maybe three or four depending on the amount of food available, which helps them maybe have more in their litter.”
Squirrels need at least two dens to sleep in, according to an article from MU Extension. People who want to improve habitats for squirrels should plant nut trees including hickory, pecans, walnuts and oaks.
Tree squirrels like to nibble and may damage forest trees by chewing on bark. Damage prevention and control is essential to protect young trees from squirrels.
We asked Pierce some common questions:
Can I feed a squirrel?
“No. That’s probably not a good idea. They don't need our help to survive ordinarily, so you're just encouraging them to be dependent on food items that they can find in the wild, so probably not a good idea.”
Can I pet a squirrel?
"No, definitely not. Don't try to make a squirrel a pet even though you might see an orphan and want to care for it. They can often take care of themselves. And squirrels, with those sharp incisors, will bite fairly quickly if picked up. I wouldn't recommend trying to capture or pet a squirrel."
Can I catch a disease from a squirrel?
“Squirrels may carry fleas and may carry some bacteria or germs that you might catch, but ordinarily you're not going to be worried about catching any diseases from a squirrel.”