You may wonder why this small tree squirrel has caught my attention and is now being shared in writing. I have found them to be quite intriguing and am told, by a colleague (not mentioning any names) that I am quite similar to this small rodent. I am flattered and shall share why.
More commonly know as a pine squirrel, chickaree or mountain boomer, this little squirrel is great at scampering through the trees with their compact, muscled bodies even though they spend the majority of their time on the ground flitting around gathering and collecting. Their color is variable depending on the region and season but generally reddish brown on the upper parts with a creamy white belly. They don’t have a very bushy tail like the gray squirrel but have a most distinguishing feature of white bands that encircle their large black eyes.
They prefer coniferous forests for their cool, moist environment, and that have abundant conifer seeds, fungi, and tight canopies for efficient foraging and escape. This preferred habitat aids in preservation of food and fungal growth. Being omnivores, they eat seeds, berries, fruit, mushrooms, bird eggs, and tree sap; Sugar maples in particular. In the Eastern US, they are scatter hoarders (much like my sons) and will store large quantities of food in caches called middens.
Red squirrels build multiple nests in various locations in case one is destroyed or taken over by another animal, preferring cavities. They do not hibernate, are diurnal, and breed in very early spring having 2-5 young weaned quickly in just 7-8 weeks.
The thing I most enjoy about these little squirrels is their vocalizations or “barks” (most likely the reason for our similarities as stated above). They will “bark” at intruders and can do so for long periods of time when annoyed. And then just “chatter” when staking out and defending their territory and/or middens. There are five distinct calls of Tamiasciurus hudsonicus: a chirp - an alarm in the presence of potential predators, a rattle - threat call for territorial defense, a variable screech - alone or in a sequence with rattles, a growl - aggressive defense or female to male interaction, and a buzz - a male to female interaction. My guess is the variable screech and the growl are how I am associated with this lovely creature. Next time you are in a coniferous forest, stop and listen for the mountain boomer…and think of me.