Week 3, Day 1: Squirrels

Learn a lesson from this Abert’s Squirrel and practice social distancing! (Photo by Jonathan Creel)

Welcome to week three of Take It Outside! This week, we are focusing on our four-footed friends. Our first post is about distinctly unfriendly quadrupeds: squirrels!

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Blog Post:

Mariana Rivera Freeman, wildlife biologist and PEEC’s own Field Science Specialist, gives us insight into the world of cute but not cuddly tree squirrels. Check out her blog post here to learn more about two of our local squirrel species.

Craft:

Keep an eye on the squirrels in your neighborhood by making a squirrel feeder. Choose from the many design options described here, using common household materials.

Enjoy watching the squirrels run and scurry to your feeder. What kinds of behavior do you notice? Learn more about squirrel behavior using this guide from the Cincinnati Nature Center.

Outdoor Challenge (Beginner):

Red Squirrel in Bandelier National Monument. (Photo by Sally King/NPS)

Play a game of red squirrel! Head to an area with pinecones. This could be your backyard or a favorite trail or outdoor area. Challenge your family to collect as many pinecones as possible in 30 seconds. Everyone should get a designated spot to stash their pinecones. Then, spread out and start collecting all at once!

Unleash your inner kleptoparasite and steal from each others’ caches if you like! Make up your own rules and add to this game as you play.

Do you see any signs that squirrels have been munching on these pinecones?

Outdoor Challenge (Advanced):

Go to a forested spot, and look for signs of squirrels. Some things you might notice:

  • Eaten pinecone cores
  • Piles of pinecone bracts
  • Twigs with stripped bark under ponderosa pines (these are fun to collect for crafts!)
  • Squirrel sounds: Red squirrels’ agitated chatter and calls and chirps. It is rare to hear vocalizations from Abert’s squirrels.

Other Resources:

  • Check out this guide to the Abert’s squirrel from Bandelier National Monument.
  • Learn more about the social life of prairie dogs, a type of ground squirrel, in the Valles Caldera from this website featuring the research of Mariana Rivera Freeman and her colleagues from the University of Maryland.

Share Your Experience:

Tell us what you learn about our four-footed friends this week! We’d love to see your photos, too. Please send them to takeitoutside@peecnature.org or share them on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #peectakeitoutside.

Join us tomorrow to explore predators and prey, with a special focus on mountain lions!