DOUGLAS SQUIRREL

The Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii), also known as the Pine Squirrel and Chickaree, is reddish-brown on top and pumpkin-orange on its undersides, feet and eye-ring. During the winter months its fur may be a little grayer.

 

This squirrel can be found from south west British Columbia to northern California where it lives in coniferous forests. Its main diet is fir, pine, spruce and hemlock seeds and cones. In the fall, it cuts green pine cones from tree limbs and buries them in special piles called middens.

The Douglas Squirrel also eats other kinds of seed, nuts, berries and mushrooms. However, if bird feeders are in their territory, they will take advantage of any free meals.

 

Mating season for the Douglas Squirrel happens between late February and April. A little over a month after mating, the female gives birth to between two and eight young. The babies are born with their eyes closed and are hairless. Their hair will grow in a little over two weeks and their eyes will open in about a month. They are weaned after eight weeks. The young squirrels may stay with their mother for most of their first year but then leave to find their own territory.

 

Douglas Squirrels are very active during the day. They scamper through the trees and along the ground. When the weather is bad they will stay in their den or drey (a squirrel nest of branches). However, if out during a rainy day they will use their tails over their back as an umbrella; they also use this technique to shield themselves from the summer’s sun.

 

Douglas Squirrels build summer dreys (nests) of moss, lichen and pieces of bark and twigs. In winter they make their dens in holes in trees, often vacated from woodpeckers. Douglas Squirrels are very territorial and very vocal; they have a wide variety of calls described as ranging from a low ‘chir’ or ‘burr’ to an explosive ‘bauf, bauf, bauf.’ The squirrels communicate with each other when disputing over territory, during courtship, and when warning of danger. They presumably also use chemical signals (i.e. scent), like other squirrels, to communicate with each other.

Douglas Squirrels have whiskers above and below their eyes, as well as on their noses, and chins. These allow tactile perception of their environment. Additionally, Douglas Squirrels have very good vision and hearing, and a good sense of smell.