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Imagine walking through a dense forest in Maine, surrounded by towering trees and the sound of rustling leaves.
Suddenly, you catch a glimpse of a furry creature darting through the branches. Is it a bird? A small mammal? No, it’s a squirrel!
Maine is home to four main types of squirrels, each uniquely adapted to its environment and lifestyle.
In this article, we will explore the characteristics and habitats of these four types of squirrels:
the Eastern Gray Squirrel, American Red Squirrel, Northern Flying Squirrel, and Southern Flying Squirrel.
From the common sight of the Eastern Gray Squirrel in suburban neighborhoods to the nocturnal gliding of the Flying Squirrels, each species has its own fascinating behaviors and adaptations.
So, put on your hiking boots and get ready to discover the diverse world of Maine’s squirrels.
- Maine is home to four types of squirrels: Eastern Gray Squirrel, American Red Squirrel, Northern Flying Squirrel, and Southern Flying Squirrel.
- Each type of squirrel has unique characteristics and habitats, with the Eastern Gray Squirrel being the most common and found in both urban and rural areas.
- American Red Squirrels present a unique challenge to preventing them from eating birdseed due to their small size, and Northern and Southern Flying Squirrels rarely have overlapping ranges.
- Southern Flying Squirrels are social creatures and come together in groups of up to 20 in the winter to conserve energy and stay warm, but they also have many predators such as owls, hawks, and domestic cats.
1. Eastern Gray Squirrel
If you spot an Eastern Gray Squirrel in Maine, you’ll likely see them scampering up trees and chomping on sunflower seeds like they’re popcorn at a movie theater.
These squirrels are common in Maine and can be found in large, dense deciduous forests as well as suburban and urban neighborhoods.
They have a lifespan of 6 years and weigh between 14-21 oz.
Eastern Gray Squirrels have become an invasive species in some parts of the world, including Europe and South Africa.
Their favorite foods include sunflower seeds, peanuts, and corn.
These squirrels have a curious and playful personality and are known to visit bird feeders.
They are agile climbers and can easily jump from branch to branch.
Eastern Gray Squirrels are found throughout most of the eastern United States and have a range that extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Plains.
2. American Red Squirrel
The feisty American Red Squirrel is known for its aggressive personality. They tap maple trees to eat the sugar from the sap.
This presents unique challenges to preventing them from eating birdseed due to their small size.
To prevent birdseed theft, bird feeders can be designed with a cage around them or placed on poles that are difficult for squirrels to climb.
Additionally, using safflower seeds instead of sunflower seeds can deter the American Red Squirrel. They have a bitter taste that squirrels tend to avoid.
American Red Squirrels have a preference for coniferous forests but can also be found in backyards, parks, and urban areas.
Their diet consists of seeds from evergreen trees, berries, bird eggs, acorns, hazelnuts, mushrooms, mice, and sunflower seeds.
However, their sugar tapping techniques can often be seen in maple trees during the spring season.
Despite their small size, American Red Squirrels can present unique challenges to homeowners looking to prevent them from raiding bird feeders.
3. Northern Flying Squirrel
As we delve into the world of Northern Flying Squirrels, it’s important to note that these nocturnal gliders have a unique membrane that allows them to soar from tree to tree.
Their glide mechanism is aided by the patagium, a furry membrane that stretches from their wrists to their ankles.
With this adaptation, they can glide between trees with ease, covering distances of up to 82 feet (25 meters).
Northern Flying Squirrels have a lifespan of less than 4 years.
They are primarily found in mature coniferous and mixed forests dominated by conifer trees.
They have a fungi diet, which is their main source of nutrition.
In winter, they come together to form groups and nest to conserve energy and stay warm.
They are active throughout the year and don’t hibernate.
If you’re lucky, you may spot them clumsily walking around on the forest floor during the day, but it’s more likely that you’ll hear their nocturnal chatter overhead at night.
4. Southern Flying Squirrel
You may be surprised to know that Southern Flying Squirrels, weighing only 2.5-3.5 oz, are common in Maine and are extremely social, foraging, gliding, and resting together in large groups.
These squirrels have a gray-brown fur with a white belly, and they’re smaller than their Northern Flying Squirrel counterparts.
Southern Flying Squirrels are known for their gliding abilities, which are made possible by the membrane that stretches from their wrists to their ankles.
They can glide between 16-82 feet (5-25 meters), and their huge black eyes help them see at night.
In terms of foraging habits, Southern Flying Squirrels visit bird feeders at night and eat nuts, acorns, insects, bird eggs, and tree sap.
However, they’re not immune to predators.
Owls, hawks, snakes, bobcats, raccoons, foxes, and domestic cats are all known to prey on Southern Flying Squirrels.
In winter, groups of up to 20 Southern Flying Squirrels come together in one nest to conserve energy and stay warm.
Their social behavior helps them survive the harsh winter conditions of Maine.