Video of the Day
Squirrels are a part of almost every American neighborhood. Squirrels are rodents, but people treat them very differently than they treat rats. It is hard to imagine someone sitting on a park bench and tossing popcorn to a rat. Squirrels seem cute and comical--this undoubtedly contributes to their appeal. Squirrels are also the cleanest of the rodents. The male spends twice as much time grooming himself as the female does.
Squirrels grow to maturity in one year. Before that, they mostly stay hidden from view. From a distance, males and females look the same. Only by turning them over can you see the physical difference between males and females. If you see nothing, the squirrel is female. Male squirrel genitalia is similar to male dog or cat genitalia.
If you see an adult squirrel accompanied by baby squirrels, the adult is female. Male squirrels take absolutely no interest in children and move out of the home nest until the children leave. Female squirrels are devoted parents who spend all their time protecting, teaching, and playing with their offspring. When the children mature and go out on their own, the female seems equally content to resume her close relationship with her mate.
The Leisurely Male
If you see a squirrel in a poorly constructed nest (or drey) high in a tree, it is a male squirrel. A family drey is well constructed and near the center of a tree. The male constructs a simple drey high in the tree for his use alone. When the children are small, the adult male spends all of his free time in his private drey.
Squirrels live in a nuclear family with no connection to kin. The children (pups, kits, or kittens) are born blind and nude in the spring. They stay in the family drey until mid or late summer when their mother starts taking them out on little excursions. In late summer the kits leave home and start families own. In late summer and early fall you might see the squirrel mating ritual, which consists of a pair of squirrels running through the treetops. The one doing the chasing is the male, and the chased squirrel is female.
- Gill André/iStock/Getty Images