A Filipino first-time tourist in UK once commented about the squirrel as a sophisticated rat: it knows how to sit upright, doesn’t get shied away by people nearby, eats walnut, and lives atop the trees. I’m sure we all think so too.
The family Sciuridae in the animal kingdom, comprised of rodents – lots and lots of rodents – is where the squirrels have been classified into. Indigenous to most parts of the trekked and settled-in lands, these bushy-tailed ‘rats’ are a delight in the sight of humans. Very few in the animal kingdom don’t get bothered easily by the human clatters.
There are two species of squirrels in UK, and these reds were the original inhabitants. These are usually found high atop the trees, gnawing at peanuts and storing food in tree holes. The average adult weight in summer is 260g, while in winter we notice them add 25g. They abound throughout Ireland, Scotland, and some parts of Wales. Southern England is scarcely populated by these fellows.
Grey squirrels are native to the US. Since its introduction to the UK, the grey squirrels’ population has spiraled and some people are seeing them as pests. You can easily see them in parks and truth be told, they don’t seem to feel intimidated by the presence of humans. You can get near these sophisticated rats, and even take an up-close picture of them! Their average weight in summer is 480g, and 600g during the winter season. These Greys are better in adapting because they can carry more amount of fat than the Reds. They abound extensively throughout all England and Wales, and in some parts of Ireland and Scotland.
The Squirrel’s Diet
Most squirrels are herbivores; only the flying squirrels are the exception. So, what do squirrels eat? Their diet consists of mushroom, lichen, seeds, fruits, buds, nuts, pine cones, leaves, twigs, black walnuts, barks of trees, oranges, avocados, apples, apricots, etc., etc. Actually, they aren’t very picky when it comes to food. One must’ve noticed that they would eat literally anything organic; all plant parts aren’t going to achieve salvation when these squirrels are dead hungry, though I’m not quite certain if I’ve seen any of them gnaw off a tree root or a big branch. Have you seen one?
One fascinating observation about squirrels is that they are able to eat those that are poisonous to us humans. It is because they have short digestive tracts, so they don’t absorb most of the chemicals present in it. Anyway, squirrels need a balanced diet that’s composed of protein, fat (lots of it, especially during winter), vitamins and minerals, and of course, carbs. They have varying diet patterns and preferences in summer and in winter.
One of their most favorite treats is corn on the cob, dried and hung up. And don’t forget the staple nuts! But they are not very picky when it comes to food; anything that comes from plants is good enough, especially flower bulbs. Talk about healthy living!
Their Conflict with the Gardeners
Squirrels have a freakish habit of hiding their food beneath the ground. It reminds me of the lousy servant in Jesus Christ’s Parable of the Talents. Okay, so we too know that our farmers have to till the ground before they plant the seeds of their crops, not to mention grow them once they’ve sprouted their way out of the dark earth they were in before. So what happens is that these squirrels, when they’ve begun storing their food in the ground, they sometimes find these bulbs already planted. What they do is that they swap their food with the bulbs. Ha! Imagine a tedious farmer waking one early morning, only to find walnuts instead of their plant bulbs! Now who wouldn’t be angry? But still, they’re very adorable! Their bushy tails, plus their twinkling set of eyes and their kind countenance – so sophisticated! Surely our considerate gardeners can forgive them.