When you think of a common mammal you might see in your yard, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For me that would be the Squirrel – or more precisely the Eastern Gray Squirrel. This creature is the North Carolina State Mammal. It’s hard to imagine a day going by without seeing one in your back deck, trying to get into a bird feeder, carrying an acorn across the yard to bury it. They are everywhere.
Sometimes considered a nuisance, the Eastern Gray Squirrel plays an important part in maintaining our forests. When squirrels bury nuts and acorns to store later eating, they are actually planting seeds that grow into trees. They get high marks for their reforestation efforts.
Squirrels are rodents and use those big front teeth to gnaw on nuts and acorns and sometimes to gnaw on trees or other things we might not really want them to eat. They nest in cavities in trees or in the nests they build of sticks high in trees. The female can have two litters a year, in winter and summer. The young are born hairless, and their eyes are closed. The young are weaned after about two months.
Next time you see an Eastern Gray Squirrel in your yard, enjoy its antics and think about how it helps us by planting trees.