Eastern Grey Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis
Scientific classification

Squirrel is the common name for rodents of the family Sciuridae. In everyday speech in the English-speaking world it usually refers to members of the genera Sciurus and Tamasciurus. These typical members of the family are tree squirrels with large bushy tails, and are native to Europe, Asia and the Americas. Similar genera are found in Africa. However, the Sciuridae also include flying squirrels, and ground squirrels such as the chipmunks, prairie dogs, and woodchuck. The unrelated family Anomaluridae also have "squirrel" in their common name, though they are usually referred to as "scaly-tailed flying squirrels".

Typical squirrels include the fox squirrel Sciurus niger, the Eastern gray squirrel S. carolinensis, and the American and European red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus and S. vulgaris)

One well-known trait of some species of squirrel is the gathering and storing of nuts for the winter. These squirrels are scatter-hoarders, i.e. they will gather nuts and store them in any accessible hiding place, usually by burying them. Recent research shows that they have excellent memories for the locations of these caches.

Squirrels are generally clever and persistent animals; in residential neighborhoods they are notorious for eating out of bird feeders, digging in potted plants either to bury or recover food, and for setting up house in sheltered areas including attics.

Squirrels are sometimes also pests because they chew on various edible and inedible objects; the habit helps keep the squirrel's teeth sharp and also wears the teeth down (rodents' teeth grow constantly).

Many companies sell bird feeders which are supposedly "squirrel-proof"; most of them in fact are not.

Homeowners in areas with a heavy squirrel population must keep attics and basements carefully sealed to prevent property damage caused by nesting squirrels.

Fake owls and scarecrows are generally ignored by the animals, and the best way to prevent chewing on an object is to coat it with something to make it undesirable: for instance a soft cloth or hot sauce.

Squirrels can be trained to be hand fed. Because they are able to cache surplus food, they will take as much food as you put out. If a person starts to feed one, that squirrel will come back day after day to get its food. This is not recommended, however, because squirrels are wild and not vaccinated, therefore, they may carry rabies or some other animal-borne diseases.

The red squirrel population in Britain has declined in recent decades, because of habitat loss and competition from gray squirrels. Recent conservation efforts include preserving and planting the conifer forests that red squirrels prefer.

Eurasian Red Squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris

Popular culture references

Squirrels are popular characters in
cartoons and children's books. A less typical fictional squirrel is Secret Squirrel.

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