You’ve heard them chattering and seen them scampering over branches. Maybe you’ve noticed them burying nuts in the ground. Tree squirrels are loud and lively and eat almost anything from fruit to nuts. And that includes bark.
Squirrels use bark along with leaves and grass to line their nests in tree cavities and branches. They also gnaw on bark to help clean and sharpen their teeth. Kind of like brushing and flossing. They have long, front incisors with sharp edges to help them chew through soil and roots, on nuts and wood, and cut grass. For most, these teeth never quit growing and require grooming. When the bark is removed squirrels will also snack on the exposed cambrium layer of the tree for a salty snack and other nutrients. If too much of this layer is exposed on tree branches or trunks, it can kill the tree.
There is some research that suggests expectant mother squirrels may chew on the bark in the nest to manage labor pain. Their mid-winter litters will be leaving the nest soon. Watch young squirrels feeding on buds and running around parks and backyards.
Meet the Squirrels
- Woodchuck: Woodchucks are Missouri’s largest chubbiest squirrel. They are sometimes called “whistle pigs” because they give a loud shrill whistle. They may remove more than 700 lbs. of soil while digging their network of tunnels!
- Eastern Chipmunk: A single chipmunk may pack its winter pantry with enough nuts and acorns to fill nine 2-liter soda bottles! A chipmunk can cram nine acorns in its mouth — four in each cheek pouch and one between its teeth.
- Eastern Gray Squirrel and Eastern Fox Squirrel: Tree squirrels are chatterboxes and make many different sounds. The gray and fox squirrel live wherever large nut trees are found. They make leafy nests in tree holes and on branches.
- Southern Flying Squirrel: To glide, the tiny forest flyer climbs to a high perch, then plunges spread-eagle into thin air. Draped between its legs is a flap of skin that billows like a furry parachute.
- Ground Squirrel: This squirrel lives under the ground — their paws have long claws to help them dig, and their bodies are long and skinny to squirm through tight tunnels.
Learn more about the squirrels that roam throughout the state in Xplor Magazine.