There are more than 200 species of squirrel in the world. Fortunately, only a handful of those squirrel species call Minnesota their home. Why do we say fortunately? Because squirrels are rodents. And, like all rodents, when they gain access to a home, they can cause damage to insulation, sheetrock, structural supports, vents, electrical wires, air-conditioner ductwork, and more. They can also bring parasites and illness into a home. Here are some of the handful of squirrels you may see on your Minnesota property.
FLYING SQUIRREL (GLAUCOMYS SPP.)
There are two species of flying squirrel in Minnesota: the Southern flying squirrel (G. volans), which is about the size of a chipmunk (9 inches), and the Northern flying squirrel (G. sabrinus), which is slightly larger (11 inches). Both of these species have velvety fur that is olive on their backside and white on their underside, and both have a tail that is roughly half the length of their body, and flat.
Flying squirrels live primarily in the northeastern region of the state and are known for their ability to glide. These rodents can "fly" up to an impressive 150 feet. But most often they fly from perch to perch at a limited 20 to 30 feet.
FOX SQUIRREL (SCIURUS NIGER)
While not as orange as a fox, the fox squirrel can be identified by the scattered orange hairs in their belly fur and throughout their tail. These are fat squirrels that can be as much as two feet long and have a tail that adds another 10 inches to their length.
These squirrels chirp and whistle during the day as they search for food. Food sources for the fox squirrel include, but are not limited to, nuts, corn, seeds, mushrooms, acorns, and garbage. They will most often search for food when the sun is high in the sky, but typically consume food later in the evening.
GRAY SQUIRREL (SCIURUS CAROLINENSIS)
These are the most common and recognizable squirrel in the state. They are gray, as their name suggests, but their underside is white or brownish. Albino and black squirrels are color variations of the gray squirrel. Gray squirrels average about 10 inches, with a tail that is about the same length.
Gray squirrels make their homes inside tree cavities and can be found prancing around in hardwood forests, wooded parks, and residential areas. Their diet consists of acorns, hazelnuts, walnuts, corn, and the seeds of many trees. They are also known to eat fungi and elm buds in late winter. When gray squirrels get into corn fields and corn cribs, they can become serious pests.
RED SQUIRREL (TAMIASCIURUS HUDSONICUS)
If there is a squirrel that should be called the fox squirrel, it is the red squirrel. This squirrel has much more orange coloring in its coat and tail. It can also be distinguished by the extreme fluffiness of its tail. Red squirrels average between 11 to 13 inches in length, with tails that are an additional four to five inches.
These squirrels like to make a lot of chatter and they have lots of energy. They are also known to whistle when humans are near.
Red squirrels make leaf nests in tree cavities and the crotches of trees, and will often be covered in the gum that oozes from pine trees during fall when they gather food for the winter.
THIRTEEN-LINED GROUND SQUIRREL (SPERMOPHILUS TRIDECEMLINEATUS)
These unique squirrels are far less squirrel-like in appearance. They do not have the big bushy tail, and the dark dotted lines that run down their backs give them more of a chipmunk look. But, at 11 inches, they are slightly larger than chipmunks.
These squirrels eat mainly seeds, grass, leaves, insects, small birds, and lizards. They are found in the western side of the state, and are probably most recognizable for their role as the mascot for the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
If you have squirrels prancing around your yard, bounding across the top of your fence line, or scrambling up trees, they can be fun to watch. But, remember that squirrels are rodents and can chew their way into your home. When this happens, be sure to call Adam's Pest Control and have them safely, and completely, removed.