Squirrels in Virginia

A squirrel eating a nut showing the need for Southwestern Virginia Squirrel Removal

Quick Squirrel Information

Species in Virginia: 5

Common Locations: Attic, Gutters, Walls, Ceiling

Damages: Roof, Soffits, Wires

Health Concerns: Tularemia, Typhus, Plague

Exploring the Diversity and Behavior of Squirrels in Virginia

Squirrels are a common sight in Virginia, often seen scampering through trees and along power lines. These small rodents play a crucial role in the ecosystem, serving as seed dispersers and a food source for predators.

In this article, we will delve into the biology and behavior of squirrels in Virginia, the different species found in the state, their ecological importance, as well as their interactions with humans.

We will also explore the challenges and benefits of living alongside squirrels and the conservation efforts aimed at protecting these important members of Virginia’s wildlife community.

Species of Wasps in Virginia

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Sciurus carolinensis

Eastern gray squirrels are found throughout Virginia and are known for their distinctive gray fur and bushy tails. They are often found in wooded areas and suburban environments, where they build nests, or dreys, out of leaves and twigs. These dreys are often located in trees, but can also be found in attics or other high places.

Gray squirrels are omnivorous and have a varied diet, including nuts, acorns, seeds, fruits, insects, and fungi. They are known to hoard food in the fall to prepare for the winter months. Gray squirrels are also known for their ability to adapt to human environments and have been known to raid bird feeders and gardens for food.

Virginia Eastern Fox Squirrel

Eastern Fox Squirrel

Sciurus niger ssp. vulpines

Eastern fox squirrels are the largest tree squirrels found in Virginia. They have reddish-brown or gray fur on their backs, with a lighter underbelly. Their tails are long and bushy, and they have distinctive black facial masks. Eastern fox squirrels are found throughout the eastern United States and prefer mature forests, but are also commonly found in urban areas such as parks and neighborhoods.

They are named for their fox-like appearance, and are known for their bold behavior and acrobatic abilities. Eastern fox squirrels are omnivores and have a diverse diet that includes nuts, seeds, fruits, insects, and small animals.

virginian southern flying squirrel

Southern Flying Squirrel

Glaucomys volans

Southern flying squirrels are small, nocturnal rodents with distinctive fur and large, dark eyes. They are known for their unique ability to glide through the air by stretching out a membrane of skin which extends from their wrists to their ankles. Southern flying squirrels are primarily herbivorous, with a diet consisting of a variety of nuts, seeds, fruits, and fungi.

These squirrels are social animals and are known to live in communal groups of up to 20 individuals. They are generally active at night and are arboreal, spending most of their time in trees.

Northern Flying Squirrel

Glaucomys sabrinus

Northern Flying Squirrels are nocturnal and are known for their large, dark eyes that enable them to see in low light conditions. They have soft, dense fur that helps them to stay warm in the winter. These squirrels are named for their ability to glide through the air using a specialized membrane that extends from their wrists to their ankles. They are often found in coniferous forests and prefer to live in areas with plenty of trees and shrubs.

Northern Flying Squirrels are omnivores and feed on a variety of foods, including nuts, seeds, fruit, insects, and fungi.

A virginian red squirrel

Red Squirrel

Tamiasciurus hudsonicus

Red squirrels are small tree squirrels that are named for their reddish-brown fur. They have distinctive tufted ears and bushy tails. Red squirrels are mostly found in coniferous forests and woodlands, and they are known for their ability to climb trees and their energetic and acrobatic movements.

Red squirrels are omnivores, and their diet consists of a variety of foods, including nuts, seeds, fruits, and insects. They are known to store food for the winter, and they have been observed using their excellent sense of smell to locate their hidden caches. In addition to foraging for food, red squirrels are also known to prey on small animals, such as insects, birds, and mice.

Squirrel Anatomy and Role

Squirrel Life Cycle

Squirrels in Virginia typically breed twice a year, with the first litter born in late winter or early spring and the second in mid to late summer. The gestation period for squirrels is approximately four to six weeks, and litters typically consist of two to six young, with the average being three to four.

Young squirrels are born hairless and blind, and are dependent on their mother for nourishment and warmth for several weeks. As they grow, they begin to develop fur and their eyesight improves. Young squirrels will start exploring their surroundings and venture outside of the nest after about six to eight weeks. They will continue to nurse for several more weeks, but will also begin to eat solid foods such as nuts and seeds. Squirrels reach sexual maturity at around one year of age and can live up to 12 years in the wild, though most do not survive past their first year due to predators, disease, or accidents.

After mating, the female squirrel will give birth to a litter of 2-8 offspring, called kits, after a gestation period of around 4-6 weeks. The kits are born blind, hairless, and completely dependent on their mother for the first few months of their lives. The mother squirrel will nurse her young for 6-10 weeks, during which time the kits will grow rapidly and begin to develop fur and the ability to see and hear. After weaning, the young squirrels will remain with their mother for a few more weeks, learning important skills such as how to find food and build nests.

A Squirrel’s Role in the Ecosystem

Squirrels play an important ecological role in Virginia’s forest ecosystems as seed dispersers and predators. They consume a wide variety of plant material, including nuts, seeds, berries, fruits, and fungi, and have been shown to be effective at dispersing seeds over long distances. By caching food items, squirrels can also serve as seed dispersers and aid in the regeneration of forest ecosystems.

In addition to their role as seed dispersers, squirrels also serve as important prey for predators such as hawks, owls, and foxes. They are a critical component of the food web, and their populations can have significant impacts on other species within the ecosystem. For example, a decline in squirrel populations may result in reduced food availability for predators, potentially leading to declines in their populations as well.

Squirrel populations can also have important effects on plant communities within forest ecosystems. For example, when squirrel populations are high, they can have significant impacts on tree seedling survival and growth rates through seed predation and caching behavior. Conversely, when squirrel populations are low, there may be an increase in the density of tree seedlings due to reduced seed predation.

Overall, squirrels play a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance of Virginia’s forest ecosystems. As such, it is essential to manage and conserve squirrel populations and their habitats to ensure the continued health and stability of these important ecosystems.

Squirrel Habitat and Behavior

Squirrel Habitat and Distribution in Virginia

The Eastern Gray Squirrel is a common species found in the forests, woodlands, and urban areas of Virginia. They prefer habitats with a mix of trees, such as oak and hickory, and can be found throughout the state. These squirrels are well-adapted to urban areas and are frequently seen in parks and suburban neighborhoods. However, they are less common in areas with extensive agricultural or industrial development. Overall, the Eastern Gray Squirrel has a broad distribution across Virginia and can thrive in a variety of environments.

The Eastern Fox Squirrel is widely distributed throughout Virginia, occupying a range of habitats including urban and suburban areas, as well as woodlands and forests. They prefer forested areas with mature hardwood trees, but can also adapt to more open habitats with scattered trees. Fox squirrels build nests in trees, using branches and leaves to create a platform structure. They are found in most regions of Virginia, except for the higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountains.

Southern flying squirrels (Glaucomys volans) are small, nocturnal rodents found throughout Virginia. They are commonly found in deciduous and mixed forests, preferring areas with mature trees and abundant understory vegetation. Southern flying squirrels are found across much of the eastern United States, including Virginia, and can be identified by their large, dark eyes and gliding membrane, or patagium, that stretches between their front and hind legs. In Virginia, they can be found in a variety of forest types, including hardwood, mixed oak-pine, and hemlock forests, and are known to use nest boxes and tree cavities for shelter. Despite their name, Southern flying squirrels are not exclusive to the southern United States and can also be found in more northern areas, such as Virginia.

The Northern Flying Squirrel can be found in a variety of forested habitats throughout Virginia, including deciduous, coniferous, and mixed forests. They are more commonly found in the western parts of the state, where the habitat is suitable for their needs. Northern Flying Squirrels tend to prefer mature forests with abundant tree cover, as they use trees for food, shelter, and transportation. In Virginia, their distribution is not continuous, but rather fragmented across suitable habitats. They are more commonly found in mountainous regions such as the Appalachian Mountains, where the climate and habitat are ideal for their survival.

The Red Squirrel, also known as the American red squirrel, is a small tree squirrel species found in Virginia’s forests, woodlands, and coniferous forests. They prefer coniferous forests, particularly those with mature spruce, pine, and fir trees. Their range extends from Alaska to the eastern United States, including Virginia. Red squirrels are known for their vocalizations, which include chattering, scolding, and barking. They are active throughout the year and do not hibernate, although they may spend more time in their nests during the winter. Red squirrels are known to hoard food for the winter, particularly nuts, seeds, and cones from coniferous trees. They are also known to feed on fungi, bark, and sap.

Squirrel Behavior in Virginia

Squirrels are known for their curious and agile behavior in Virginia. They are diurnal animals, meaning they are most active during the day, and spend most of their time foraging for food on the ground and in trees. Squirrels are also known for their acrobatic abilities, such as jumping and running along tree branches with ease.

They are highly territorial and will defend their food and shelter from other squirrels and predators. During the winter months, squirrels may become more aggressive in their search for food, often raiding bird feeders and other food sources. Overall, squirrels are important members of Virginia’s ecosystem, playing a crucial role in seed dispersal and forest regeneration.

Squirrel Diet and Feeding Habits

Squirrels have a varied diet that includes both plant and animal matter. Their diet can differ depending on the season and the availability of food sources. In the spring and summer, squirrels consume a lot of nuts, seeds, fruits, and berries.

They are known to store food in preparation for the winter when these food sources become scarce. During the fall, they gather nuts and seeds to store for the winter.

In addition to plant matter, squirrels also eat insects, bird eggs, and small animals like caterpillars, grasshoppers, and baby birds. They have been known to raid bird nests to feed on eggs and nestlings. Squirrels are opportunistic feeders and will scavenge for food in urban areas, often raiding bird feeders and garbage cans.

They have also been known to chew on wood, bark, and tree sap for nutrients. Overall, squirrels have a diverse diet that allows them to adapt to changing food availability throughout the year.

Squirrels are known to hoard food for future consumption. They do this by burying nuts, acorns, and seeds in the ground, often in multiple locations.

Additionally, squirrels have been observed gnawing on animal bones, such as deer antlers, for their calcium content, which helps to keep their teeth healthy and strong.

Do You Have a Squirrel Problem?

Learn more about our Squirrel Removal Program or call us at (540) 776-1769