Common Name: Squirrel
Range: This bushy-tailed squirrel or red tailed Squirrel is found throughout the Costa Rica, Trinidad, Columbia, Tobago, Panama, Venezuela, and Ecuador. The back and sides of this short-haired, furry squirrel is reddish brown in color, but some squirrels have a darker colored skin. The color of the tail of most of the red-tailed squirrels is rust-red and some of them have a black-colored tip. The other types of squirrels are less likely to be seen and are usually smaller and live at high altitudes.
Size: The little squirrel is just about 20-28 cm long (without tail) and it has a long and bushy tail. The male squirrel is long compare to the female. Squirrels are the cleanest creature in the rodent family.
Weight: It is weighing around 10 g (0.022 lbs) at the birth and adult can get a weight about 374 g (0.8 lbs).
Diet: Although these squirrels thrive on apples, however, they are joyfully feed with other types of fruits as well. Squirrel enjoys eating large seeds, hard nuts, leaves, flowers, twigs, tree frogs eggs, and insects.
Average life span: The average life span of the squirrel is about six years.
Habitat: Squirrels are found mainly at higher altitudes about 3000 meters up from the sea level. The red-tailed squirrels are a terrestrial mammal animal and are available on the wet forests, Pacific slopes, and at the Caribbean region on land and trees.
The red-tailed squirrels are available in the following parks of Costa Rica.
Robert & Catherine Wilson Botanical Garden, Corcovado National Park, Arenal Volcano National Park, La Amistad National Park, Braulio Carrillo National Park, Braulio Carrillo National Park, Irazú Volcano National Park, Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge, Tortuguero National Park, Cahuita National Park, Rincón de La Vieja National Park, La Amistad National Park, Poás Volcano National Park, La Selva Biological Reserve, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.
Breeding/Reproduction: These squirrels are quite protective while the males lead an itinerant life and are not protective like their females. You can easily observe both the sexes of squirrel enjoying the mountain apples in the tropical forests of Costa Rica and around. Nests are made at lower levels in tree crowns or in the forest canopy, tree hollows, vine tangles, or bushes near the ground. Several species of tree squirrels produce several litters each year.
The gestation period varies from 33 days in pine squirrels, the smaller species and up to 60 days for larger squirrel species such as fox squirrels and the gray squirrel. New born squirrel weighs about an ounce at the time of birth, and it has a length about one inch. They do not have the hair or teeth, and are almost blind during the six to eight weeks initially.
There are over 365 species of squirrels in seven families. They include the tree squirrel, ground squirrel, and flying squirrel. Plus many squirrel-like mammals such as the gopher, ground hog and prairie dog.
The Red-tailed squirrel is a rodent from the family Sciuridae and can be found in damp and dense locations of tropical America. Specifically, they are commonly seen in Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Tobago. An adult red-tailed squirrel on an average measures 20-28 cm without the tail and weighs less than 500 grams. They are usually reddish brown in color, but some exceptions are much darker. The color of their long and bushy tails is always rusting like red color. These little squirrels like higher altitudes and are found over 2,500 meters above sea level.
The red-tailed squirrel is diurnal by nature, and will be most active a between 6:30 to 11:00 in the mornings. They then take a break before resuming activity late afternoon. The red-tail squirrel will feed on a variety of plant species. They love eating seeds and hard seeds, but they also eat small fruits, tree bark, leaves, insects, fungi, frog eggs and flowers. The female squirrels tend to have a far more diverse diet than an adult male. These squirrels prefer to mate when food is abundant; hence, breeding season happens in March and April when the Scheele fruits ripen. The red-tailed squirrel is extremely noisy and careless during mating and will often attract predators. They will often form groups of 10 or more around the female and will fight each other the entire day.
Squirrels are usually born in the early spring. The average litter consists of four. This varies with climate and location. A second litter can occur in mid summer, if there is an adequate food supply.
A female squirrel will choose the strongest male during mating season, but is unlikely to breed with that male again. This is nature’s way of reducing inbreeding, and to preserve the species.
The male red-tailed squirrel does not help take care of the young. Hence, among these squirrels, females are the ones with territories, where they build their nest and care for their babies. Their nests are generally based in abandoned woodpecker holes, and tree cavities and are lined with soft leaves and shredded bark to make the babies comfortable. The red-tailed squirrel is a “least concern” as far as its conservation status goes.
These squirrels are arboreal squirrels and are generally found in primary and secondary forests of South America and Costa Rica where the land is moist and wet at the altitude of 2500 m (8200 feet). The most common places where these squirrels can be seen in plenty are the cloudy forests of Costa Rica. Many of them can be observed in and around the cities of Costa Rica and San Gerardo de Dota. Since these areas are centers of apple orchards, you will find a number of local birds and squirrels that eat happily on the apples.
In different geographic areas, these red-tailed squirrels differ in color, but all of them have wholy or partly red tails. The upper part of the red-tailed squirrel population found in Costa Rica is olive brown while their lower part is rusty orange in color. Although, in appearance, they look alike, the Variegated Squirrels, their counter parts, also found in Costa Rica, have tails with grizzled gray color.
During the summer season squirrels are active only two to three hours after the sunrise, and then they will rest in the afternoon. They resume their activities again two hours before sunset. The squirrel will go to their nest well before dark, and they will not leave their nest in the dark. In winter season, the squirrel will complete its activities between dawn and mid- day, and will remain in or around the nest until the next morning.
During winter storms, or harsh cold, the squirrel may not leave the nest for several days. But, the tree squirrel does not hibernate!
An adult squirrel normally lives alone. But will, in severe cold, share its nest with other squirrels to conserve body heat. Once the temperature rises, the guests will be on their way.
Squirrels eyes are positioned on top, and can see on each side. This allows them a wide field of vision, without turning their head.
Squirrels masticate on tree branches to clean their teeth. That’s why you may see many small branches on the ground around large trees. A squirrel’s brain is about the size of a walnut.
The average adult squirrel needs to eat about a pound of food a week to maintain an active life.