Six Things to Know about Red Squirrels!

With fall officially here to stay (for the time being), you’ll no doubt spot a variety of animals scurrying about as they make their winter preparations. One such critter you’ll likely spy this season is the beautiful, yet feisty red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). A native to Alberta, this industrious rodent can be easily identified by its signature reddish coat that thickens considerably as cooler weather approaches. But did you know that the red squirrel is closely related to chipmunks? Or that a litter of red squirrels usually clocks in at four or five babies?

In case you can’t get enough of these lovable yet territorial rodents, here are six facts you may not know about red squirrels:

  1. Though their name hints at a totally red coat, red squirrels aren’t actually fully red in colour. The coats on their backs can range from a grey-brown to a shock of rusty red, while their throats, bellies, and rings around their eyes provide a contrast of stark white.
  2. Red squirrels don’t hibernate during the winter – in fact, they stay active throughout the season. If you spot a red squirrel hurrying about during the fall, it’s likely because he’s on a mission to prepare for the upcoming cold months by collecting and storing food for future consumption.
  3. While we all imagine squirrels munching merrily on nuts or acorns, the red squirrel’s diet is much more varied than those singular items. True, their main source of nutrition comes from some nuts and the seeds from pine cones. But, by definition, red squirrels are omnivores, and their diets extend to include flowers, berries, mushrooms, bugs, mice, eggs, and small birds.
  4. Red squirrels have a firm grasp on food storage. Using tree cavities, underbrush piles, or dens as their own pantries, red squirrels can ensure that the food they’ve gathered for the winter will be kept safely and out of the way of trespassers. Before storing mushrooms that they’ve foraged, red squirrels have been known to lay them out to dry on tree branches.
  5. Red squirrels are feisty and territorial towards intruders, and confrontation between two red squirrels often entails a lot of tail flicking, chattering, and foot stomping. Though these actions may seem adorable to us as onlookers, it can mean that things are getting heated in a squirrel argument.
  6. There’s a reason why a red squirrel’s tail is so big and bushy: when it’s not being flicked around to intimidate a rival, the tail of a red squirrel is primarily used for balance as the animal jumps from tree to tree in wooded areas. With a tail that measures to be about half the size of an average red squirrel (six and 12 inches, respectively), half of the animal’s body’s length is devoted to helping it keep balance and intimidating other squirrels.

If you happen to see a red squirrel – or any injured wild animal, for that matter – that’s injured or abandoned, please contact AIWC at 403-946-2361 for assistance.

By Giselle Wedemire, AIWC Volunteer



16 responses to “Six Things to Know about Red Squirrels!”

  1. Steve says:

    Are red squirrels more destructive that grays or blacks?

    My neighbor insists the are more destructive and has begun her own progr am of trap and transport.

  2. editor says:

    Hello Steve,
    There are many ways to humanely deter squirrels from causing damage to a home, and without having to relocate them. If your neighbour is open to it, we’d definitely recommend this resource: Hope this helps!

  3. kim says:

    is the red squirrel a keystone species and how ?

  4. editor says:

    Squirrels definitely can be considered a keystone species as they are the primary food source for many animals 🙂

  5. Daphne says:

    I see red squirrel nests up high in the trees and have often wondered how they can survive a blizzard in such relatively unsheltered conditions. And how the nests resist being blown apart .

  6. Mel says:

    In what months do red squirrels have their litters? I have a nest in my house and before sealing the hole I’d like to know the litter is out.

  7. editor says:

    Hi Mel,
    Red squirrels will already be having young, if they haven’t already. It depends on the year, but they can have them as early as March. For more information, please call out wildlife hotline at 403-946-2361. Thank you!

  8. Florence says:

    I rescued a newborn red squirrel and bottle fed him. He had no hair and eyes were closed. He slept in a cat’s travel cage with a heating pad. He is now 7 weeks old, eats ground nuts , bananas and seeds. He will no longer take the bottle. I believe he is ready to go on his go on his own. What do you suggest I do now?

  9. editor says:

    Hi Florence,

    If you haven’t already, please call our Wildlife Hotline at 403-946-2361 as we can better assist you over the phone. Thank you!

  10. John P Nightingale says:

    Lethbridge Aberta (Galt Gardens)
    Late afternoon, 14th June 2019 identified a Red Squirrel.
    I asked a passer by to take a photo as I had no camera.
    Waiting for the image.
    I can confirm this as being a RS.
    Very tame.
    I was not aware they were actually here, so perhaps a release ??
    On the other hand they could easily travel thru the Oldman river system and reside in the mature spruce nearby.
    Interested in your thoughts.

  11. editor says:

    Hi John,
    We do have red squirrels in Alberta so it’s likely this was a red squirrel, but if you would like us to take a look at the image once you receive it, please email it to us at Thank you! 🙂

  12. Cynthia Jamieson says:

    Will red squirrels attack chipmunks

  13. editor says:

    Hi Cynthia, it is possible but we don’t have any experiences to share of this happening. Is this something you have seen?

  14. Rachel Jean says:

    Cynthia, I have around 20 red squirrels & 30 chipmunks living in and around & under my home. Food is plenty. I live in Maine. They absolutely get along…the red squirrel will run the chipmunk off just a few feet then return to eating, but nothing more. I’ve seen chipmunks run the red squirrel off as well. I’ve never seen them brawl. When not eating, they stay clear of each other and live in harmony. If possible, try to give them all their own feeding area. It keeps the squabbling down. But if not, they know when each other is not around and they take turns on num num.

  15. Alex says:

    We have lived in a rural foothills setting for over 30 years and red squirrel s have been a constant part of our area. We also maintain several bird feeders and enjoy the squirrels as well as a great variety of birds. We have had cases where red squirrels will chew open the entrance to our bird nesting boxes and eat the eggs, but this year for the first time we have had several red squirrels actually prey upon birds ( a Siskin and a goldfinch) . This happened on a tray feeder within 3 feet of the bay window by our kitchen table. It was both deliberate and very efficient. It’s almost as if this years litter of squirrels has a different survival pattern than we have seen before. Any other comments?

  16. editor says:

    Wow, very interesting that this is something they have started doing this year. As you know, it is common for them to feed on eggs and in some cases, small songbirds. If you are concerned, you could try different feeders that the squirrels have a harder time getting access to so the birds are not easy prey. Will be interesting to see if this behaviour continues after this year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.