|Tamiasciurus hudsonicus (Erxleben)|
Don Linzey & Christy Brecht
Wytheville Community College
Wytheville, Virginia 24382
Last updated: 26 November, 2005
- Adult total length:
10 - 14 in. (250 - 350 mm)
4 - 6 in. (100 - 150 mm)
- Hind foot:
1 3/4 - 2 in. (43 - 51 mm)
7 - 8 3/4 oz. (200 - 250 g)
The dorsal pelage of the red squirrel is reddish-gray and the
underparts are whitish. During the summer a black stripe is
present along each side of the body. Ear tufts are present in
winter. Two melanistic individuals were seen at Cosby in 1934
(Komarek and Komarek, 1938).
left lateral view of
skull and mandible
dorsal view of skull
ventral view of skull
The red squirrel ranges from Alaska and Canada southeastward east of the central
grasslands to Virginia and south along the Appalachian Mountains to North Carolina,
South Carolina, and Tennessee. In the West, the range extends southward along the
Rocky Mountains to southern Arizona and New Mexico.
||Mice, Rats, Hamsters, etc.
||Woodchucks, Chipmunks, Squirrels
The red squirrel can be found in coniferous, mixed coniferous, and deciduous forests.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
Red squirrels are fairly common in the park. They are known
locally as "mountain boomers" and have been observed at all
elevations in the park. Like many other species, red squirrel
populations tend to fluctuate depending on the available food
- Cocke Co.:
Cosby; Indian Camp Creek; Snake Den Mountain (4,500 feet);
Inadu Knob (4,500 - 5,900 feet).
- Sevier Co.:
Park headquarters (1,450 feet); Sugarlands (1,800 feet);
Elkmont; Greenbrier (1,700 - 4,700 feet); Buck Fork (3,000 -
4,000 feet); Dry Sluice Gap; Fort Harry Cliffs; Jakes Creek;
Newfound Gap Road (4,500 feet); Horseshoe Mountain; Indian
Gap (5,200 feet); Sugarland Mountain Trail near the
Appalachian Trail (6,000 feet); Mt. Guyot (6,500 feet); Mt.
LeConte (6,593 feet).
- Haywood Co.:
Big Creek; Cataloochee; Mt. Sterling.
- State (Tenn. - N.C.) line:
Double Springs Gap; Sheep Pen Gap; Newfound Gap (5,000 feet);
Mt. Collins (5,900 feet); Mt. Kephart (6,200 feet); Old
- Swain Co.:
Deep Creek; Ravensford; Smokemont (3,000 - 4,800 feet);
Forney Creek; Jonas Creek; Round Bottom; Pin Oak Gap; Richland
Mountain; Clingmans Dome (6,400 feet).
Red squirrels breed during the spring and summer. Gestation is 32 - 38
days (Lair, 1985) with litters ranging from two to
seven young. Newborn red squirrels are pink, hairless, and blind. By
two weeks, the fur has a reddish tinge and at about four weeks, the eyes
open. The young emerge from their nest at about 40 days of age and are
completely weaned and independent in seven to eight weeks. Six young red
squirrels were found in a nest in a hollow limb of a large yellow birch
tree (4,500 feet) on August 22 (Linzey, 1995b). The
young were less than half the size of adults. Within four days after their
discovery, the young squirrels had their eyes open. The Komareks recorded
a half-grown squirrel on October 9. Throughout most of its range the red
squirrel has only one litter per year, but in the southeastern and
southwestern parts of its range some females apparently have two litters
in some years.
Some red squirrels have lived as long as nine years.
- Terrestrial Ecology
Red squirrels are solitary and active during the day throughout the year.
They come to the ground mainly to find food. Foraging for food takes place
primarily in early morning and late afternoon. Although red squirrels are
active during all seasons, they may remain in their nests for several days
at a time during periods of severe weather. The nest of shredded bark and
grasses is usually located in a natural tree cavity or a woodpecker hole.
During the winter, several squirrels may occupy a single den cavity.
Food includes seeds, nuts, mushrooms, buds, and fruits such as blackberries.
In the park, squirrels have been observed feeding on the fruits of cucumber
tree, mountain holly, American chestnut, buckeye, black walnut, silverbell,
beech and serviceberry; on the seeds of mountain maple, hemlock, pine, fir,
and spruce; mushrooms; the buds of the great white rhododendron and the
buckeye; and garbage from roadside cans, one red squirrel was observd feeding
on the sap of the yellow birch in April (Stupka, 1938).
These squirrels occasionally raid bird's nests and consume the eggs and/or
nestling birds. In 1952, an individual was found near Newfound Gap eating a
nestling red-breasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) (Grimes, 1952).
- Predators and Defense
Red squirrels have been found in the stomachs of two timber rattlesnakes
(Crotalus horridus) found at Mt. Sterling Bald (
Stupka, 1939) and at Sheep Pen Gap (Tanner, pers. comm.. to Stupka,
1949). Likewise, squirrels identified only as Sciurus sp. were recorded
from three additional timber rattlesnakes by Savage (1967).
A number of squirrels are killed every year by automobiles on park roads.
Fleas, lice, and mites were recorded from this species by Komarek and Komarek
Links to Other Sites
- Special Protection Status
- In Park:
All plants and animals are protected within
Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Collection requires a permit which is usually
granted only for research or educational purposes.
- Map development
- Web page design & coding
- Denise Lim, University of Georgia, Athens
- John Pickering, University of Georgia, Athens
Fleetwood, R. J. 1934 - 35.
Journal of Raymond J. Fleetwood, wildlife technician, Great
Smoky Mountains National Park, for the period May 27, 1934 -
June 27, 1935. 499 pp. (Typewritten).
Grimes, S. A. 1952.
Photographing the red-breasted nuthatch. Chat 16: 80 - 81.
Komarek, E. V. and R. Komarek. 1938.
Mammals of the Great Smoky Mountains. Bulletin of the Chicago
Academy of Sciences 5 (6): 137 - 162.
Lair, H. 1985. Length of gestation in the red squirrel,
Tamiasciurus hudsonicus. Journal of Mammalogy 66(4): 809-810.
Linzey, D. W. 1995a.
Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Blacksburg,
Virginia: The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Inc.
Linzey, D. W. 1995b.
Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park-1995 Update.
Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 111(1):1-81.
Linzey, D. W. 1998.
The Mammals of Virginia. Blacksburg, Virginia: The McDonald &
Woodward Publishing Company, Inc.
Savage, T. 1967.
The diet of rattlesnakes and copperheads in the Great Smoky
Mountains National Park. Copeia 1967 (1): 226 - 227.
Stupka, A. 1935 - 63.
Nature Journal, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 28 vols. (years)
each with index. (Typewritten copy in files of Great Smoky Mountains
National Park library).
Young, P. J. 1999.
Red squirrel. Pages 460 - 461. In: D.E. Wilson, and S. Ruff (editors.).
The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington, D.C.:
Smithsonian Institution Press.
Last modified: 10 April, 2002