Tamiasciurus hudsonicus “Red Squirrel” Sciuridae

Missoula, MT
October 24, 2015
Robert Niese

Red Squirrels are rarely found in town here in Missoula. They require an ample supply of pine cones unlike their more adaptive relatives, the Eastern Fox Squirrel and the Eastern Gray Squirrel. But in neighborhoods adjacent to our nearby open spaces, these critters can adapt to live alongside people. This little guy was busy munching on an overripe plum when I interrupted him for a photo.

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Tamiasciurus hudsonicus “Red Squirrel” Sciuridae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3, 2015
Robert Niese

Red Squirrels are found throughout Nearctic coniferous forests where they defend territories year-round (they don’t hibernate). In the summer, squirrels will collect cones, seeds, and mushrooms in large caches which they feed from throughout the winter. As they eat these cones, they discard the scales in massive piles, called middens, which can grow to be over a meter tall. Winters here in Montana tend to be devoid of active fauna, however, these squirrels will angrily chirp at snowshoers and cross-country-skiers that wander through their territories.

Larix occidentalis “Western Larch” Pinaceae (cone with evidence of seed predation by Tamiasciurus hudsonicus Red Squirrel)

Seeley Lake, MT
September 13, 2014
Robert Niese

Red Squirrels are cone specialists and create massive debris piles, called middens, in areas where they regularly eat (typically atop a stump, fallen log, or low, broad tree branch). These middens are easy to spot and are often more than a meter in width. In Western Washington, these cone middens are usually created by the Red Squirrel’s cousin, the Douglas Squirrel (T. douglasii).