Prince Edward Island is not only home to stunning landscapes and charming towns, but it also boasts a diverse population of squirrels. With four types of squirrels calling this island province their home, there is never a dull moment for nature enthusiasts. The Eastern Gray Squirrel is a familiar sight, often seen indulging in bird food and munching on nuts. On the other hand, the American Red Squirrel may be small, but it compensates for its size with its feisty and aggressive nature. The Northern and Southern Flying Squirrels, both nocturnal creatures, possess the remarkable ability to glide through the air from tree to tree. While the Northern Flying Squirrel prefers coniferous forests and sustains itself on fungi and lichens, the Southern Flying Squirrel thrives in deciduous forests, where it leads a socially active life, foraging and resting in large groups. It’s important to note that these furry creatures have distinctive ranges and habitats, and some have even become invasive species in certain parts of the world. So, if you find yourself on Prince Edward Island, keep your eyes peeled for these incredible squirrels and experience the wonder of nature firsthand.
Eastern Gray Squirrel
The Eastern Gray Squirrel is one of the most common squirrel species found in Prince Edward Island. They are medium-sized squirrels with a body length of about 9 to 12 inches and have a long, bushy tail that helps them balance while climbing. Their fur varies in color from gray to brown, and they often have white underbellies. Eastern Gray Squirrels have sharp claws and strong hind legs, which enable them to climb trees with ease.
Eastern Gray Squirrels are adaptable and can thrive in various habitats, including forests, urban parks, and residential neighborhoods. They build their nests, called dreys, in the forks of trees using leaves, twigs, and other materials. These dreys provide them with shelter and protection from predators and harsh weather conditions.
Eastern Gray Squirrels have a diverse diet that includes a wide range of food sources. They are known for their love for bird food and often raid bird feeders to find seeds and nuts. In addition to bird food, they also consume acorns, tree bark, fungi, berries, and insects. They have a keen sense of smell, which helps them locate hidden food stores.
Eastern Gray Squirrels are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day. They are agile climbers and spend a significant amount of their time in trees, leaping from branch to branch. These squirrels are known for their playful behavior and can often be seen chasing and playing with their fellow squirrels. They are also territorial and mark their territories using scent marks from glands located around their cheeks.
American Red Squirrel
The American Red Squirrel is smaller in size compared to other squirrel species. They have a body length of about 6 to 8 inches and a distinctive reddish-brown fur on their back and sides. Their bellies are white or creamy in color, and they have bushy tails that help them maintain their balance while moving through trees. American Red Squirrels have sharp claws and large ears.
American Red Squirrels are commonly found in forests and wooded areas. They prefer coniferous forests, where they build their nests in tree cavities or construct dreys using twigs, moss, and leaves. These squirrels are territorial and defend their territories vigorously against intruders.
American Red Squirrels have a varied diet that consists mainly of seeds, nuts, and cones from coniferous trees. They are known for their ability to strip the scales off of pine cones to access the seeds inside. In addition to their primary food sources, they also consume fungi, berries, and occasionally insects.
American Red Squirrels are known for their energetic and active behavior. They are agile climbers and spend a significant amount of their time in trees. These squirrels are highly territorial and will aggressively defend their territories against other squirrels. They communicate through a series of vocalizations, including high-pitched chirps and screeches.
Northern Flying Squirrel
The Northern Flying Squirrel is a small species of squirrel with a body length of about 8 to 10 inches. They have loose folds of skin that extend between their forelimbs and hindlimbs, allowing them to glide from tree to tree. Their fur is soft and dense, varying in color from gray to reddish-brown. They have large, dark eyes that provide them with excellent night vision.
Northern Flying Squirrels are primarily found in coniferous forests and wooded areas with dense vegetation. They prefer habitats with tall trees that provide them with ample opportunities for gliding. These squirrels build their nests in tree cavities or use abandoned bird nests. They are primarily nocturnal and are most active during the night.
Northern Flying Squirrels have a specialized diet that includes fungi, lichens, seeds, nuts, and fruits. They have a unique ability to digest lichens due to specialized bacteria in their digestive system. They are known to forage extensively during the night, often traveling long distances to locate food sources.
Northern Flying Squirrels are social animals and often forage and rest together in large groups. They communicate with each other through a combination of vocalizations and scent marking. When threatened, they freeze in place to avoid detection. These squirrels are highly arboreal and spend the majority of their time in trees, gliding effortlessly from branch to branch.
Southern Flying Squirrel
The Southern Flying Squirrel is similar in size to the Northern Flying Squirrel, with a body length of about 8 to 10 inches. They also have loose folds of skin that allow them to glide from tree to tree. They have soft, gray or brown fur and large eyes that are well adapted for night vision.
Southern Flying Squirrels are commonly found in deciduous forests and wooded areas with a mixture of tree species. They build their nests in tree cavities or utilize abandoned bird nests. These squirrels are primarily nocturnal and are most active during the night.
Southern Flying Squirrels have a varied diet consisting of seeds, nuts, fruits, insects, and fungi. They are known to hoard food in their nests to sustain themselves during periods of food scarcity. Their diet helps support their energy requirements for their gliding activities during the night.
Southern Flying Squirrels, like their Northern counterparts, are social animals and often forage and rest together in large groups. They have a strong sense of communication and use a combination of vocalizations and scent marking to interact with each other. When gliding, they use their long tail as a rudder to navigate through the air.
Differences between the Squirrel Species
Range and Distribution
Each squirrel species has its unique range and distribution. The Eastern Gray Squirrel is common in Prince Edward Island and can be found in various habitats throughout the island. On the other hand, the American Red Squirrel has a wider range and is found across North America, including Prince Edward Island. The Northern Flying Squirrel is primarily found in coniferous forests and is more commonly seen in northern regions. The Southern Flying Squirrel is prevalent in deciduous forests in the southern parts of North America.
While some squirrel species are native to their respective habitats, others have become invasive species in certain parts of the world. The Eastern Gray Squirrel, for example, has been introduced to several regions outside its native range, including the United Kingdom. In these areas, they have displaced native red squirrels and have become a cause for concern. These invasive populations often compete with native species for resources and can have significant ecological impacts.
In summary, the Eastern Gray Squirrel, American Red Squirrel, Northern Flying Squirrel, and Southern Flying Squirrel are four distinct squirrel species found in Prince Edward Island. Each species has its own unique characteristics, habitat preferences, and behaviors. Understanding these differences helps us appreciate the diversity of these fascinating creatures and the important roles they play in their respective ecosystems.