By Ali Dunstan
One of the most frequent and prolific animals that we can observe in the state would have to be the squirrel. Florida is home to several species of squirrels, with three of those being widespread throughout Hillsborough County.
The most abundant species is the eastern gray squirrel. Eastern gray squirrels are curious by nature and comfortable inhabiting woodland, urban and residential areas.
These bushy-tailed, highly adaptable critters are members of the rodent family and are most active during the day. As a ground-feeding, tree-dwelling omnivore, the gray squirrel’s diet consists mostly of fruits, acorns, insects, seeds and eggs.
Territorial and vocal, these cute, agile creatures usually build nests in trees or even in attics, yielding one to four babies per litter. It is common this time of year to find a young squirrel fallen from a nest at the base of a tree.
Never fret, for mama is not far and most likely frantic that one of her young has fallen from the nest. Often, concerned citizens mistakenly kidnap these fallen babies and bring them to a veterinarian or a wildlife rehab center with all the right intentions but sadly minimize their chance of survival.
If you do happen upon a fallen baby that is not injured, simply take a shoebox or anything similar, fill it with substrate from the ground and nail it to the tree near where the animal was found.
One step further would be to renest the animal if you can find where that nest may be. This gesture will allow mama and baby the opportunity to reunite and give it the best chance of survival.
There are several other species of squirrels in the state, for we are also home to the smaller, nocturnal southern flying squirrel as well as the larger fox squirrel.
Flying squirrels are most active in the evening and can be seen gliding from one tree to another. The lesser-known fox squirrel is the largest squirrel species native to North America and can reach up to 3 pounds and lengths up to 26 inches. With four subspecies of fox squirrels in the state, two of them are protected as species of special concern. These squirrels are less common to observe and are more likely to be found on the ground foraging.
No matter the size, color or species of squirrel around us, we are fortunate to share our space with these quirky and fun animals.