Watching squirrels run around, it would be easy to think they are playful creatures. In reality, squirrels can be very territorial – much like blue jays. In fact, many C.W. Post alumni have stories of squirrels chittering at them as if to tell the students to stay away.
Depending upon the type of squirrel, they could be either solitary or live in groups. In case you were wondering, squirrel colonies are called a scurry or a drey.
Are Eastern Gray Squirrels Territorial?
Eastern gray squirrels sometimes give the appearance of being territorial…. though they actually are not. However, they do tend to form hierarchies of dominance, according to Michael Steele of Wilkes University in Pennsylvania. To establish dominance, the squirrels will act aggressively toward each other and chase one another – which looks like territorialism to the untrained eye.
Gray squirrels also do a less aggressive form of chasing in the spring when they are seeking mates. Male squirrels will chase the females. It’s not forceful, but rather a ritual as they assess each other. Lastly, young gray squirrels will chase each other to playfully mimic and learn how to fight, just like puppies and kittens do.
Squirrels also have a complicated method of communicating. That can involve warning off possible threats of any kind as well as more normal communication when they chitter at other creatures.
Are Squirrels Aggressive?
While some squirrels are territorial, the species doesn’t matter when it comes to a particularly unsavory practice. Regardless of the type of squirrel, some males will kill their rivals’ young when food is abundant.
Northern flying squirrels and American red squirrels are quite territorial. They mark their territory with urine, displays of tail wagging, and chittering (vocalizations) that tell interlopers they should stay away.
Technically, though, female squirrels of any species can act territorial if they are protecting their nest or their young. Even the friendliest squirrel species will defend its home from interlopers under those circumstances.
Are Squirrels Loners?
Adult tree squirrels live alone or as small families rather than extended groups like some squirrel species do. Even among the squirrel species that are loners, they will sometimes gather for mutual benefit. When the weather is extremely cold, normally solitary squirrels will huddle together for warmth to survive.
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