Natural Sightings #592 - Western Gray Squirrel.jpg

In another month or two, Gray Squirrels will be busy collecting two of their most important food sources.

Eric Williamson took this photo of a Western Gray Squirrel (Sciurus griseus) as it briefly paused on the side of a Blue Oak in West Golden Hills. In another month or two, Gray Squirrels will be busy collecting two of their most important food sources: acorns and pine nuts, both of which contain lots of oil and carbohydrates that help the squirrels put on fat for the coming winter.

Gray Squirrels forage on the ground but prefer to do most of their traveling aloft, leaping and running along the branches from tree to tree. These bushy-tailed climbers are diurnal, like all squirrels in our area, and spend their nights sleeping.

They build nests, called dreys, up in trees. The main type of nest is rounded and enclosed, with sticks, leaves and long grasses used in its construction, and is used in cooler weather and for birthing and raising kits. A simpler open nest or sleeping platform is also made for warmer weather and more temporary use.

In more recent years, Gray Squirrels seem to have increased their range, possibly being assisted in moving into our outlying residential areas because of increased tree cover from ornamental trees that homeowners have planted.

The Tehachapi area has three different species of squirrels: Grey Squirrels, California Ground Squirrels and Merriam's Chipmunks. Grey Squirrels are the largest, and have much fluffier tails than the (overly) ubiquitous California Ground Squirrels.

The Nuwa (Kawaiisu) word for Gray Squirrel is wogotivaazi, pronounced wogo-tiva-AZEH.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.

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