Squirreling Away for Winter

For some weeks red squirrels have been gathering cones. Although that sounds rather casual it’s serious business.

Red squirrel

Unlike some of their cousins, including Columbian ground squirrels, red squirrels don’t hibernate but stay active all winter. If the weather is extremely cold they remain in their nest but otherwise it’s not unusual to see them out in the snow.

Red squirrel

It always surprises me that the tiny seeds of spruce cones provide them with enough energy.  It’s double duty right now — eating enough to put on some weight and storing enough to see them through to spring. Those cones, along with the mushrooms they’ve harvested and dried, should do the trick.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel    Tamiasciurus hudsonicus


Over the years numerous red squirrels have staked their claim to this large stump and the midden that surrounds it. Middens and squirrels are common in our woods but this arrangement is different from most.

I spotted the cone pile first, right on top. An odd choice as cones are usually stored underground.

Alongside the cones was another surprise — a nest of dried grass and moss. And sitting in the nest, the current owner, with a great view of the neighbourhood.

On rainy days, the owner is absent so perhaps he (or she) is tucked down in the midden, safe and dry.

Red squirrel   Tamiasciuris hudsonicus
White spruce   Picea glauca