The western gray squirrel is a marvelous creature. Its defining feature is an amazingly bushy tail that is nearly as long as its body. It has a beautiful coat of gray fur frosted with silver-white tips. Its underside and the crescents that bracket its eyes are white.
Look for this animal acrobatically moving through the trees or hopping around on the ground as it forages for food. A staple part of its diet at the arboretum is acorns. When the nuts are ripe, it will bury them in the ground or use a tree cavity to cache them. In June, I’ll see it whittle down the oak galls, presumably to eat the insect larvae inside. In early August, I’ll see it eating the inner bark of big leaf maples—under the tree will be small pieces of bark etched with teeth marks. I also see it eating Douglas-fir seeds and fungi.
For nesting, it uses tree cavities or builds a nest of sticks and leaves. It bears a single litter each year between late February and May.
It is a fairly shy animal and is rarely vocal. It is very aware of its surroundings, so I have to move slowly or be still to observe it. If it feels uncertain or afraid, it will scurry up into the tree canopy or bound away along the forest floor.
Mathews, Daniel. Cascade-Olympic Natural History. Raven Editions in conjunction with Portland Audubon Society, 1988.
Moskowitz, David. Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest: Tracking and Identifying Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, and Invertebrates. Timber Press, 2010.