Gray and red squirrels are two common tree-dwelling species. While both are adept at tree climbing, they are different in many other important ways.
Gray squirrels eat acorns, hickory nuts, beechnuts, butternuts, and walnuts and therefore tend to live in forests with trees that bear nuts. When a gray squirrel finds a nut, it will either eat it immediately or bury it and mark the hiding place with its scent. It will return at a later date to find it by smell, dig it up, and eat it, unless another squirrel has eaten it first. Nuts that are not eaten can eventually grow into trees.
Red squirrels sometimes eat nuts, but they prefer seeds from conifers, such as pine, spruce, fir, and hemlock. They tend to live in evergreen forests. Red squirrels hide their food in a hollow tree or underground. When they retrieve pine cones, they take them to a feeding stump or log to eat them.
Both gray and red squirrels also eat softer plant material. They sometimes incorporate berries, apples, and mushrooms into their diets.
Squirrels are omnivorous. Both red and gray squirrels eat birds’ eggs and baby birds. Gray squirrels consume insects, caterpillars, and woodland frogs, and red squirrels eat small mammals, such as mice and voles.
Squirrels can also wind up as prey for other animals, including foxes, coyotes, bobcats, fishers, and some birds. They are very wary and have developed excellent survival skills.
Squirrels can climb trees and jump quickly from branch to branch, following carefully chosen routes that they have marked with their scent.
Red squirrels are very territorial and will defend their home ranges and stores of food. They use vocalizations, wave their tails, and stomp their feet to warn other animals to stay away.
Gray squirrels are less territorial. They live together in communal dens in the winter, and their home ranges sometimes overlap. Females are only territorial when they have babies in their nests. When there is a conflict, it is usually decided with a friendly chase, not with aggression.