American Red Squirrel Midden

Pine cone eaten clear to the core, photographed at a Pine Squirrel midden. The mid-day light was very harsh and too contrasty-click images to view details.

Adjacent to where we noticed the Japanese maple tree, Dale Resca, the Facilities Manager at Willowdale, discovered an American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) midden.

American Red Squirrel Midden

A squirrel midden is essentially a squirrel’s favorite place to eat; the fallen scales from consumed seed cones collect in piles, called middens. Sitting on their claimed stump, fallen log, or branch, the squirrel pulls the scales off the cones to get to the seeds.

American Red Squirrel Cache of Pine Cones

You can see from the above photo why the American Red Squirrel is often referred to as the Pine Squirrel. Ripening in late summer, the squirrels collect pine cones and store in a central cache. American Red Squirrels do not hibernate during the winter months; the caches of cones supply nourishment when food supplies are running low.

The American Red Squirrel is widely distributed throughout North America. They are smaller than a gray squirrel and somewhat larger than a chipmunk, with reddish fur and white venter, or underbelly.

American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) ~ Image courtesy Google images 

16 comments

  • I just love your posts and look forward to them everyday

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  • One of these dudes middens is inside my garage where he leaves piles of acorns hidden in all sorts of places. By spring they are all just a pile of husks. Maybe I need to set up a web camera. Pretty sure it’s a red squirrel. He looks at me like I am annoying him when I am in his territory, (my house.)

    I’ll be on the lookout for middens outside now I know what to look for.

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    • and I agree with Donna. You have me looking at butterflies more than I ever had and now I got red squirrels I have to keep an eye on. Maybe I’ll just leave him a pile of peanuts. That’ll freak him out.

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      • Thank you Both for your very sweet words.

        When the gray squirrels moved into our house and we had to capture them, we read about, and tried, all the sorts of fancy appetizers, for example peanut butter spread on a cracker, with a maraschino cherry on top. The one and only thing that they fell for every time was a single peanut in a shell–and my husband trapped over 25 squirrels.

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    • That would be very cool to see the Red Squirrel through a webcam.I read that subsequent generations use the same middens–and that the mounds can be as small as a meter and as large as a garage!!!!

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  • Informative post with cool photos! I love squirrels. Some people think of squirrels as extra-furry rats. For me, the similarity doesn’t make squirrels gross; if anything, it makes rats cuter…

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  • Kim – I heard an interview on NPR yesterday with author Barbara Kingsolver about her new novel “Flight Behavior”. As one reviewer on Amazon says, “In this story, the survival techniques of the Monarch butterfly, those bright orange, delicate but hardy creatures, and that of a diminutive, flame-haired young woman are inextricably intertwined and analogous.” Have you heard about it? Sounds like a novel you might enjoy.

    We had squirrels briefly in our house once; not fun. I am only a fan of the creatures when they stay outside!

    I enjoy your pictures and learning about nature from your postings. Thanks!

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    • Thank you for writing Mary and for your kind comments. I did not hear the author speak about her book, but did hear a review of it on NPR. The reviewer was not kind–saying that the idea that the Monarchs could become trapped in Tennessee was too improbable. I disagree with the reviewer; I think it is plausible, and his comment only made me want to look for the book. Thank you for sharing!

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  • Kim — thanks for the informative post.

    Red squirrels are regular vistitors to our ‘squirrel-proof’ bird feeder, the type with an outside cage sized to admit “nothing larger than chickadees”. The little devils have raised havoc with our sunflower seed budget. So — we installed a weight-activated device that sets the feeder to spinning so fast that a squirrel inside the cage would appear to be flattened by the centrigugal force. At first the ride seemed to daze them and they would remain motionless for quite some time after the spinner timed out. But over time they have adapted and we wonder if they are now enjoying the ride for they seem to be undaunted. Probably so, because they seem to be thrill-seeking acrobats at heart.

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    • LOLLLLLL. I can imagine that is a hilarious sight, if it weren’t devastating your sunflower budget. Thank you for sharing!!

      Several years ago I switched over to filling the large feeders with strictly safflower seeds, and Nyger seed in the finch feeders, which only has very small feeding holes. This has really saved our bird food budget; Gray Squirrels do not care for safflower seed and will only eat if nothing else is available. I do not know if Red Squirrels like safflower seed, but it may be worth a try.

      Both safflower seed and Nyjer seed can be purchased in bulk from Shelly Nicastro at the Essex Bird Shop and Pet Supply. Shelly is wonderful and I always look forward to stopping there for bird food.

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  • I too enjoy all your posts Kim. Also had a small family of reds move into my house via my crawl space. When I blocked the mother’s main entrance, she found another way in and actually poked her head out of the hole I had to make in my ceiling to get a trap up there, and chided me! I caught the whole family and even caught the mom with two babies at one time! They had foiled me several times of setting the trap– Got the bait, sprung the trap and yet escaped. I finally spread the peanut butter right on the trip mechanism and bingo! I’ll send you a picture of my multiple capture. Thought I should send it on to the Hav-a-Hart company!

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  • Pingback: Deb Shares Her Red Squirrel Story | GoodMorningGloucester

  • Hi there. Great post regards American Red Squirrels, only yesterday I came upon a Red squirrel families winter nest up in a pine tree. I live in Toronto, Canada, and earlier this year, my wife, Jean, and I were in Ireland where we came upon the rarely seen Red Squirrel. To us, they actually look somewhat like our American Red squirrels which you feature in your article above but boy, do they have long ears! We were shocked to learn that U.K. and Irish Red squirrels are contracting the pox virus from Grey squirrels, and dying. We feel very lucky to have seen two Red squirrels in Ireland, and have posted some of our pictures and videos for anyone interested at: http://frametoframe.ca/photo-essay-red-grey-squirrels-canada-ireland

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  • Great story and videos–thank you for taking the time to write and to share. Very neat that your dad trained the chipmunk to feed from his hand.

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