When the white blanket of snow covers the ground, one of the things that becomes quickly revealed is the MANY footprints of the High Park squirrels.
As you start to tune in to these busy footprints, it might make you wonder: what are these squirrels really up to in the winter?
Squirrels don't hibernate, and tend to remain in their dreys or other shelters when temperatures get too cold or when the weather turns windy or stormy. They also have to worry about maintaining a fatty insulation layer on their bodies, making them choosier about how and when they use their energy. However, this does not mean that they aren’t still very busy!
Warmer winter weather, provides an opportunity for squirrels to leave the nest on a foraging trip in the hopes that they will obtain more energy from the food they find than the energy they will expend during their search.
On these foraging trips, squirrels will primarily look for stores of nuts, such as acorns, for calories and fat to support them through the winter. Squirrels will also eat bugs, bird eggs, soil, mushrooms, and animal bones, if they are able to find it. As for water, they will drink twice a day and will eat snow to remain hydrated.
Food is not the only reason behind the winter busyness of squirrels! Although it might seem like an unnecessary energy expense, squirrels will mate during the winter season. In fact, the January matings are what produce the litter of squirrels we see around march.
Keep an eye out for busy squirrels and their footprints on your next visit to High Park!