It’s raining acorns.
Be careful around oak trees in the fall, because the squirrels of Maine are stocking up for winter, and acorns are one of their favorite treats.
Squirrels — one of the animals that stick around for Maine’s harsh winters — feed mostly on plant material, including nuts, seeds, acorns, tree buds, berries, leaves and bark. But they’ll sometimes branch out (haha) and eat fungi, insects and even birds’ eggs, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
To ensure that meals are always available, even in the depth of winter, squirrels store food to recover as needed. While they often bury their food in the ground, they also store food in hollow trees, stumps and abandoned animal burrows. In Maine, that would be smart, seeing how the ground freezes.
Sometimes, squirrels find even better places to store their acorns — or so they think. Check out this BBC News story about a squirrel that decided to stash his winter food in a vehicle air pipe: “Squirrel’s acorn stash causes car breakdown at farm.”
In the fall, red squirrels are actively harvesting and storing food for winter. Look for “cuttings” under oak, maple, walnut, hazelnut, and coniferous trees. Cuttings are made because seeds and nuts grow in clusters at the end of fragile, easily broken twigs, and squirrels have found that the easiest way to harvest them is to nip these twigs off the parent branch. The squirrels then climb to the ground, harvest the meal, or carry it off to a storage site.
I assume that is what the red squirrel in Northeast Penjajawoc Preserve in Bangor was doing when I saw acorns raining in early September. (See video above)
Red squirrel facts (according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection):
- The red squirrel is only about half the size of the more common gray squirrel.
- The coat of a red squirrel is a rusty, reddish-brown in summer, turning slightly grayer in winter, and the underside is white.
- Red squirrels nest in ground burrows, tree cavities, and leaf nests.
- Mating takes place in late winter and spring.
- These tree-dwelling rodents are agile climbers and jumpers. They have keen senses of sight, smell, and hearing and are alert, nervous and wary, especially on the ground. When danger is near, they quickly retreat to the safety of the trees.
- Red squirrels are active year-round but will take shelter during harsh weather. In the fall, red squirrels will store their food for the winter in large underground caches. Sometimes they will bury their food at random just as the gray squirrel does.
-Red squirrels are unsociable, highly territorial, and aggressive. They will not tolerate their own or other squirrel species in their territories. They can also be very noisy and are sometimes nicknamed “chatter boxes.”
- They weigh about 7 ounces.