The so-called typical tree squirrels are members of the genus Sciurus, with about 40 species distributed throughout forested regions of Eurasia and the Americas. These are day-active animals with slender bodies, sleek, thick fur, and bushy tails. Their coats are black, gray, brown, or reddish above and light-colored below. Light, swift, and agile, tree squirrels leap from branch to branch and scurry up and down trees using their sharp claws to dig into the trunk; they always descend head first. The tail is used as a rudder when the animal leaps and as a parachute when it drops. They have excellent sight, including good color vision. The handlike forepaws are used for holding food. Tree squirrels make nests in holes in trees or on branches. They spend much time on the ground, foraging for fruit, nuts, and insects; they also sometimes eat eggs, young birds, and smaller mammals. Members of many species store food for the winter in holes or buried in the ground; they locate these stores by means of smell. They do not hibernate.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.