The Abert’s squirrel (Sciurus aberti) is also called the tassel-eared squirrel and is found in North American mountain regions lush with Ponderosa pine forests. This furry-haired animal was named after the American naturalist, John James Abert.
An Abert's squirrel is mostly gray-white in color, with a characteristic red streak along its back. These furry creatures are adaptable in nature and thrive on a diet filled with various parts of Ponderosa pine trees (like seeds, pine twigs, buds, etc.). They are active, diurnal creatures, and are considered to have a positive effect on the ecosystem in their natural habitat.
Today, there are nine subspecies identified as Abert’s squirrels. They are found across a wide home range, spanning north Central Mexico, and several portions of southwestern United States (including Arizona, Colorado, Rocky Mountains, New Mexico, etc.).
Ponderosa pines (seeds, bark, pine twigs, cones, and buds)
What do they eat?
Average litter size?
How much do they weigh?
1.2 - 2.1 lb (540- 970 g)
How long are they?
18-23 in (45.7–58.4 cm)
How tall are they?
What do they look like?
What are their main threats?
Humans, habitat loss
What is their conservation status?
Where you'll find them
The United States and Mexico
Abert's Squirrel Interesting Facts
What type of animal is an Abert's Squirrel?
An Abert’s squirrel (Sciurus aberti) is a small, furry, four-legged animal.
What class of animal does an Abert's Squirrel belong to?
This cute, tassel-eared squirrel with its tufted ears belongs to the Mammalia class of animals.
How many Abert's Squirrels are there in the world?
The exact count of Abert’s squirrels is unknown.
This species is not considered endangered as a whole. It is considered as of Least Concern by the IUCN. Experts estimate a sizable population of 114 of these Abert’s squirrels, within 0.4 sq. m(1 sq. km) in their native range.
Some subspecies found in North Central Mexico are considered vulnerable (and hence protected), due to loss of habitat and food shortage. In fact, many of these North American squirrels do not last through their first winter due to the insufficient availability of their primary food source (Ponderosa pine trees).
Some subspecies have adapted brilliantly to the changing habitat, embracing available food sources like the Mexican pinyon and Gambel oak acorns.
Where does an Abert's Squirrel live?
An Abert’s squirrel lives in the woods, among Ponderosa pine forests nestled high on top of mountainous areas.
What is an Abert's Squirrel's habitat?
The natural habitat of an Abert’s squirrel (Sciurus aberti) is in mountainous areas that are lush with Ponderosa pine trees. These tiny squirrels are surprisingly adventurous, with no fear of heights. In fact, they love to spend time in trees, gorging on twigs, nuts, seeds, and acorns.
The behavior Abert's squirrels exhibit is diurnal in nature, as they are active scurrying about for food and play, from sunup to sundown. Unlike most squirrels, they are not known to hibernate in winter. Instead, they find alternate sources of food (like twigs, barks, etc.), or fill themselves with food before winter to survive the colder weather.
Abert's squirrels were originally found in the Rocky Mountains, in portions of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. But their adaptability has helped spread their home range across two countries. Today, this tassel-eared squirrel has a wide home range, spread across north Central Mexico and the southwestern United States. This includes Arizona, the Grand Canyon, the Pinaleño mountains, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Who do Abert's Squirrels live with?
A group of squirrels is typically called a 'dray' or a 'scurry'. But it is unlikely to find such a group of Abert's squirrels outside their mating season. Abert’s squirrels exhibit paradoxical behavior between seasons. They are solitary creatures and prefer to live on their own most of the year, spending time in trees.
During the mating season, from February through June, they are more likely to be found in 'chasing' groups to seek partners. Once mating is complete, the males go back to their solitary lifestyle. A female Abert's squirrel continues to live with and care for her young ones until they move out of the nest.
How long does an Abert's Squirrel live?
An Abert’s squirrel (Sciurus aberti) has an average lifespan of three to four years. The oldest squirrel recorded in captivity was 10 years old.
How do they reproduce?
Abert’s squirrels achieve maturity during their 11th or 12th month. They also breed during the mating season, in February through June in their native home range.
During this time, they exhibit a distinct type of mating behavior. Many males will chase a single female as part of a 'mating chase'. The dominant male in this pack eventually gets to mate with the female. He then protects her from unwanted male attention until she is ready to give birth (after a 43 day gestation period). Also, both males and females may mate with multiple partners during a season.
Initially, the male stays to help build the nest. This species is not known to be territorial with its nests. In some cases, they may share their nests with other animals. In some cases, they may also use an existing nest for their young ones. Also, multiple tassel-eared squirrels may share the same nest during a mating season. In rare cases, a female squirrel may also use multiple nests for her young ones.
The nests are mostly made of twigs and grass (bolus nests). In some cases, Abert's squirrels may come upon a ready-made broom nest caused by dwarf mistletoe formations within the tree. Depending on the type of the nest, the female continues to add to her nest until she gives birth. The male acts as her guardian during this time.
A female squirrel has a gestation period of 43-45 days. Baby squirrels (also called pups or kits) are born with no fur. They hence remain in the nests to protect themselves from the elements, until they are two to four weeks old. They continue to remain in the nest and nurse with the mother until they are two months old.
What is their conservation status?
The conservation status of Abert's squirrels is of Least Concern according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The population of this furry squirrel with distinct tufted ears is considered stable across most of North America. Although some subspecies are considered vulnerable (and hence protected) in Mexico. This is due to the loss of habitat as their primary food source becomes sparse (Ponderosa pine tree).
Conversely, some subspecies have learned to adapt, embracing available food sources like the Mexican pinyon and Gambel oak acorns.
Abert's Squirrel Fun Facts
What do Abert's Squirrels look like?
An Abert’s squirrel is often gray-white in color, with a gray top, and a white belly. Some are dark brown in color. There are nine subspecies, and many of them have a trademark red streak that runs along their entire back.
These tassel-eared squirrels are characterized by their distinct ear tufts, similar to Eurasian squirrels. These ear tufts may also 'disappear' after mating (between July to September), only to reappear just before winter. Finally, the black Abert's squirrel subspecies found in Colorado are all black in color, without the red streak.
How do they communicate?
As with all squirrels, Abert's squirrels communicate through a wide range of verbal and non-verbal cues.
How big is an Abert's Squirrel?
An Abert’s squirrel is a small mammal, weighing between 1.2-2.1 lb (540- 970 g) with a length of 18-23 in (45.7–58.4 cm). With this, it is still four or five times the size of an average rat.
How fast can an Abert's Squirrel run?
For such tiny creatures, squirrels are known to run at a rapid speed of 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour).
What are the male and female names of the species?
A male squirrel is called a boar, while the female is often called a sow.
Also, mammals tend to exhibit mild sexual dimorphism to distinguish between males and females of the species. But both genders tend to look similar in this squirrel species. In fact, they are more identified by the behavior Abert's Squirrels exhibit, than by their physical appearance.
What would you call a baby Abert's Squirrel?
In general, squirrel babies are called pups or kits.
What do they eat?
The main food source for this squirrel species comes from Ponderosa pine trees. So they feed on Ponderosa pine seeds, cones, pine twigs, and buds.
Some subspecies have also learned to adapt to changing habitat conditions, especially when their primary food source is sparse. For instance, the squirrels in north Central Mexico also feed on Mexican pinyon and Gambel oak acorns.
Finally, Abert’s squirrels are wary of being spotted by hawks, the most common predator in their range.
Are they dangerous?
They are not directly dangerous to humans. They can be indirectly dangerous, as their bite can carry contagious diseases such as plague and rabies.
Would they make a good pet?
Despite their cute and fluffy appearance, these North American squirrels would not make good pets for many reasons. Their food is specific (various parts of Ponderosa pine trees), and not easily available outside their native home range. They have sharp teeth and nails, and will not hesitate to use them when they feel threatened. They are wild animals and can be carriers of contagious, life-threatening diseases (like the Bubonic plague).
In fact, visitors are strictly warned against feeding these North American squirrels in the Grand Canyon.
Did you know...
Abert’s squirrels are often confused with many Eurasian squirrels, including the Japanese red squirrel. This is due to the striking red streak that runs along their entire back. Both species have comparable lifespans in the wild (three to four years) and can live up to a decade in managed captivity.
Do Abert's Squirrels hibernate?
No, Abert’s squirrels are not known to hibernate. They are commonly spotted spending time in trees, across seasons (even in winter). They are diurnal creatures and are active all year from sunup to sundown.
A common threat to this species is a food shortage, due to loss of habitat (Ponderosa pines). In fact, many juveniles and younger squirrels in north Central Mexico do not last through their first winter due to scarcity of food.
Some species have the ability to eat in plenty and retain this weight just before winter. This helps them survive for days despite food shortages. They are also subspecies like chuscensis, durangi, and mimus, that survive on alternate food sources during winter. This can include Mexican pinyon and Gambel oak acorns.
The Abert's Squirrel and its environment
This furry-haired species is native to North America and is named after American naturalist John James Abert.
Nine subspecies were originally found in the Rocky Mountains, and their primary food source came from the seeds of Ponderosa pine trees. They also fed on various parts of the tree during winter (like bark, twigs, buds, acorns, etc.). As their habitat reduced, many subspecies quickly adapted, additionally feeding on Mexican pinyon and Gambel oak acorns.
Today, they are spread across north Central Mexico, and several portions of the southwestern United States (including Arizona, Colorado, Grand Canyon, Pinaleño mountains, and New Mexico).
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals from our marten facts and brown rat facts pages.
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