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name for small or medium-sized rodentsrodent,
member of the mammalian order Rodentia, characterized by front teeth adapted for gnawing and cheek teeth adapted for chewing. The Rodentia is by far the largest mammalian order; nearly half of all mammal species are rodents.
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 of the family Sciuridae, found throughout the world except in Australia, Madagascar, and the polar regions; it is applied especially to the tree-living species. Tree squirrels range from the size of a mouse to the size of a house cat and vary greatly in color; some Asian tree squirrels are brilliantly patterned. In addition to the tree squirrels, the family includes the ground squirrelground squirrel,
name applied to certain terrestrial rodents of the squirrel family. In North America the name refers to members of the genus Citellus and sometimes to the closely related genera Tamias (chipmunk), Cynomys (prairie dog), and Marmota
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, chipmunkchipmunk,
rodent of the family Sciuridae (squirrel family). The chipmunk of the E United States and SE Canada is of the genus Tamias. The body of the common Eastern chipmunk, Tamias striatus, is about 5 to 6 in.
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, marmotmarmot,
ground-living rodent of the genus Marmota, of the squirrel family, closely related to the ground squirrel, prairie dog, and chipmunk. Marmots are found in Eurasia and North America; the best-known North American marmot is the woodchuck, M.
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, woodchuckwoodchuck
or groundhog,
common name of a North American species of marmot, Marmota monax. This large rodent is found in open woods and ravines throughout most of Canada and the NE United States. Its heavyset body is about 2 ft (60 cm) long, excluding the 6 in.
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, prairie dogprairie dog,
short-tailed, ground-living rodent, genus Cynomys, of the squirrel family, closely related to the ground squirrels, chipmunks, and marmots. There are several species, found in the W United States and N Mexico.
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, and flying squirrelflying squirrel,
name for certain nocturnal tree squirrels adapted for gliding; they do not actually fly. Most are found in Asia, but one species of the genus Pteromys extends into SE Europe and the two species of Glaucomys are found in North America.
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Tree Squirrel Characteristics and Behavior

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.

Types of Tree Squirrels

Sciurus species include the Eurasian red squirrel, S. vulgaris, and the North American gray squirrels, fox squirrel, and tufted-eared squirrels. Gray squirrels have tails about as long as the combined head and body length. The eastern gray squirrel, S. carolinensis, common in the eastern half of the United States and extreme southern Canada, is up to 20 in. (51 cm) in total length, 5 in. (13 cm) high at the shoulder, and weighs 1 to 1 1-2 lb (450–700 grams). It has been introduced in Europe. The western gray squirrel, S. griseus, of the U.S. West Coast, is slightly larger. The fox squirrel, S. niger, is the largest North American squirrel, reaching 29 in. (74 cm) in total length; its head is somewhat square. It displays great variation in its fur color but is commonly light brown. It is found in the eastern half of the United States, excluding the extreme northeast. Although its numbers have been greatly diminished by hunting and clearing, it is still common in some areas. It has also been introduced in city parks in western states. The tufted-eared squirrels, also called tassel-eared, or Abert, squirrels, are very distinctive, with tall plumes of hair on their ears. They inhabit yellow pine forests of the Colorado Plateau. One variety, the Kaibab squirrel, is found only on the northern rim of the Grand Canyon. North American red squirrels, also known as pine squirrels and chickarees, are species of the genus Tamiasciurus. They are small and noisy, about 12 in. (30 cm) long and 3 1-2 in. (9 cm) high, weighing 5 to 10 oz (140–280 grams). They are found in the pine forests of Alaska, Canada, and the N and W United States. Other genera of arboreal squirrels are found mostly in Africa, S and SE Asia, and Central and South America.


Squirrels are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Rodentia, family Sciuridae.


See D. MacClintock, Squirrels of North America (1970).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a mammal of the genus Sciurus of the family Sciuridae of the order Rodentia, distributed in the forests of Europe, Asia, and America. There are about 50 species. Squirrels are adapted to an arboreal mode of life. The length of their body reaches 28 cm. Their fur is usually thick and on certain squirrels, fluffy. Their color ranges from bright red to gray and black; many species are variegated. There are two species in the USSR—the pine squirrel and the Persian squirrel.

The pine squirrel (S. vulgaris) is found in the northern forest and forest-steppe zones that extend to the forest tundra. They are most numerous in the dark pine and larch taiga and in mixed forests. Feeding on the seeds of pine trees, acorns, nuts, berries, and occasionally insects and bird eggs, they store food for the winter. Pine squirrels are diurnal animals. They build nests in trees from lichens, moss, bast, and twigs or settle in tree hollows. There are usually two (sometimes three) litters a year yielding five to ten baby squirrels. The number depends on the yield of pine seeds; in lean years pine squirrels undertake massive migrations. They are one of the major objects of the fur industry in the USSR (in the taiga zone of the European part, the Urals, and Siberia).

The Persian squirrel (S. anomalus) is found in the forested regions of the Trans-Caucasus. Because of their small number and sparse coarse fur, these squirrels have no economic value.


Ognev, S. I. Zveri SSSR i prilezhashchikh stran, vol. 4, Gryzuny. Moscow-Leningrad, 1940.
Naumov, S. P., and N. P. Lavrov. Biologiia promyslovykh zverei i ptits SSSR. Moscow, 1948.
Mlekopitaiushchie fauny SSSR. Moscow-Leningrad, 1963.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(vertebrate zoology)
Any of over 200 species of arboreal rodents of the families Sciuridae and Anomaluridae having a bushy tail and long, strong hind limbs.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. any arboreal sciurine rodent of the genus Sciurus, such as S. vulgaris (red squirrel) or S. carolinensis (grey squirrel), having a bushy tail and feeding on nuts, seeds, etc
2. any other rodent of the family Sciuridae, such as a ground squirrel or a marmot
3. the fur of such an animal
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in classic literature ?
ONCE upon a time there was a little fat comfortable grey squirrel, called Timmy Tiptoes.
The most forgetful squirrel in the wood was called Silvertail.
Timmy rolled over and over, and then turned tail and fled towards his nest, followed by a crowd of squirrels shouting --"Who's-been digging-up MY-nuts?"
After all, he was a little earth-maggot, just like all the other earth-maggots, like the squirrel he had eaten, like the other men he had seen fail and die, like Joe Hines and Henry Finn, who had already failed and were surely dead, like Elijah lying there uncaring, with his skinned face, in the bottom of the boat.
Dragging Elijah to the bank, a rude camp was made, and Daylight started out in search of squirrels. It was at this time that he likewise developed the falling habit.
He studied the habits of the squirrel with greater carefulness, and strove with greater craft to steal upon it and surprise it.
Maston grieved much for the loss of his poor squirrel, and proposed to add its case to that of other martyrs to science.
The true husbandman will cease from anxiety, as the squirrels manifest no concern whether the woods will bear chestnuts this year or not, and finish his labor with every day, relinquishing all claim to the produce of his fields, and sacrificing in his mind not only his first but his last fruits also.
He moved so slowly that it scarcely seemed as though he were moving at all, but at last he stood on his feet and then the squirrel scampered back up into the branches of his tree, the pheasant withdrew his head and the rabbits dropped on all fours and began to hop away, though not at all as if they were frightened.
Sometimes I think p'raps I'm a bird, or a fox, or a rabbit, or a squirrel, or even a beetle, an' I don't know it."
As he ran he put his hand into his pocket and took out the branched stick from which the sling for shooting squirrels was suspended.
Although no graduated links of structure, fitted for gliding through the air, now connect the Galeopithecus with the other Lemuridae, yet I can see no difficulty in supposing that such links formerly existed, and that each had been formed by the same steps as in the case of the less perfectly gliding squirrels; and that each grade of structure had been useful to its possessor.