Red Squirrel in Sutton Massachusetts
Red squirrels are not common in Sutton Massachusetts. While I see tons of gray squirrels every year, both in my yard and in general around-the-town travels, I have only seen one red squirrel in Sutton in the past fifteen years. They are very cute!
Red squirrels, Sciurus vulgaris, are smaller than gray squirrels but larger than chipmunks. Like their other squirrel friends, they love to eat nuts. They sit up on their hind legs, their tail curled against them, and nibble at nuts and other small edibles with their quite capable little front paws. Apparently some people call them "pine squirrels" but I've only ever heard them called Red Squirrels.
Red squirrels are very agile in trees, leaping from branch to branch with great ease.
The life of a red squirrel isn't easy. A phenomenal 80% of the young squirrels don't make it through their first winter! Even during subsequent winters about half of all the squirrels die each time. It shows how critical it is for them to store up enough nuts and food - and make a warm enough nest - for them to get through those challenging times.
Interestingly, a main reason the gray squirrel does so much better here than the red squirrel is that it seems the red squirrel can't eat red oak acorns, which the gray squirrel can eat. Instead, red squirrels eat primarily white spruce seeds. They also eat buds, leaves, and needles from spruce, poplar, willow, and a few other plants. So their diet is very specialized!
When I then went digging to see what kind of spruce we might find in Sutton - since I've never seen any - apparently the only spruce commonly found in Massachusetts is the red spruce, and that's only found in higher places like out in the Berkshires. For the white spruce, a USGS map indicates they are only found in northern New Hampshire, northern Vermont, and Maine. Certainly someone could try to deliberately plant one in Sutton but they don't seem to natively live here.
So with white spruce seeds being rare (and maybe nonexistent) in Sutton it's a wonder I've seen one red squirrel at all! When I look up yellow poplar there *are* yellow poplars in Massachusetts - we're at the very top of its range - so maybe that is what the red squirrels here are eating. We also have black willow, which is native for the entire range from Maine down to Florida.
Now while some websites make it seem like the red squirrel will not eat ANY acorns, it does seem that the red squirrel will eat WHITE oak acorns. We do have white oaks (as well as red oaks) in Sutton. In these photos below it seems like the red squirrel is indeed eating white oak acorns.
In any case, if you spot a red squirrel in Sutton, count yourself lucky!
Mammals in Sutton Massachusetts
Animals and Birds in Sutton Massachusetts
Sutton Massachusetts Photo Collection