They’re mischievous. They’re intelligent. And if you have a front lawn, chances are you saw one bounding across your grass today. They’re squirrels, and even though you may think you know everything – or don’t think you need to know anything – about them, they play a vital role in keeping Michigan’s ecosystems in healthy shape.
“Squirrels are beneficial for Michigan wildlife across the board for a variety of reasons,” said Adam Bump, furbearer specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
“They help sustain our forests and oak savannahs, they’re a valuable food source for many predators and they’re plentiful. They also do a lot of good for the state that most people don’t give them credit for.”
Squirrels in Michigan Michigan is home to nine species of squirrel, including two types of flying squirrel. The most recognizable species in Michigan is probably the eastern fox squirrel, which sports gray fur on its back and yellowish fur on its belly over a hefty body frame 8 to 10 inches long. They primarily eat acorns, hickory nuts and walnuts, and their tree nests can often be found in the trees of dense urban and suburban neighborhoods.
“Fox squirrels are very adaptable,” Bump said. “Not many animals can live in such close proximity to people. They’ve figured out how to use our power lines to get around, how to cross busy streets and how to get into our birdfeeders.”
The eastern gray squirrel is another common Michigan squirrel. It is about the same size as the fox squirrel, but with fur colored from light gray to jet black. Red squirrels are significantly smaller, with reddish fur and tufts of hair on the tips of their ears. These squirrels cause the most problems for homeowners, as they sometimes chew into people’s homes to build their nests.
“For that reason, squirrels are sometimes seen as pests,” Bump said. “On the other hand, there’s a thriving community of squirrel hunters in the state, and for them, squirrels are a game species that provides an interesting challenge.”