X is for Xerus inauris

Okay, so I cheated. In all fairness, X is a difficult letter and typing into Google ‘X’ and ‘Animals’ came up with some not so nice search suggestions…

Xerus Inauris is probably better known as the Cape Ground Squirrel and so this blog post will be all about Squirrels. The Cape Ground Squirrel is also a bit ‘cheat’ name too – because they don’t just live on the ground. They live on the ground, in trees and in some shrubs. The name was probably given to them so that they could be distinguished by the ‘tree squirrel’ which is the most common squirrel in Western Europe and America. There were introduced into Cape Town by Cecil John Rhodes. A group of squirrels is called a scurry.

Squirrels are born blind and naked. They are usually born in groups of 1-4 squirrels, although some species can have as many as 8 young in one pregnancy. A young squirrel is called either a pup or a kitten depending on the country they’re born or the species of the animal.

Squirrels of any age or species cannot digest cellulose. This means they can only eat those foods which are rich in protein, carbohydrates and fats. This is why the nut is such a valued commodity to the squirrel. Despite this, the Squirrels aren’t particularly picky when it comes to their diet. Whilst they are often associated with nuts, squirrels eat a wide range of different food sources. This is particularly true in spring (the most challenging time for squirrels) because readily available food is hard to come by. Nuts are sprouting to become plants and so squirrels must resort to other forms of food. For example, they may decide to feed on the buds of trees or on insects, small birds, eggs and smaller rodents. The squirrel really can eat a lot.

Despite their resourcefulness in collecting food, squirrels often lose their food. They work hard all year round to collect as much nuts and acorns as possible but studies have shown that they forget where they store 50% of their food! This is not all bad though – these nuts then go onto become new trees and so the squirrels of tomorrow can collect them! Squirrels are especially useful in forests affected by fire! This is the most fertile time for a forest because the ground is now nutrient rich and so new seeds can quickly germinate! A squirrel’s forgotten food now has the most opportune time to grow!

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