A grey squirrel holding on to the side of a tree.

Tree Squirrel vs. Ground Squirrel

Squirrels are a type of rodent found in many parts of the world. There are both tree and ground squirrels, and although they are both squirrels, there are key differences between them.

The differences can be seen in their size, habitat, diet, and behavior. Tree squirrels are generally larger than ground squirrels and have longer tails. This is because tree squirrels use their tail to help them balance while leaping from branch to branch.

There are many other differences between tree squirrels and ground squirrels. So, let’s take a closer look at what sets them apart.

Key Pest Points

•Depending on the species, tree squirrels have bodies that are 10 to 20 inches long, making them generally larger than ground squirrels. The body length of ground squirrels is only 8 to 12 inches, and their fur is usually gray, reddish, or tan in color.

•Tree squirrels are arboreal animals and they make their homes in the dense canopies of trees. Ground squirrels, on the other hand, are terrestrial animals and live in burrows in the ground or shallow depressions created by rocks or logs.

Tree Squirrel vs. Ground Squirrel: Appearance 

One of the most apparent differences between tree squirrels and ground squirrels is their appearance.

Tree squirrels tend to be larger than ground squirrels, with a body length of around 10-20 inches long, depending on their species. Ground squirrels are smaller, with a body length of approximately 8-12 inches and their fur tends to be gray, reddish, or tan. 

Tree squirrels also have a long, bushy tail that is used primarily to help keep them balanced when climbing trees. Ground squirrels do not have as long of a tail and can also use it to keep themselves warm during the winter.

Tree Squirrel vs. Ground Squirrel: Behavior

Since squirrels are not nocturnal animals, they are active during the day. However, there are some key differences in their behaviors.

Tree squirrels tend to be more social and playful than ground squirrels. They can often be noticed chasing each other around trees or playing with objects they find.

Ground squirrels, on the other hand, spend most of their time in burrows, so they are much less active than tree squirrels. They are also more cautious and shy around humans.

Tree squirrels are also more likely to be found in urban areas, while ground squirrels prefer rural and forested habitats.

Tree squirrels have better agility and climbing skills than ground squirrels, so they can easily climb trees or traverse across power lines. Ground squirrels, on the other hand, typically stay on the ground, but they can climb trees if needed.

Tree Squirrel vs. Ground Squirrel: Diet

The diets of tree squirrels and ground squirrels also differ significantly. Tree squirrels eat fruits, nuts, seeds, acorns, and bird eggs.

Ground squirrels, however, prefer to eat berries, leaves, roots, and herbs. They also eat various insects and fungi when they can find them.

Both tree squirrels and ground squirrels store food in caches for later consumption, often burying it in the ground or hiding it in trees.

They also eat birdseed and other food left out by humans. So if you have a squirrel problem, keep your bird feeders clean and filled with fresh food.

Ground Squirrel vs. Tree Squirrel: Habitat

Tree squirrels and ground squirrels also live in different habitats. Tree squirrels typically inhabit treetops and upper branches of trees. They can be seen in urban and rural areas but prefer tall trees with plenty of leaves and cover.

Ground squirrels, on the other hand, live in burrows under the ground and are usually found in rural or forested areas. They use their burrows for protection from predators and extreme weather conditions.

These burrows can be complex, with many different tunnels and chambers. They also use them as shelter during the winter months.

Two squirrels mating on a tree.

Ground Squirrel vs. Tree Squirrel: Mating Season

There are also differences in the mating seasons of tree squirrels and ground squirrels. Tree squirrels typically mate between December and January, and the female’s gestation period is between 42 and 45 days.

On the other hand, ground squirrels will more likely mate during the spring, and the gestation period for females is usually around 23 or longer, depending on the species.

The squirrel’s mating season is also essential to watch for their activity in your garden and yard. If you spot them more often during these times, it’s best to take the necessary precautions to protect your property from potential damage.

Tree Squirrel Species

There are over a hundred species of tree squirrels, including the Gray Squirrel, Red Squirrel, Fox Squirrel, and Flying Squirrel.

Each type of tree squirrel has distinct behavior and habitat preferences, so it’s essential to know their differences.

Red squirrel on top of a tree stump in the forest.

Red squirrels

A common type of tree squirrel is the red squirrel, found in North America, Europe, and Asia. Red squirrels have reddish-brown fur, and they are smaller than other types of tree squirrels. They live in coniferous forests and are very active, playful animals.

Eastern Gray Squirrels

The grey squirrel is also common in North America and Europe. They have black and gray fur and a white belly.

Their mating season is during the winter, from December through January, and they often live in urban areas, so it is not uncommon for people to see them in their backyard or local park.

Fox Squirrels

The fox squirrel is one of the largest tree squirrels weighing 1.9 – 2.2 pounds, and it can be found in parts of North America, mainly in California.

Fox squirrel standing on back legs in the yard.

Fox squirrels are active animals often seen jumping from tree to tree. They have gray-brown fur on their back and white fur on the underside.

Flying Squirrels

Flying squirrels are one of the smallest tree squirrels, weighing about 4 ounces and around 8-10 inches long.

They do not fly but rather glide between trees using flaps of skin that extend from their wrists to their ankles. They are the only nocturnal squirrels that are active at night.

Ground Squirrel Species

Ground squirrels are usually found near farmland or grassland areas and are common in suburban gardens. The most common ground squirrels are the California ground squirrels.

California Ground Squirrels

The California ground squirrel is one of the most common species in western North America. They are usually around 9-11 inches long and have gray, dark, and light brown fur.

They typically live underground and create burrows to protect themselves from predators and harsh weather. Some hibernate during the winter and emerge in late winter or spring to feed on vegetation, seeds, and fruits when available.

California ground squirrel eating on a field.

Overall, ground squirrels are a common sight in North America. They have adapted quite well to urban and rural life and can be found in backyards, parks, and gardens.

Understanding the differences between tree squirrels and ground squirrels will help you protect your property from potential damage these animals can cause.

What Does Squirrel Damage Look Like?

Damage from squirrels can range from minor to severe. In some cases, they may chew through electrical wires and cause power outages or damage insulation in walls and attics. It is not unusual to see squirrel damage in gardens, lawns, and other outdoor spaces.

They may burrow under decks and patios and gnaw on wood, siding, shingles, and other materials. They may dig up and eat plants, bulbs, fruits, and vegetables in gardens.

If you notice any of these signs of damage on your property, it’s crucial to take action by sealing off access points around your home or yard and eliminating potential food sources for the squirrels.

For the most part, squirrels are harmless and can be deterred by preventative measures. However, if the damage is drastic, it may be necessary to call a wildlife control specialist for assistance. They can help remove the animals and prevent future invasions.

Protecting Your Home and Property From Squirrels

Although squirrels are an essential part of the ecosystem, they can be a nuisance in your garden and yard.

If you suspect you have squirrels on your property, you should take preventative measures to protect your home from potential damage. Some tips include:

1. Trim trees and bushes to remove any potential nesting spots. These animals may also use these as entry points into your property, so trimming them helps to minimize any possible damage.

2. Clean up any spilled seeds, fruits, and nuts in your yard, as these can attract squirrels. They are especially attracted to bird feeders, so ensure that these are securely hung and kept away from the ground.

3. Install garden netting or fence your garden or yard to keep squirrels away. Ensure that the fence or wall is high enough that they can’t jump over it and secure any potential entry points. Keeping the fence in good condition is also essential so they can’t chew their way through it.

4. Install motion-activated lights and keep outdoor areas lit during nighttime to discourage squirrels from returning. They are less likely to enter a well-lit room with a lot of activity.

5. Seal up any possible entry points in your home or property to keep squirrels out, such as holes in the walls, attic, and eaves. They can squeeze through small openings, so it’s crucial to seal them securely.

6. Use scents and sprays as a natural repellent for squirrels. Certain smells, such as cayenne pepper or citrus peels, can help to deter them from entering your property. They also dislike the scent of predator urine, so it may be effective to use this as a deterrent.

By following these tips, you can protect your home from squirrels while allowing them to live in their natural habitat.

It is also important to contact a local wildlife expert or pest control company if you are having persistent issues with squirrels on your property. They can provide advice and services to help keep your home safe from these animals.

Ground Squirrel vs. Tree Squirrel FAQs

Now that you know the difference between ground squirrels and tree squirrels, here are some commonly asked questions about them:

Do squirrels live in trees or the ground?

Most squirrels live in both trees and the ground. Tree squirrels typically build their nests high up in the tree canopy or natural tree cavities, while ground squirrels create burrows underground for protection from predators and harsh weather.

Can a ground squirrel climb a tree?

Ground squirrels can climb trees but are less agile or acrobatic than tree squirrels. They tend to stick to the ground if they retreat from a predator and will go into their burrows for safety.

What is the difference between a chipmunk and a ground squirrel?

The key difference between a chipmunk and a ground squirrel is the stripes on their fur. Chipmunks have distinct black, white, and brown stripes running down their backs, while ground squirrels are solid in color. Additionally, chipmunks tend to be smaller than ground squirrels.

These are just some questions about these two types of squirrels. If you need more information, then be sure to contact a local wildlife expert or pest control company. They can provide additional advice and assistance on properly protecting your home and property from these animals.


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