1. Florida

7 nutty facts about squirrels (besides their threat to the power grid)

You think you know squirrels, but do you really?
Most of the squirrels on the East coast are gray squirrels or fox squirrels. (Michele Miller | Times)
Published May 10
Updated May 10

What’s to know about squirrels? Quite a bit, according to Steven Sullivan, director of the Hefner Museum of Natural History at Miami University in Ohio. He runs a research effort called Project Squirrel, which studies tree squirrel populations around the continent.

RELATED: One of the greatest threats to the power grid will menace your bird feeder, too

Here are some things you might not know about the bushy-tailed tree climbers, according to Sullivan.

1. Most of the squirrels on the East coast are gray squirrels or fox squirrels.

A gray squirrel at Bok Tower Gardens in 2011. [MICHELE MILLER | Times (2011)]

Gray squirrels are typically gray with a white belly and gray-frosted tail. Fox squirrels have stumpy ears and a rusty belly.

2. Gray squirrels are much smaller here than other areas of the country.

People give a squirrel a peanut in Vinoy Park in 2006. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2006)]

This part of central Florida is home to a variety of gray squirrel that is much tinier than its northern relatives. “They’re the same species but smaller,” Sullivan said. “We kind of expect that as you go south.”

3. Gray and fox squirrels aren’t often in the same place at the same time.

Carol Simons of Land o'Lakes feeds a squirrel in 2006. [Times (2006)]

Even though they eat the same foods and live in similar habitats, slight differences appear to impact where they show up. “My instinct is that gray squirrels are probably more willing to eat just about anything,” he said, “whereas fox squirrels are cream-skimmers.”

4. Trees must be at least 15 centimeters in diameter at about 5 feet up to house squirrels.

Squirrels near Plant City. (Times)

Squirrels in Florida particularly like cypress, pine and cabbage palms.

5. Squirrels can live a maximum of 15 years.

Baby gray squirrels in Land O'Lakes. (Times | 2011)

Most die before their first birthday, but those who do make it that far often live to 5 years old, and those who make it to 5 years old often live to 10 years old.

6. Outdoor domestic cats are a big threat to squirrels (and other wildlife).

A squirrel grooms itself in a live oak tree at Del Oro playground at 401 North McMullen Booth Road in Clearwater. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times)

Cats hunt squirrels and small animals, which can impact their populations and the ecosystems they are a part of. “If you love nature, you recognize there is no place for a house cat outdoors. Period,” Sullivan said.

7. You can help scientists learn more about squirrels by telling them what you see.

A squirrel enjoys the sites and sounds of people in Largo Central Park. [Times | 2011]

Project Squirrel, which Sullivan leads, studies the distribution and population of tree squirrels. It relies on reports from people around the continent to help it understand squirrels around the world. To submit an observation, visit the project’s website.


  1. Investigators say the women then took the man back to his hotel room where he passed out. SUE OGROCKI  |  AP
    The unidentified man was approached by the women while at the slot machines at the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood.
  2. Screenshot of Austin Davis from a Vice News documentary on Youtube. Vice News/Youtube
    The 20-year-old Keystone Heights resident has selective eating disorder believed to stem from childhood trauma.
  3. Port St. Lucie resident Tracy Workman photographed this extremely rare yellow cardinal recently in her backyard. Some northern cardinals have a genetic mutation that turns their normally crimson feathers yellow. Spotting one is extremely rare. Photo courtesy of Tracy Workman
    On average, there are only three reported sightings of yellow cardinals annually.
  4. Republican Sen. Joe Gruters said Florida consumers are required to pay the sales tax, but rarely do so if online sellers don't collect it.
    The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee unanimously approved the bill Tuesday.
  5. Wayne Juhlin was arrested after calling 911 to report his wife's death and is being held in the Sarasota County Jail. Venice Police/Twitter
    Wayne Juhlin told detectives Monday night that he had intended to kill himself, too, but said his gun malfunctioned, and he couldn’t do it.
  6. An armored police vehicle enters the Town Center at Boca Raton parking lot in front of Nordstrom, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Boca Raton, Fla., as the mall had been placed on lockdown following reports of shots fired. ANDRES LEIVA  |  AP
    Surveillance video shows a janitor popped the balloon in the food court of the Town Center mall on Sunday after it got tangled in his pushcart.
  7. Sigfredo Garcia leans back in his chair and whispers to his former longtime girlfriend Katherine Magbanua on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla., after Leon County jurors announced a guilty verdict against him in the murder trial of Dan Markel. ALICIA DEVINE  |  AP
    The case had riveted Florida’s capital as sordid details began to emerge about a messy divorce, tensions with in-laws and child custody battles that culminated in a murder-for-hire plot.
  8. Test your knowledge of local news by taking the Tampa Bay Times' weekly news quiz. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
    Are you a light reader? Well-rounded? Or a news hound?
  9. Ryan Cummings, 23, of Tampa, left, and Alex Frey, 25, also of Tampa, rent Spin electric scooters from a corral located along Zack Street Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in Tampa. Electric scooter companies Spin, Bird, Lime and Jump were being deployed within the next few weeks according to a tweet from the City of Tampa on Sunday. Campbell and Henigan spent a couple of hours Tuesday trying the electric scooters. Frey and his friend Ryan Cummings rented two scooters during their lunch break. "We are going to Armature Works, we couldn’t do that without these." said Frey. CHRIS URSO  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Plus the most bizarre incidents of electric scooter vandalism around the city.
  10. Stanley Mossburg was already wanted in a slaying at a Tennessee laundromat earlier this month when he killed two people at their home in Winter Haven home, deputies said. Polk County Sheriff's Office
    Stanley Mossburg, who claimed to have killed eight people, fired at the deputies who came for him, Sheriff Grady Judd says.