Whereas squirrels are attractive and appealing to watch, these cute little furballs can sometimes be destructive and disturbing in various ways, posing the common concern: Are squirrels Rodents? Can You Kill Backyard Squirrels?
Individuals who have had a fair share of squirrel havocs probably are curious about the nature of these animals and, consequently, if they can get rid of them. Just like popular rodents, squirrels can destroy property and sometimes transmit diseases.
Well, if you are looking for answers about squirrels, you should probably be able to find them in this article. Keep reading to find out if squirrels are rodents and if you can get rid of them legally.
- What Are Rodents?
- Are Squirrels Rodents?
- Are Squirrels Considered as Pets?
- Top 10 Interesting Squirrel Facts
- Top 5 Most Popular Rodents
- Can You Kill a Backyard Squirrel?
- Wrapping Up
What Are Rodents?
A rodent can be defined as any of the various relatively small mammals of the order (Rodentia) usually characterized by large front teeth in either jaw used for gnawing. Examples include squirrels, mice, rats, hamsters, and porcupines.
Rodents are further divided into three distinct categories: cavy-like rodents, mouse-like rodents, and squirrels. Similarly, rodents are popularly associated with briskness owing to their quick reactions in moments of danger.
Did you know that rodents constitute the majority order of mammals, with scientists confirming a 40 per cent inclusive of all mammal species? I guess you didn’t know despite coming across these creatures regularly. Now you know, pal!
Are Squirrels Rodents?
Yes, squirrels are classified as rodents, given their physical characteristics, which are typical and affirmative of rodents, particularly the protruding front teeth.
Apace with squirrels, the most rampant rodents around in the United States, according to the National Pests Management Association (NPMA), are House Mice, Deer Mice, Norway Rats, and Roof Rats.
Rodents’ physical traits entail large front incisors which constantly keep growing and are used for gnawing. Also, they have a relatively small body size, furry bodies, and sharp teeth and claws, which they use for defence and survival mechanisms.
A squirrel possesses all these qualities hence can technically be classified as a rodent. According to a survey conducted by the National Pests Management Association (NPMA), rodents create a national problem in the United States, with an estimated 21million homes affected by rodents.
Furthermore, it was established that these rodents invade homes during the winter and the fall to pursue shelter and food from the respective houses.
Are All Types of Squirrel Rodents?
Given the various types of squirrels with more than 200 species of squirrels confirmed according to the National Geographic report, one would probably wonder if all the classes and species of squirrels are rodents. Intriguing, Isn’t it?
All types of squirrels can be comfortably identified as rodents. Thinking about a squirrel brings a vivid picture of a tiny, cute, and harmless furball with noticeable characteristics common with rodents.
Factually, squirrels are the most widespread mammals and indigenous to North America, Asia, and Europe. Despite being classified into three categories of ground, tree, and flying squirrels with different physical characteristics and adaptations, all squirrels have the same unique features that make them rodents.
For example, most squirrels are moderately sized, with heights ranging between 10 to 50 centimetres and body weights of approximately 1-2 pounds. They also have large and dark eyes, and they are bushier compared to other rodents.
Are Squirrels Related to Rats?
Like rats, squirrels belong to the same order of mammals known as order Rodentia, which is the most significant order of mammals.
Although these animals come from different Families, they somehow possess quite a good deal of characteristics and adaptations that are similar due to the same order. Let us explore some of the similarities between rats and squirrels:
Similarity #1: Protruding incisors
Both of them have a unique set of large protruding incisors on either jaw that continuously grow throughout their lives.
Similarity #2: Gnawing
Both squirrels and rats gnaw to keep at base their ever-growing teeth.
Similarity #3: Reflexes and Sensory Organs
Both of them have advanced reflexes and excellent sensory organs.
Similarity #4: Memory Retention
Both of them are intelligent and have good memory retention capacity.
Despite sharing some common characteristics, as we have seen, squirrels and rats also differ in various ways, as we are going to see below.
Difference #1: Time when Active
Squirrels are diurnal, while rats are nocturnal. This means that rats are usually active during the day while squirrels remain operational during the day.
Difference #2: Vision Status
Squirrels have spectacular eyesight, whereas rats have poor vision owing to their nocturnal nature and, as a result, navigate using their facial whiskers.
Difference #3: Sexual life
Rats have an active sexual life compared to squirrels.
Difference #4: Hibernation
Squirrels hibernate during winter as opposed to rats which are typically active throughout the year only that they minimize their operations in winter.
So, we can agree that rats and squirrels are related despite their differences. Also, people find squirrels attractive and can easily attach themselves to the lives of humans. On the other hand, rats are considered scary, and no one wants to get associated with them.
How Could You Tell If an Animal is a Rodent?
Rodents, as mentioned earlier, are inarguably the most prevalent species among mammals. Sometimes people get confused while trying to tell if an animal is a rodent or not a rodent. Of course, let’s get a line on how to identify these species.
All rodents can uniquely be identified by large incisors mounted on either jaw, which incessantly mature throughout the existence of these creatures. They also regularly gnaw on anything to prevent their huge teeth from growing further.
Popular rodents include guinea pigs, porcupines, squirrels, mice, rats, and hamsters. Another set of rodents with a relatively different structure of the incisors are pikas, rabbits, and hares. They possess two pairs of upper incisors as opposed to the customary one.
Additionally, the majority of rodents have comparatively small and robust bodies with bushy bodies covered with fine fur and long tails. These animals have a diet encompassed around plant greens and seeds, with some having diverse food choices.
Are Squirrels Considered as Pets?
Pets are simply companion animals generally kept by humans for purposes of entertainment and company. Ideally, squirrels are considered wild animals and are not recommended to be kept as pets by scientists.
However, they can still make adorable pets if proper care is taken to maintain them. There have been controversies about whether these cute furballs can be kept as pets or should be given their freedom to roam in the wild like other wild animals.
However, a conventional rule is that squirrels are not supposed to be tamed since they are inclined to the wild. Taming a squirrel is also possible, but it requires a great deal of commitment and patience.
Some of the common reasons why squirrels don’t make good pets include:
Reason #1: Squirrels have Sharp Claws
They have very sharp claws and teeth and can bite without seconds thoughts once slightly irritated hence inflicting wounds.
Reason #2: Gnawing Behavior
They gnaw on anything they come across, thus can destroy valuable property.
Reason #3: Food Cost
Squirrels feed on natural and balanced meals, which can be expensive and challenging to provide in a home setting.
Reason #4: Space Requirement
Subsequently, squirrels are very active and lively animals, and as a result, they require ample space for their activities.
In as much as squirrels can be considered pets, at the end of the day, they are still wild animals, and the best thing to do with them is to let them be free.
Top 10 Interesting Squirrel Facts
Here are the top ten facts about squirrels that will make you appreciate and love them even more.
Fact #1: Ever-Growing Incisors
Squirrels have front teeth that continuously grow as long as they exist. They regularly gnaw to prevent their teeth from growing further.
Fact #2: Varied Mammals
With more than 200 different species and 50 genera, the squirrel family is among the most varied mammals.
Fact #3: Hiding Behavior
The phrase “squirrel” is derived from Greek meaning “shadow tail” due to squirrels’ tendency to hide beneath the shadow of their bushy and long tails.
Fact #4: Squirrel Species
There are three known types of squirrels: ground, tree, and flying squirrels, with their names determining where they shelter.
Fact #5: Gliding Behavior
Flying squirrels don’t fly. They instead glide from tree to tree to look like they are flying, which is not the case.
Fact #6: Confusing Enemies
When in danger, squirrels scamper away in crisscrossing patterns to confuse and lose their enemies. This indefinite movement helps the squirrels to determine their next move.
Fact #7: Memory Retention
Squirrels have excellent memory retention skills and can remember places where they had hoarded their food after a very long time.
Fact #8: Communication
Squirrels communicate via numerous sound patterns and scent making. They also use body movements such as swaying their tails to alert each other in instances of danger.
Fact #9: Curiosity
Squirrels are outgoing creatures, and they quickly get acquainted with the ways and life of humans if taken care of and given food.
Fact #10: Intelligence
Squirrels may pretend to bury their foods to fool potential thieves and later bury the nuts in a different location—an excellent example of a squirrels’ intelligence.
Top 5 Most Popular Rodents
The five most prevalent rodents are porcupines, rats, squirrels, mice, and guinea pigs.
Squirrels are small moderately-sized rodents that belong to a family known as Sciuridae. Typically, the sizes of a squirrel range between 10-15 centimetres in length and (0.4-0.6) kilograms in weight.
With over two hundred species, squirrels have varied colors depending on the type of squirrel. The most common colors are grey and reddish, dark brown, pale brown, and tawny. Sometimes these colors are mixed.
By disposition, squirrels are herbivores, hence having a diet centred on nuts, fruits, seeds, and green plants. They may, however, literally feed on anything when encountered with hunger, including insects and meat.
Bailey, a scientist in a study, observed that squirrels might sometimes develop aggressive behaviors though in rare circumstances to the point that they can attack humans.
Relatedly, rats are medium-sized rodents but characterized by long-tails. The black rat is probably the most common species of rats with lengths of anything between 32-46 centimetres and a weight range of 75-230 g.
Other species of rats include brown rats and Polynesian rats. Hence, the prominent colors among rats are black and brown. Like other rodents, rats feed on seeds, fruits, and vegetables but can consider different types of food such as meat if there are no options.
While there are instances of rats being kept as pets, these rodents are associated with occasional violent conduct of attacking humans by biting.
Mice are tiny rodents attributed to long tails, small round ears, and a high reproduction rate. They weigh between 19-23 grams owing to their small body size with lengths of 7-10 centimetres.
The well-known types of mice are the house mouse, wood mouse, and deer mouse, with the house mouse being the popular type. Their colors interchange from black, dusty-grey, and a rare light brown shade.
Cases of aggression towards humans are rare but possible in case of irritation. Although their bites are not that serious, they may as well transmit infections.
Guinea pigs are small and cute domesticated species of rodents belonging to a family known as Caviidae. They are also known as cavy. Mature guinea pigs weigh between 0.7-1.2 kilograms and measure 20-40 centimetres in length.
Guinea pigs also come in varied colors such as red, black, and white. They feed on fresh fruits, vegetables, and specialized food since they are usually domesticated. Luckily, guinea pigs are very gentle creatures and are not hostile to humans.
Porcupines are relatively giant rodents well-known to be covered with spikes which they shoot at their enemies upon being provoked. There are numerous species of porcupines with their weight ranging between 3-13 kilograms with lengths of up to 48 centimetres.
Porcupines are usually tinted in brown, yellow, or black. They are herbivores as well hence feed on greens mostly. Therefore, porcupines are typically regarded as pests and dangerous animals to humans due to their spikes.
Can You Kill a Backyard Squirrel?
Contentions between squirrels and humans often arise due to the disrupting and destructive activities of these rodents.
For example, constant and sudden noises from these creatures can be annoying. Also, they destroy objects such as walls, cables, and wooden objects through gnawing.
Despite squirrels being wild animals that perhaps require conservation, there are no laws that restrict the killing of squirrels if they invade your yard. However, killing squirrels should be out of critical and relevant concerns such as the destruction of property.
According to the wildlife Act 2016, the killing of rodents is entirely legal, provided that you trap and terminate them instantly to avoid unnecessary suffering. Many states indigenous of rodents do not have laws to protect rodents.
In conclusion, Rodents are a species of small, moderately sized mammals typically characterized by front teeth that never stop growing. Squirrels are therefore classified as rodents since their physical features and adaptations are attributed to rodents.
Additionally, rodents can be annoying and can damage valuable belongings as well. And while it is legal to kill them in many states, instant killing is recommended to spare the rodents of undesirable suffering.