When in the forests close to the Grand Canyon, it’s hard to miss the Kaibab squirrels which look like small scattered corncobs all over. These squirrels fall under the Albert squirrel species and are very rare and are offered protection by the state of Arizona as well as the national park and forest services.
An interesting fact about these squirrels is that the difference between those on the southern and northern side of the Grand Canyon gorge is the color of their bellies and tails which of course occurred due to evolution when the gorge split. The squirrels can only be found in parts of several states in America with ponderosa pine forests as well as in some mixed conifer forests
Characteristics and facts about Kaibab squirrels
When it comes to appearances, their colors vary slightly. Majority of them are light gray and spot either a dark gray or black stripe on their backs. Some have white bellies and dark tails while others have white tails and dark bellies. Their heads usually spot chestnut brown or russet and they also have huge tassels on their ears. Their fur is very thick to protect them from cold.
Size wise, the male and females are fairly the same and their total length from head to tail ranges between 25 to 33 inches and they weigh 25 ounces roughly. When it comes to food, Kaibab squirrels have an interesting relationship with pine trees and fungi and without one, the rest are in trouble.
The squirrels opt for pine trees with higher levels of sodium, nitrogen and carbohydrates nutrients which are increased by fungi. The squirrels feed on particular trees for years and they actually know the trees by recognizing the marks of their past feedings. They also eat mistletoe, acorns and mushroom.
The Kaibab breed only once in a year and their litter can have a maximum of four. They breed in between April and June and usually the male is left with the task of chasing the female until the day she feels like breeding.
The squirrels are very shy as they hide from people by scampering off to safety and staying quiet. They also build their nests in pine trees (which is not surprising) with branches that are about 40 feet off the ground in order to protect their offspring as well as privacy. Kaibab squirrels don’t hibernate or stock food for winter however they occasionally store pinecone to eat later.