A Squirrel Question

Rick Toomey toomey at denr1.igis.uiuc.edu
Fri Feb 23 21:54:00 EST 1996

bentz.13 at postbox.acs.ohio-state.edu (bob bentz) writes:

>Here's an activity of daily living query: how do squirrels maintain hydration? 
> Do they acquire water through the foods they eat and/or do they lap at 
>puddles, birdbaths, etc.?  Who is an authority on squirrels in the literature?

Good question.  I thought it would be fairly straight-forward
to find the answer.  It took longer than I anticipated to 
find a less definite answer.  

The answer may vary with type of squirrel (ground, tree, flying, 
prairie dog, marmot, etc.) and possibly even by species.

The best general reference I know on tree squirrels of the genera
Sciurus and Tamiasciurus is 

Gurnell, J., 1987, The Natural History of Squirrels, New York
  City: Facts on File Publications, 201pp.

It has large amounts of good info and many references. Unfortunately, 
I could not find info on your quesation in it.  This may 
suggest that they do drink, since it would be notable if they
got all of their moisture from food. Gurnell (1987) discusses
metabolism, energy balance and feeding extensively. 

Nowak (1991) and Hoffmeister (1989) also do not mention the subject.  
Again this absence may suggest normal drinking.
Schwartz and Schwartz (1981) indicate that the gray squirrel (Sciurus
carolensis) "drink water daily, and available water makes a more
desirable habitat" (p. 152).

Godin (1977) indicates that the red squirrel (Tamias husonicus)
drinks frequently and eats snow.  He also notes that the 
southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) drinks unless it has plenty of 
succulent food.  

On the other hand, Milton (1984) indicates that 

   Prairie dogs and most squirrels get all the water they reguire
   from the plant material they ingest but the European red 
   squirrel [Sciurus vulgaris] in particular must stay close
   to sources of drinking water.  Trappers take advantage of this 
   fact and use water to attract squirrels into traps during the 
   hot summer. (p. 615)

It looks like there may be some variation by type of squirrel
and possibly other factors (available food, water, etc.)

References Cited

Godin, A.J., 1977, Wild Mammals of New England, Baltimore, MD: 
  Johns Hopkins University Press. 304pp.

Gurnell, J., 1987, The Natural History of Squirrels, New York 
  City: Facts on File Publications, 201pp. 

Hoffmeister, D.F., 1989, Mammals of Illinois, Champaign, IL: 
  University of Illinois Press. 348pp.

Milton, K., 1984, Squirrels, IN (D. Macdonald, ed.) The  
  Encyclopedia of Mammals, New York City:  Facts of File  
  Publication, 612-623. 

Nowak, R.M., 1991, Walker's Mammals of the World, Baltimore, MD:
  Johns Hopkins University Press.

Schwartz, C.W. and Schwartz, E.R., 1981, The Wild Mammals of 
  Missouri, Columbia, MO: Univerity of Missouri Press. 356pp.

Hope these help some, 

Rick Toomey
Illinois State Museum
toomey at museum.state.il.us

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