Red Squirrel: a Curious Boundary Waters Nuisance

Red Squirrel: a Curious Boundary Waters Nuisance

red squirrel in the boundary waters bwca

If you have been to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, you surely recognize this little guy. There seems to be at least one present at every campsite, if not several.  They tend to make themselves known to you – red squirrels often voice their irritation with me for invading their space by perching in a conifer at about my eye level and chattering loudly in protest.

When they are not engaged in this activity, I often see them chasing each other through camp or munching on cones, leaving the shredded remains piled below them.  However, speaking of shredded remains…

Red squirrels are intelligent creatures, and are not shy about checking out your gear (as seen in the photo above). If your equipment is piled on the ground, expect that they will hop over and check it out. I’m sure that they are able to either pilfer food from many campers, or that they are given handouts by well-meaning visitors (a practice that is not recommended). Either way, red squirrels in the BWCA are generally not afraid of people and curious about what you have brought them.

curious red squirrel eating

One year, for example, we had our bag of food hanging in a tree while we went out for a canoe ride. Yes, it was hung properly – at least 10-15 feet off the ground, at least 5-8 feet away from the tree, and hanging at least 4-6 feet down (I’ve heard many different opinions on exactly how many feet off the ground and away from the tree and branch you are supposed to hang food, but we follow these rough estimates. Sometimes the area trees don’t offer you a perfect scenario). Anyway, we thought we had outsmarted the critters by hanging our bag while we were out. You can imagine our surprise when we came back to find a pile of shredded blue chunks of plastic material!  It turns out that some enterprising squirrel had made an impressive leap to our bag, or scaled down the rope, and was perched on it slowly chewing his way to our food! Lucky for us he had only gotten some nuts, but we had to come up with another bag to store our food in the rest of the trip.

Red squirrels are about half the size of gray squirrels and are found in nearly all of Minnesota, but are most common in coniferous areas. Natural food they eat includes acorns, seeds of conifers (in the cones), mushrooms, maple seeds, and more. They often cache food for use in the winter. Red squirrels are predated on by cats, coyotes, foxes, hawks, weasels, marten, and more (Here is a great video of a pine marten going after a snowshoe hare in the BWCA!). As demonstrated by their loud chattering, tail flicking, and foot stomping, red squirrels are very territorial and will let you know when you have invaded their space.

Related articles:

Packing Food for a Trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

A Squirrel Tale, in Which I Also Shoot a Deer

Planning a Trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW)

468 ad

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *