Smallest of the tree squirrels

Because red squirrels prefer evergreen forests, they aren't as abundant in southern Minnesota as they are in the north. They lend charm and color, are active all winter, and are boisterous in work and play. Cones, seeds, acorns and other nuts are stored under tree roots or in underground burrows. Also, they'll tunnel through snow to search for food.

Where fir, pine and spruce cones are in ample supply, the red squirrel often gathers them together and shucks them all while sitting on a favorite log, stump or rock. The seeds are eaten or stored, but the piles of cone scales build up with time to become conspicuous middens, sometimes accumulating over the years to depths of many feet. It takes approximately two minutes for a red squirrel to strip a cone.

Red squirrels, the smallest of the tree squirrels, measure a foot in total length and weigh about a half-pound. They wear a rusty red coat with grayish-white beneath. Their eyes are ringed with white fur.

The territory of a red squirrel is small -- seldom more than 400 feet in diameter.

JIM GILBERT