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Where Are All of the Baby Squirrels?

It's been a banner year for gray squirrels, and not everyone is nuts about it. The adorable, poof-tailed mammals devour crops, chew building wires, strip trees clean of their bark, and, as evidenced by the video below, can wreak havoc on your kitchen and subsequently escape in daring, ninja style.

2012's rise of the pervasive rodents has been fueled by the unseasonably warm winter, which resulted in a bountiful harvest of pine nuts and acorns, two of the small mammal's favorite foods. Squirrels are now multiplying at levels far above normal, prompting scientists to pioneer innovative ways of administering birth control, like lacing seeds with contraceptive drugs, for example. Tasty.

Yet as researchers get ready to do battle with the pesky rodents, I can't help but notice one, somewhat ironic observation: If squirrels are so overpopulated, then where are all their infants? Seriously, have you ever seen a baby squirrel in the wild? Do they even exist? Having lived on the border between woodland and city in Minnesota for a good chunk of my life, I can attest to seeing neonate rabbits and chipmunks aplenty, but never a baby squirrel. What gives?

As you might have guessed, most squirrel species are late-bloomers. Young of the two most prominent species, the eastern and western gray, don't leave their nests for ten weeks and six months, respectively, after being born. By then, they're fairly sizable, and not easily distinguished as youth.

320px-Baby_Squirrel_Sleeping.jpgThe young of another widespread squirrel species, the American red, emerge from their natal nests after a mere 42 days, but they reach adult body size at 125 days. Moreover, they suffer severe early mortality, a result of unbridled predation by bobcats, coyotes, owls, hawks, foxes, wolves, and even crows. In tandem, these facets of red squirrel existence leave little time for you to entice the cute kits into posing for photographs by tempting them with potato chips.

If you're dead set on viewing a baby squirrel in the wild, you can find their nests located in the forks of trees or even occasionally in the exterior walls of houses. But beware, if you poke your head in at an inopportune time, you may find yourself face-to-face with a stressed, overworked mother not in the mood for an unannounced visit from a nosy human.

(Baby squirrel photo taken by Audry via Wikimedia Commons)