A squirrel's development into adulthood hinges on how well its mother nurses the squirrel while it is young. When mothers nurse, they wean their young when they are old enough to gather their own food. Also, most young squirrel species do not leave their nest for at least a month after they are born. After the nursing stage, though, most young squirrels leave their homes to find other squirrels for mating and creating their own offspring.
Antelope squirrels primarily live in desert regions throughout the American West and Northern Mexico. These are also known as antelope ground squirrels, since they live in ground burrows. Five species of antelope squirrel exist: Harris', San Joaquin, Texas, insular and white-tailed antelope squirrels. The young of most antelope squirrel species usually stay underground for at least 30 days. This time period is just a little longer than the female antelope squirrel's gestation period, which is approximately 26 days.
Although they are not called squirrels, prairie dogs are a member of the squirrel family of mammals. All five species of prairie dogs -- black-tailed, white-tailed, Gunnison's, Mexican and Utah -- are found throughout the plains of North America. Prairie dogs live in underground colonies, which may have up to 35 specimens per acre. Young prairie dogs are not able to open their eyes for the first 33 to 37 days of their lives. These mammals emerge from the tunnels six weeks after their birth and nursing occurs for about three to four months before young prairie dogs leave their mothers.
Tree squirrels spend most of their lives in trees. The only time these squirrels descend to the ground is in search of nuts and berries. One of the most prolific tree squirrels in the United States is the eastern gray squirrel, which is native to the eastern half of the United States. Young eastern gray squirrels are born in March or April. Female eastern gray squirrels begin weaning their young seven weeks after their birth. Nursing continues until week 10. Eastern grays full mature after nine months. Other tree squirrel species with similar nursing periods are the fox squirrel in the western United States and red squirrel in Eurasia.
Although they do not fly as birds do, flying squirrels are able to jump great distances by gliding between trees. The tails of flying squirrels act like rudders. Since they require trees for gliding, flying squirrels usually live in dense forests. Female flying squirrels nurse their young for approximately three months, which is when young flying squirrels learn how to glide. This three-month period includes one month of weaning. Two species of flying squirrels live in the United States, the southern and northern.
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