My backyard has been taken over by a group of very lively squirrels. They like to dig holes in my garden, flower pots and yard to hide the peanuts that my neighbors feed them. I’ve found those peanuts everywhere, even in my rain gutters.

In Billings, the resident squirrel species is the Eastern fox squirrel. They must be very good at living in different areas because they are found in Florida and Texas as well as all the way north into southern Canada. In Montana they are mainly limited to the southeastern corner of the state.

Although small, measuring about 15 to 20 inches long including their fluffy tails, the squirrels can cover a lot of ground. “Home ranges may be about 18.5 acres for adult males, 8.75 acres for adult females, 7.5 acres for juveniles, and 37.5 acres for juvenile males,” according to the Montana Field Guide. Maybe that wandering is why they are so often seen squashed by cars in the city’s streets.

In Western Montana, towns like Helena, Butte and Missoula, you are more likely to see the American red squirrel. Like their name suggests, red squirrels have a very reddish-colored fur. They also have a very distinct red or black line down their back and are a little bit smaller, measuring about 10 to 15 inches long.

Sometimes while hiking or hunting in the forest, squirrels will chatter when you approach. They can also alert you to other animals walking around the woods. So keep an ear pealed for squirrel sounds.

All squirrels are members of the Sciuridae family, which also includes ground squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks and marmots.

— Brett French, french@billingsgazette.com

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