Weird Facts About the Palm Squirrel

by Bridget Johnson
The palm squirrel holds a special place in Indian folklore.

The palm squirrel holds a special place in Indian folklore.

Feng Li/Getty Images News/Getty Images

A shrill call resounding through the trees marks the presence of the active and social northern palm squirrel. With habitat flexibility ranging from rain forest to savanna, this little striped dynamo is found across his South Asia native terrain. Revered in some areas and reviled by agricultural authorities in others, the palm squirrel darts through neighborhoods year-round.

The palm squirrel generally enjoys spring flings and late summer romance, with the majority of mating in March and April and between July and September. But breeding can take place year-round, as these guys don't hibernate. Females usually have two or three litters of one to five babies per year, and males fight over females. After mating, though, the male squirrels usually split after a day or two as the females settle in for 40- to 45-day pregnancies and a couple months of weaning the young.

The palm squirrel considers birds both prey and predator. Whereas you traditionally picture a squirrel nibbling on an acorn or a nut, the palm squirrel feeds on traditional plant matter including leaves and flowers while also feasting on grubs, insects and even baby birds. Foraging for dinner both on the ground and in trees, this squirrel will sock away food for later. While having been known to eat tiny birds, this slight mammal that can fit in a person's palm may also be food for raptors including golden eagles on his home turf.

The palm squirrel's native habitat stretches across India, Pakistan and surrounding nations, but he holds a special place in Hindu mythology. According to legend, a quick little squirrel helped a prince, Rama, build a bridge to reach his captured love with load after load of pebbles, despite mocking from the other animals in the forest. The story goes that Rama reached out to the taunted squirrel, grateful for her assistance in contributing little pebbles to the bridge effort, and drew three white stripes down her fur with a stroke of his hand.

They're not native down under, but the introduction of the palm squirrel to Australia has been a headache for agricultural officials in the country. The palm squirrel has been targeted for its potential to munch on gardens and orchards, damage homes and disrupt bird populations. Yet the little things are still found in many pet shops. To keep one without being subject to thousands of dollars in fines and potential confiscation, and without securing a license per the Non-Indigenous Animals Act, squirrel fanciers must get theirs microchipped and spayed or neutered.

    Photo Credits

    • Feng Li/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Author

    Bridget Johnson is a veteran print journalist who covers Washington, DC. For more than 15 years, she has been a reporter, editor and award-winning columnist in small and major metropolitan markets across the United States. Johnson has also served as a commentator on numerous radio and TV shows, including NPR's "Tell Me More."