Tunnel roads under the snow

by Sandy Garland

I’m always intrigued by the tunnels we find at the FWG in winter. They are undoubtedly created by red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) that remain active during the winter and must scurry around visiting their food caches.

Entrances to two tunnels at the base of a spruce tree - one just to the left and behind the trunk, the other directly to the right of the trunk

Entrances to two tunnels at the base of a spruce tree – one just to the left and behind the trunk, the other directly to the right of the trunk

The tunnels must lead to these caches, now buried under a foot or more of snow. Rather than run along the top of the snow, then dig down to the food, the squirrels minimize the time they spend on the surface – who wouldn’t – by digging from the base of their favourite tree through the snow to a food cache. This technique also allows them to keep the stored food a secret from other species.

In the Backyard Garden, squirrels create a maze of tunnels, often with vertical entrances that they pop their head out of to check who’s around before emerging. If the snow is deep, we can see tunnels on either side of a footpath that the squirrel has chosen to cross rather than dig through the packed snow.

More about red squirrels at the FWG
Photo gallery of red squirrels – cute alert! but also many photos showing nests, food caches, and the habits of these busy little creatures
Video showing a red squirrel’s tunnel-making technique

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