Chicory Allenspark

A chicory (Tamiasciurus douglasi), also called a pine squirrel, stands on a log in Allenspark, Colorado

By: Dawn Wilson

This week’s featured animal is the pine squirrel. Nine squirrels call Colorado home: Abert’s, fox, pine, 13-lined, Wyoming ground, rock, spotted ground, white-tailed antelope, and the golden-mantled ground. Of these, the first three are in a category of tree squirrels, which build their nests in cavities, witches’ broom (a dense mass of shoots as a result of a rust disease) or clumps of leaves, pine needles and twigs in trees. Here are five more facts about these cute little tree dwellers.

Pine squirrel RMNP

A pine squirrel, also called a chickaree (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), forages for pinecones at the top of a pine tree on a sunny morning in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

1. Pine squirrels are also referred to as chickarees, and depending on the region, red squirrel, Douglas or Mearn’s.

Pine squirrel

A pine squirrel, also called a chickaree (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), munches on sunflower seeds tossed to him by nearby tourists in Estes Park, Colorado.

2. These small squirrels with short bushy tails are in the genus Tamiasciurus, a Greek term that means “hoarder squirrel.”

3. Pine squirrels do not hibernate in winter but rather survive off a cache of pinecones collected throughout the summer and fall. Look for the piles of scales from stripped cones, called middens, at the base of conifer and ponderosa pine trees as an indicator of the squirrel’s existence in the tree.

Pine squirrel RMNP

A pine squirrel, also called a chickaree (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), runs across the snow in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

4. Chickarees are extremely territorial. They will sound out a noisy alarm call—a sharp bark or chirp—for up to an hour to warn off intruders.

5. Common in Rocky Mountain National Park, this is the smallest tree squirrel in this region.


A chickaree (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) looks from behind the pine cone he was working to pull from the tree in preparation for the coming winter in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Dawn Wilson is a professional and award-winning nature photographer who lives in Estes Park year-round. You can see more of her work, join one of her Rocky tours, and purchase prints and calendars at or follow her on Instagram:


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