Squirrels are members of the family Sciuridae and are characterized by slender bodies, longer back legs, and a long, expressive bushy tail. The name squirrel is derived from the Ancient Greek world skiouros meaning “shadow-tailed”. There are over 265 species of squirrel worldwide, with the Eastern Gray Squirrel being the most commonly seen mammal in the United States. The family of squirrels includes not only tree squirrels but also ground squirrels, flying squirrels and chipmunks.
Squirrel Meaning and Preparedness
In four-season climates, squirrel meaning relates to being prepared. Squirrel practices what is called “caching” or hoarding. He “squirrels away” nuts and seeds by burying the food as it ripens throughout the late summer and fall, then relying on this stashed food through the winter and spring. Squirrel cannot digest cellulose (the fibrous tissue of leaves) like deer or elk can, so he must rely on food rich in protein, carbohydrates and fats. His primary food source is nuts, seeds and pinecones but he will eat fruit, fungi, insects and meat when faced with food scarcity.
Boom and Bust
The season of fall is when squirrel is at the height of his power. His main food source is abundant and he has time to gorge as well as cache. In the spring, food is more scarce because his buried stores sprout and there aren’t new seeds available to eat yet. When working with squirrel spirit animal, you may experience boom and bust periods in regards to your finances and/or resources. Questions of whether to set money aside and how much are directly related to squirrel meaning.
First ask, “What do I value as a resource?” then explore how you either cling to and burn through these resources. Squirrel symbolism teaches you to be mindful of how much you consume as well as how much of a miser you are. If you spend all of your time earning money and none spending it, you will find your life is full of money but nothing else, no friends, no love, no meaning.
Many see saving money as giving in to the fear of scarcity. Saving money takes us out of the present and into the future, but this is not always a bad thing. Squirrel spirit animal teaches us that scarcity is a reality and that a calculated, rational approach to preparedness has its place. Notice that squirrel only buries seeds protected by the hard shell of nature’s packaging so they don’t rot. This teaches us the wisdom of putting our resources away out of sight and in a safe place.
Squirrel has an incredible ability to remember where he buries the majority of his food. The 25% of the nuts he forgets contribute to the next generation of trees and plants to populate the forest. He also creates bogus caches out in the open, tricking other squirrels, birds and animals into thinking his storage is somewhere it’s not. The lessons of squirrel spirit animal are to save a little more than you need as well as not share what you are doing with the world.
Agility and the Meaning of Squirrel
All squirrels are incredibly quick on their feet, lightening fast in fact. They dodge and weave to avoid the best of predators. It is when we try to catch, chase or follow a squirrel that we gain a deep appreciation for this.
The tree dwelling or “arboreal” squirrel has an additional advantage. He has a mobile ankle that allows him to turn his foot backward and run down a tree face-first. This is a rare trait in the animal kingdom.
Flying squirrel has special skin flaps between his front and back legs that makes it possible for him to leap and take great glides from one tree to another. He doesn’t actually fly like a bird, but he glides like a parachutist. This demonstrates a willingness to take giant leaps and trust that you have a parachute to dampen your fall.
Looking at both tree and flying squirrel shows us that squirrel meaning brings not only great mental agility that can help us reach great heights, but also the courage and audacity to plunge head-long into endeavors.
The origin of squirrel’s name, meaning “shadow-tail”, is a brilliant window into the meaning of squirrel. The tail and the shadow are both symbolic of what follows us, namely our past. The shadow represents our unconscious and the things we don’t always see. Now would be a good time to check and see what shadows are following you about especially in regards to your fears, old wounds and ingrained patterns regarding money and security. Squirrel spirit animal can help you come into a more balanced relationship with your resources by addressing and clearing your past.
The Chatty Sentry
Squirrel is the sentry of the forest constantly calling the alarm with his bushy tail flagging down danger and his piercing chirps keeping everyone alert. Birds and other prey animals always keep an ear open for squirrel and heed his warnings most of the time. But, some squirrels are more talkative and nervous than others, sounding the alarm too often. Then the other creatures of the forest stop listening to him. Pay attention to how you play the whistleblower at work or at home and make sure your worrying out loud isn’t turning off those around you. Being the sentry comes with responsibility. Use it wisely.
Busyness and Rest
Squirrel meaning is closely linked with the way he scurries about to and fro, up and down, in and out. Squirrel is known for being busy, really busy. There is a lot to do to prepare for winter. If you find yourself in the midst of squirrel medicine and busier than you think you should be, check in. Do you have enough energy to be so busy? Does now feel like a good time to get a lot done? Once winter comes, squirrel does slow down and spend time lazying about in his nest, called a “drey”. He waits out the storms and comes out during breaks in the weather to dig up and eat his caches of nuts. Squirrel does not hibernate like bear, so expect some level of activity in yourself no matter what the season when working with squirrel spirit animal.
About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.
About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey L. L. Couch is a Spiritual Director who teaches about archetypes and symbolism. Her speciality is working with soul pioneers - those of you who are making it up as you go along the spiritual path. She works with beginner and life-long spiritual seekers. Through working with Stacey, lost seekers find their way home and professional spiritual guides receive mentorship. Stacey empowers people with the ability to explore their purpose and calling. Wisdom found in story, mysticism, and nature provide guidance and healing in her work. She is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.
I have a pet squirrel that I dearly love. She lives in a very large cage outside and comes inside on very hot or very cold nights to sleep in an inside bed. I do not let her run free in the house because she chews on everything; chairs, candles, table legs. etc. etc. I struggle to keep a variety of nutritious food for her to eat and never give her candy or junk. I do give her nuts of various sorts but try to limit them because I understand they are not good for squirrels. Her name is Missy, named after Ray Stevens, Mississippi Squirrel song. I give my little baby(about two years old now), a rub down each night and she loves it. She is afraid of other people and will run and hide when others approach for some reason. I worry about her and if I am doing the right thing for her all the time because I want to give her the best life I can since I have her in captivity. Do you have any suggestions for me? Don
Hello Don, Thank you for writing and sharing your story. I have to share that I do not agree with keeping wild animals in captivity for a wide range of ethical and moral reasons, but I understand that you’ve raised her with the utmost love and care so this is a tough one. My first recommendation would be to search for a local wildlife rehabilitation center and talk with them about the possibility of preparing her for release back into the wild. It is likely incredibly hard to consider parting with her, I can only imagine, and it may be what is best with her to be with her own kind and someday raise a litter of her own. She likely shies away from other people because of her wild instincts that tell her people aren’t safe. I don’t think you’ll ever be able to fully override that and it is probably best for her to be with other squirrels climbing trees and roaming free. She likely chews on everything because squirrels have a lot of energy and that could get pent up sitting in a cage all day. Squirrels need to be out climbing trees and running around. I know you have done everything you can for her to give her the best life, but we ultimately cannot provide what Mother Nature and other squirrels can. I know this is hard, but I trust you’ll put her needs first and do the best you can to figure out what those are. Many Blessings, Stacey
Keep doing what you are doing so far it is what it is! She will have trouble getting back in the wild so keep up the good work
There has been a certain squirrel that comes to my front door in the mornings. When I come home at night, he (she) is almost greeting me home. Of course, it runs away every time. My husband died 4 years ago next month. I wonder if there is a connection?
One of the aspects of squirrels that did not appear above is their masterful ability to play anywhere, anytime. I have rescued squirrels for 35 years and that is the most wonderful trait they have. They are generous with joy. They don’t require anything or anyone else to proceed with the self abandon which perfect play requires. Play is the most spiritually balanced engagement. It requires that every one of our gifts be balanced and, at the same time, that we be detached from outcomes and open to anything that occurs.
They are the perfect adventurers. When things get tough they still keep the spirit alive. Yet, they demand freedom. They, unlike us, are at peace with the end of life. They would rather die than be prisoners. This is something that I found painful to learn. It is still hard. I protect my heart when I release them by releasing them in my yard where I feed the squirrels daily. And I give them to St. Theresa, the patron saint of small things. They challenge me to do what is best for others at the cost of my clinging to the present. They are dignified teachers and persistent in their values so I don’t get to rationalize, They have taught me that you only have as much freedom as you accept risk. Low risk = low freedom. They live to be free. I have decided to honor that. Abundant Freedom = Abundant Risk. They visibly thrill to freedom. I am privileged to rescue them and give them the freedom they are destined to enjoy.