A squirrel's ecological niche is spreading seeds. Its role as a gatherer of nuts, berries and seeds promotes the growth of many plants and trees throughout forests and parks. Squirrels are also prey and provide food for many predators including foxes, coyotes, hawks and owls.
When a squirrel gathers food for the winter, it hides the food in multiple places. Acorns and pine seeds may be stored in hidden piles around the base of trees or underground, and many are forgotten by winter. Come spring, these seeds sprout and new plants, berry bushes and trees start to grow, providing shelter and food to a variety of species. Being a spreader fulfills an important role in any habitat and is an essential aspect of the ecosystem.
Squirrels live in most places on Earth, except Antarctica and Australia. The animals live in a wide range of habitats and are commonly seen on both country farms and city streets. There are more than 200 species that range in size from the 5-inch African Pygmy to the 3-foot Indian Giant squirrel.
While tree squirrels are the most common variety, there are also ground squirrels, which burrow tunnels, and flying squirrels, which make their nests in tree holes.