Abert’s squirrels are about as beautiful as rodents get. They are about the size of their cousins the fox squirrels that are so conspicuous along the Big Thompson at Sylvan Dale, but they are jet black or salt-&-pepper gray in color, and sport magnificent ear tufts.
These are southwestern mammals, ranging from Durango, Mexico, to northern Colorado. The animals depend on ponderosa pines for their livelihood. They eat pine seeds and the inner bark of young branches. Nests in ponderosa pines are built of pine branches and needles. The squirrels can be very difficult to spot, but listen for the scratch of claws on bark as they scamper up a tree to gather food and building materials.
Also, look for tufts of green needles on the forest floor. Then look for 1- to 2-inch chunks of barkless twig, about the diameter of a pencil. These are called “pine cobs” by Abert’s squirrel aficionados; they are the leftovers from squirrels’ snacking on pine bark! The animals are active year around, and both the squirrels and their sign are particularly conspicuous on snowy slopes during winter.
They seem to like larger trees best. They are present in the heavy timber of the hidden valleys on Alexander Mountain, up Sulzer Gulch, and especially at Cow Camp. Abert’s squirrels are one more great reason to get into Sylvan Dale’s back country—on an overnight pack trip as a summer guest or as an Adventure Rider…or both!
Resident Naturalist–Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch