This duck gets its name from the chestnut colored ring around the neck; however, it is visible only at close range and difficult to see in the field.
Most diving ducks will send their ducklings into the water when they sense danger; however, the ring necked duck will try to hide their ducklings under vegetation.
The ring necked duck is also known, in some areas, as the ring-bill.
Gray Squirrel (Sciurus)
The coat has a mix of dark and light hairs. Coloration ranges from gray, light brown to dark brown or black. The belly has a light color of white to gray. The tail hairs are dark in the middle with white hairs in the tip. The fur becomes thicker and longer during winter and can fade during this time and appear reddish. These squirrels can also have coats of all one color such as white, gray or black. The average body length is between 17 and 21 inches. The tail can grow from eight to 10 inches long.
Average Weight Range
Mature eastern gray squirrels range from 12 to 26 ounces, averaging about one pound.
There are two breeding seasons per year: January to February, and May to early July. Births are in spring and late summer. Only females who are over two years old will breed in both of the seasons. The gestation period is 44 to 46 days. The average litter size is three. Newborns weigh 0.5 to 0.6 ounces. Weaning occurs between eight and nine weeks. At 12 weeks, the young will be near adult size and independent from their mother. The male squirrel is sexually mature between 15 and 18 months, the female at 10 to 11 months. The male squirrel has no role in bringing up the young.
During mating season, the female attracts males through scent markings placed on bark and will call with duck-like calls from a tree. Several males will respond and may begin fighting and chasing in competition to determine the dominant male, who is usually the oldest.
The squirrel's diet includes nuts, seeds, buds, berries, acorns, inner bark, fungi, insects and sometimes bird eggs. Squirrels have been known to eat food from trashcans.
Gray squirrels will gather food to be stored and eaten during the winter, when food may not be available. This is done by scatter hoarding--burying individual nuts in shallow holes around their territory. The squirrel will then find the nuts they have buried through use of their highly developed sense of smell. Not all the nuts will be found, and those not found may germinate and grow into new trees.
Eastern gray squirrels are found in the eastern half of the United States: from the Mississippi River basin east to the coast; from the Gulf coast north to Canada; and the westernmost range from North Dakota south to Texas.
The typical habitats are hardwood forests dominated by mature, mast-producing species, preferably mature deciduous forests with dense undergrowth such as oak, basswood, maple and hickory. Gray squirrels prefer to nest in tree cavities. If they are unable to find a suitable tree den, they will sometimes build a leaf nest (called a drey), which are located near the top of a large tree.
Common Hunting Methods
A shotgun with a light or medium load is commonly used. A .22 rifle is also used. Gray squirrels have an excellent sense of smell and eyesight. When they feel threatened by a predator the squirrel will sometimes remain motionless against the bark of a tree, which makes them difficult to see. They will also hide on the opposite side of the tree away from the perceived predator. Common squirrel calls are "crrk, crrk, crrk", or "quack, quack, quack". The alarm call used by squirrels sounds like "kuk, kuk, kuk" and warns other squirrels of the danger.
When trying to find squirrels, look for large mature trees. The best time of day is early in the morning and mid-afternoon when they are most active. Look for gnawed husks and shells of nuts on the ground around the base of a tree. Also, look for small holes in the snow or ground where squirrels have been digging to find buried food.
Listen first for squirrel barks and for leaves rustling on the ground. Look for limbs in trees that are shaking. Do not make any quick moves. Many hunters utilize a squirrel in distress call to help locate their prey. Some hunters will use dogs to find the squirrels. Tracks are paired with hindprints slightly ahead of the foreprints. In snow the tracks look like two exclamation marks.
Eastern gray squirrel tails can be manufactured into fishing lures. Many people find squirrel meat tasty and it's considered a delicacy in some regions. Hunters have to be quick and accurate to harvest the squirrel because of their swift speeds and sporadic motion. During dry spells, hunting is more challenging because the rustling of brush and amplification of noises from the dry ground alerts squirrels to the hunter's presence.
Squirrels mark their feeding territories with scents from glands on the sides of their mouth that they rub against trees.
Squirrel hunting is excellent for beginner hunters, as it is relatively inexpensive and less difficult than hunting other species. It also teaches young hunters good, basic hunting skills.