It’s Squirrel Appreciation Day!

January 21, 2015 • 7:07 am

It’s National Squirrel Appreciation Day, and that’s official because the National Wildlife Federation says so! Their page has this information, as well as lots of other cool squirrel-related stuff:

SQUIRRELS! Whether you love them or loathe them,National Squirrel Appreciation Day, January 21st, is a great time to take a few moments and learn about these nutty animals. If you count flying squirrels we have 10 tree species  in North America. We are constantly uncovering complexities around their survival tactics and social behavior. Squirrels are fascinating animals to watch and have been documented adopting orphaned young and stealing food. And let’s face it—squirrels are pretty difficult to outwit.

I would ask readers who have any affection for these adorable rodents to appreciate squirrels today, and send photos or statements about why you like them or what you’ve done today to further squirreldom. The NWF has some suggestions about how to celebrate. If I see an especially good contribution, I may send out an autographed copy of WEIT with a squirrel drawn in it.

If you simply want to denigrate squirrels, tell me how they damage your garden, or even say that they’re good to eat, don’t bother to post, as I’ll remove that stuff.

What am I doing to celebrate? I am feeding at least six squirrels several times a day to get them through the winter: they get sunflower seeds, peanuts, and all kinds of fancy nuts, including pecans, hazelnuts, and walnuts, as a treat. Pecans cost $6.99 a pound!

And I’ll also post this video sent by Heather Hastie, who appreciates sciurids, showing a diligent American red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) taking the meat off a walnut fruit to get at the nut inside. (There’s a nice jazz soundtrack.) This a hard task, but squirrels are up for it:

I use a hammer to crack the shells of the walnuts and hazelnuts that I give my squirrels, making things easier for them. But I probably shouldn’t, as they’re capable of opening the nuts themselves, and it gives their teeth a workout, something that they need as their incisors grow constantly and need to be whittled down.



30 thoughts on “It’s Squirrel Appreciation Day!

  1. Well, we have both the gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and the red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) in our neighborhood. The red squirrels hang out by the (planted) groves of pines and the gray squirrels everywhere else.

    They are all great clowns. The ones near us seem to have a pretty good sense of cars — they seem to notice and run out of the way (I once had a squirrel, faar from my home, run under my car, between the front and back wheels (no kidding) as I drove past — no way to avoid that little fellow!)

    Our local gray squirrels seem to have a preponderance of the dark form — we have more black squirrels than I’ve ever seen in one place. Most of the “gray” squirrels near us are black. I’ve never seen that before.

  2. A friend lives just north of the English Lake District, one of the few places in England where the native red squirrel hangs on in the face of the introduced American grey.

    The friend has a house on the very edge of Carlisle with a wood behind. He has received permission from the local wildlife group to shoot the grey, with the partial intention that this helps the red.

    He is an excellent cook: he freezes the squirrels, skins them, eviscerates them and puts about 6 of them into a casserole as a substitute for rabbit or chicken. Pretty flavoursome, he says, but he wouldn’t go mad about it.

    BBC Winterwatch, on telly every night this week, is conducting an experiment on the feeding habits of reds vs. greys: set in freezing Scotland, lovely viewing. x

  3. As a child, my sister who had been feeding a squirrel peanut butter crackers on our porch for days asked my mother if her friend could come in. “Of course” my mother said. Calamity ensued.

  4. Who wouldn’t like an animal that always goes nuts!?

    More seriously, they are kawaii. It may be the tail.

  5. This hard-working squirrel had an advantage in that a jazz combo (also squirrels, I’m guessing) was backing him up.

  6. I guess I must post something! Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) are fortunately quite common in Germany, where I live and I would consider them “iconic”. They aren’t as common as rabbits or various bird species (I even see foxes more often than squirrels) so it’s always a delight to see them. They’re obviously cute and it’s fun to observe what they are up to. Obviously they’re cute, especially when they use their tail as an “umbrella”.

    Here is an adorable image from a “German” red squirrel as most people would find them in one of the many parks and “gardens”.

    Red Squirrel, Wiki Commons

    They were allegedly associated with the devil for its red-orange fur and its erratic movement. I always found that odd, for in medieval times, the devil’s skin was mostly considered black. Red and even green (e.g. Chaucer) was rarer. Even if hard to believe, I find it comical that Christians would associate Satan himself with these tiny, cute creatures. The squirrel was also running around the world tree Yggdrasil relaying messages in Germanic mythology. Something non- or anti-christian and to do with communication. Great! I read the red squirrel is an icon for endangered wildlife in Britain.

    I chose the avatar for some more obscure reasons. I could also pick a fox, for other obscure reasons (cf Isaiah Berlin ) and obviously both animals have orange or reddish fur and that’s one association for me. Thoughts are associated with food, and “nuts” also means crazy. Squirells collect nuts. And they eat nuts. I think my thoughts are as erratic. There is the warning of “may contain traces of nuts” on food, and all together could either mean that what I write might contain some traces of nuts, I’m nuts, or that I collect what’s nuts on my blog (to critique it). I have a thing for iconography.

  7. Anecdotal evidence that squirrels can learn vicariously.

    My wife sees chipmunks (Tamias sp.) as cute but garden pests. They bury seeds in her flower pots. So I live trap chipmunks and relocate them. We have grey squirrels too, but they don’t bury seeds in pots.

    When I bait the trap with peanut butter on a saltine it catches grey squirrels as well as chimpunks. One squirrel (recognizable) figured out the game and decided that eating a saltine topped with peanut butter was worth a short stay in jail.

    By the fourth capture-release cycle it was back in the rebaited trap as soon as I’d walked away from it. So I relocated it several miles away. For the rest of that year squirrels stayed out of our yard.

    1. I did some live trapping for my M.S. thesis and, yes some mice treat a live trap like a grocery mart!

      One day, I found part of a tail in the door of one trap, and the “tail part’s” owner in a trap two lines away. (Was laying a 10×10 trap grid).

      When handling traps and if you can’t see occupant: pay attention to weight! A ‘mouse’ sized box trap doesn’t weight much more with mouse in the house. But there is room inside for other critters.

      One day I found a Richardson’s ground squirrel (Urocitellus richardsonii) had stuffed itself inside the trap. The door opened just enough for me to see a big black eye! Had to disassemble to release. Adults can reach 12 in in length, and the traps are only ~10-12 inches?

      Also, you can catch all kinds of predators ( they treat traps like grocery marts, too), and one rainy day found a P.O.’d short-tailed weasel (Mustela ermina) in the trap. Didn’t have to look inside, could just smell that occupant! Phew!

  8. I can’t really tell from the video, but if that’s a black walnut, the squirrel’s work has only just begun. Those don’t crack when you drive over them.

  9. I remember as a child, fondly watching the black squirrels in central park and learning about their different color phases.

    New York Magazine, has a short history of article about squirrels.

    some factoids (from article):

    1968 -The Great Squirrel Migration takes place across the East Coast, when an especially abundant 1967 acorn harvest drives squirrels to hunt out more places to store their food. Squirrels are witnessed swimming across the Connecticut River and other bodies of water.

  10. I don’t recall seeing many squirrels in the Sonoran Desert, though you do find them at higher elevations up north — Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, and the like.

    We do have chipmunks, but the ones I see in South Mountain Park are pretty shy. Same thing with the rest of the mammals there…yesterday I just barely caught sight of a cottontail from about 50 feet away, and Baihu and I saw our first coyote similarly briefly from at least as far a couple weeks ago. But, again yesterday, there was a raven soaring far above that was croaking loudly enough to call attention to it…wouldn’t have seen it were it silent….


  11. I grew up in Olney, Illinois, which calls itself the Home of the White Squirrels because of a colony of albinos that has survived over 100 years. Some are tame and I had one eat out of my hand when I was young and foolish. Google Olney Illinois White Squirrels for the YouTube video of the white squirrel song and pictures.

  12. We’ve got the easter gray and some (long-ago) imported black squirrels around our places. Very cheeky.

    I will be sure to read “Those Darn Squirrels” to my kid today in solidarity.

  13. My only squirrel story which is not meant to denigrate squirrels but always makes me smile when I think about it.

    I was on trip around America and found myself hiking in Yosemite with a New Zealander. All of a sudden, he stopped dead in his tracks and gestured for me to stop too. I did and he said in a hushed voice “Look through there” and pointed between the trees. My heart skipped a beat: could it be a bear? Or perhaps a moose or wolf? But I saw nothing. “What is it?” I whispered. “It’s a squirrel,” he whispered back!!

    1. Having posted the above, I immediately realised that my sense of humour – which is not always appreciated – might have got me into trouble again. So my apologies. It wasn’t meant to present squirrels in a bad light but it is probably not in the spirit of squirrel appreciation day.

      1. It’s a thrill for we NZers to see a squirrel because we don’t have them. Going through family member’s photos of trips overseas, there are always pictures of tree trunks and bare grass where they weren’t quick enough to get the squirrel. If they do, it’s usually a blur!

  14. I do my part for squirreldom, today and every day by putting some choice seeds & nuts on the deck for them. My cats, ensconced in the house, love to watch them! I recently moved from a country location where I had red squirrels, to the city where I have gray squirrels. In the country, my cats would go outside some, so had to keep an eye on things to make sure they didn’t hunt & kill the squirrels. In the city, the cats no longer can go outside, so the squirrels are safe as are the cats!

  15. I have had so many squirrel friends; the longest lived was nine years. Her name was Patience, whom we nursed through some pretty awful traumas, and lost after a terrible summer storm (along with so very many of our other wild friends).
    I miss her still.

  16. I love watching the squirrels in my yard. I feed them peanuts and dried corn. I have a little wooden seat perch for them to sit on while eating the corn. I do not chase them out of the bird feeder. They love the sunflowers too. It is funny to see their long tails hanging over the side of the feeder. I have some adorable photos of different squirrels. Just love them!!!

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