Squirrel Week is approaching!

March 20, 2015 • 3:44 pm

More kibbles have fallen into my lap: Greg has a post on Squirrel Week, which begins in April, but he wants it posted now because there’s a squirrel photo contest whose deadline is isoon.  I should add that Greg’s daughter went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland, explaining his disquisition on Academy squirrels below.

by Greg Mayer

We are, dare I say, blessed to have not one, but two squirrel-themed holidays, National Squirrel Appreciation Day (January 21, which Jerry noted here), and Squirrel Week (April 12-18 of this year). The latter holiday seems to have been invented in 2011 by sciurophile Washington Post columnist John Kelly, who has announced Squirrel Week’s second annual photo contest. Entries are due by Mar. 27, and the winner will be announced on April 12. You should go have a look at the 2014 entrants, including the winner; Jerry highlighted some of these last year.

We’ve long had an interest in squirrels at WEIT, and John Kelly seems not to have said exactly when Squirrel Week is this year (the winning photo will be announced around April 12), so we’ll get an early start with gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Midshipman with two yard dogs (Sciurus carolinensis) at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in the 1970s.
Midshipman with two yard dogs (Sciurus carolinensis) at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in the 1970s.

This is a retro-photo, from the 1970s. Squirrels are very common on the grounds of the Academy (which has many large deciduous trees), and are known there as “yard dogs”; we’ve seen them here before at WEIT. There are also cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus) on “the Yard” (as the grounds of the Academy are called), and I call them “yard cats”. I asked an Academy grad if the rabbits are indeed called yard cats, and she replied, “If not they should be!”

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has a Pinterest page for Squirrel Week, although I can’t tell when the page dates from; they also have an authoritative guide to all 80+ species of North American squirrels. For Squirrel Week 2013, Kelly interviewed the Smithsonian’s Richard Thorington, who gave him a tour of the “Squirrel Range” at the USNM. I tried to embed the video, but failed. JAC: click on the screenshot below to go to this biologically informative tour of squirrels:

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 3.50.12 PM

I was able to embed one of the 2013 Squirrel Week videos, in which the video reporter interviews John Kelly.

9 thoughts on “Squirrel Week is approaching!

  1. We are fortunate to be able to feed the squirrels in our back yard. We are visited almost daily by Little Red, Big Red, Grey Beard , Blackie I and Blackie II

  2. I have a grim quandary. My dear mother lives in a very old, riddled farmhouse, with a load of holes around the underside of the roof. Inevitably, squirrels have started wriggling through this honeycomb, which leads into the chimney and down into the kitchen, and my mum has taken to setting ‘humane’ squirrel traps, which, once full, she immediately chucks into a large tub of water, thus rather negating the point of having a humane trap in the first place.
    I can imagine she’s not coming out of this looking too good – she can’t stand squirrels, says they chew up her plants(I’m not sure about that), and I cannot argue her away her from her characterisation of them as “vermin”. I’ve refused to drown them when asked obviously, but she’s trying to sell the house and she’s on a stress-fuelled crusade. She won’t agree to let the squirrels out somewhere distant because it’s illegal. I’m pretty neutral about squirrels but the idea of hurting them because they chew up her plants or get into her kitchen and run off with an avocado in each paw is repulsive to me.
    What to do?

    1. Patch the holes under the roof, or at some other checkpoint in the passage from the roof to the kitchen. A proper repair is best, but all that need be done is block the squirrel’s passage– wads of fine-grade steel wool, stuffed into narrow spots, might well do the job. I’ve used that successfully with other rodents which were gaining entry to a dwelling.


      1. Thanks – I’ve now done that, with rolled up sheets of chicken wire, which means they should no longer be able to get into the kitchen(which is the only part of the house they’re interested in). Obviously though they’re still in our big garden and yard… Since my last post I’ve asked my mum whether she’ll leave them be now that they should no longer be able to get into the kitchen – but she says she’ll still go on trapping and killing them.

        I expected her to stick to the claims that they’re also destroying her plants, which would at least mean her murderous impulses were still motivated by pragmatism, but now she says it’s because they eat ‘bird eggs and baby birds, eat apples, they’re vermin and she doesn’t want them on her property’, which is not convincing.

        I think I’ve dealt with all the pragmatic reasons she used but she’s now not even attempting to justify her loathing – it seems completely irrational. She just wants them dead and she chucks them, whilst they’re caught alive in the humane trap, into a big tub of water, which seems a lot less humane to me than many other fatal traps I can think of, and then because she hates them so much and doesn’t like dealing with dead animals at the best of times, I have to fish them out and dispose of the sad, rigid corpse.

        I can just about see why you might not like them – the red squirrel has a much better PR team, and squirrels are often regarded as vermin, or creepy, or whatever. And she’s unbelievably stubborn, but she’s not stupid and she’s not heartless(honestly). Does anyone have any positive, empirical, squirrel-related arguments that might sway her? It really pisses me off that she does this.

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