January 21 – Squirrel Appreciation Day

Posted on January 21, 2015

They scamper and skitter.
They patter and squeak.
They put their little paws around acorns and nuts and bring them up to their little mouths and nibble-nibble-gnaw.

They eat until their cheeks bulge.

And sometimes they stop their nibbling and scampering—freeze!—and stare at you.

Comedian Eddie Izzard thinks that their stop-freeze-stare thing is like they are thinking, “Wait! Did I leave the gas on?”

And then of course, they realize that, no, they did not leave the gas on...because they are SQUIRRELS!

Squirrels are some of the most visible rodents in many people's lives. Various kinds of squirrels live in mountains and deserts, prairies to cities. Many of them live in trees, and some live underground. We humans can often see them right where we live—in our backyards and city parks.

Here are some of the reasons that many people do NOT appreciate squirrels:

  • They have teeth that always need to be sharpened, so squirrels gnaw on lots of things. Sometimes things that are important to humans. For example, several times the NASDAQ market has been shut down by squirrels—who chewed through power lines!
  • In general, feeding squirrels by hand is
    NOT a good idea. Squirrels'
    teeth and claws are very sharp, and they
    are wild animals, unpredictable, and
    often carriers of disease.
    Sometimes squirrels carry diseases. You know, like the Bubonic plague!
  • Squirrels sometimes get into people's attics, garages, bird feeders and bird houses. We are talking about eating things we don't want them to eat, chewing on things we don't want them to chew on, and leaving messes everywhere!

But holiday creator and wildlife rehabilitator Christy Hargrove wants us to appreciate squirrels despite all these things. After all, they are wild animals who are just trying to find enough food to eat and to feed their families. Also, squirrels are like humans in that they (and we) are very opportunistic. That means that they adapt to whatever is happening in their environment, and if one food source goes missing, they take every opportunity they can spot to get a new food source.

Here are some interesting facts about squirrels:
  • Squirrels have four teeth that grow all of their lives. Get this—luckily, those teeth are ground down by gnawing on hard things like acorns, because their teeth grow an astounding SIX INCHES per year!
  • The smallest squirrel in the world (the African pygmy squirrel) is just five inches long from nose to tail, and the largest (the Indian giant squirrel) is about three feet long! (In metric terms, that is from 13 cm to about 1 meter.)

  • Squirrel tails are great for keeping balance, keeping warm, providing shelter from sun or rain, communicating with other squirrels, and even acting as a parachute to slow down and then providing a bit of a cushion during the occasional fall.

Watch squirrels today. Throw out some seeds or corn for the squirrels. Learn more about squirrels at Twiggle Magazine (for younger kids), National Geographic Kids (for older kids), or elsewhere...

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the introduction of the smallpox vaccine

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