Go nuts over squirrels on National Squirrel Appreciation Day!
Held annually on Jan. 21 — in the middle of winter when food sources may be scarce — this unofficial holiday was started in 2001 by a wildlife rehabilitator named Christy Hargrove to recognize the role that squirrels play in the environment.
Given squirrels’ widespread presence and all the nuts they hide — and forget — they’re nature’s great gardeners and essential to oak forest regeneration. To help celebrate the occasion, we’ve dug up (pun intended) seven nutty squirrel facts to get you started.
1. Squirrels belong to the taxonomic order "rodentia,” which account for more than 1/3 of mammals.
2. Like other rodents, squirrels' front teeth never stop growing. Chewing on hard items, like nut shells, keeps them worn down to the ideal length.
3. Not all squirrels live in trees! Other members of the family "sciuridae" include chipmunks, groundhogs, ground squirrels, and prairie dogs, which live underground.
Image CC BY-SA 3.0
4. A squirrel's tail has many uses. It can provide shade in the summer, heat in the winter, act as a counterbalance when leaping across branches, and communicate different emotions, such as fear and aggression.
5. Arboreal (tree) squirrels' bodies are well-adapted for life in the treetops. Whiskers above their wrists may assist them in locating branches while jumping from limb to limb, and their rear ankles can rotate 180 degrees to allow them to quickly climb down trees.
6. Fox squirrels, one of DuPage County's most common arboreal squirrels, may cache between 3,000 and 10,000 nuts each year, and the majority of them may be forgotten.
7. The southern flying squirrel is common in DuPage County but not frequently seen due to its nocturnal activity. It does not actually fly but glides using a membrane called a "patagium" that connects its front and hind legs.
In honor of these intelligent, bushytailed critters, take time today to celebrate their role in nature, appreciate their incredible acrobatics and just listen to their chirps, squeaks and other chatter. Or better yet, take a moment to learn more about DuPage County’s tree squirrels and chipmunks and ground squirrels.