One weird holiday on January 21 is Squirrel Appreciation Day. Check out the other weird January holidays!
History of Squirrel Appreciation Day
Today’s weird holiday was initiated in 2001 by Christy McKeown, a North Carolina wildlife rehabilitator affiliated with the Western North Caroline Nature Center. She wanted to encourage people to put out seeds and nuts for the squirrels in their area.
Squirrels are found on six of the seven continents (not Antarctica). They are not native to Australia but have been introduced there.
The most common squirrels in North America are the western and easter gray squirrels.
The red squirrel is more common in Europe, but it’s numbers are decreasing in Great Britain and Ireland because of the introduction of the eastern gray squirrel.
Until the 1800s, weren’t found in cities in the United States because there were so few trees and parks. In 1847, humans introduced squirrels into Philadelphia’s Franklin Square. In 1850, Boston and New Haven did so as well. The cities then took a 10 year break because so many were killed due to concerns for the birds and insects.
In the 1870s, expansive parks were built in Chicago, New York, Bonston, Washington D.C., and other large cities. Along with this development, squirrels were again released into tehse parks.
In 1959, The Bullwinkle Show introduced the character Rocket J. ‘Rocky’ Squirrel, a plucky flying squirrel. He remained in the show for five years as the best friend of Bullwinkle, the Western moose.
In 1993, the TV show Animaniacs introduced Aunt Skippy Squirrel and her nephew Slappy Squirrel, and they were given their own animated segment.
Squirels are part of the Sciuridae family, which also includes other rodents like chipmunks, groundhogs, and prairie dogs. Squirrels ahve been around for millions of years; the earliest fossils of squirrels go back about 30 million years to the Eocene epoch!
There are over 200 species of squirrels in the world. The smallest known squirrel species is the African pygmy, which is about three inches long on average. The largest is the Indian giant squirrel, which can be as long as three feet!
The oldest squirrel species is the nocturnal arrow flying squirrel (which was discovered and validated in 1766) and the Black Giant (validated in 1788).
Each squirrel species is part of one of three types: ground squirrels, tree squirrels, and flying squirrels.
Ground squirrels are found mostly in the prairies and deserts of North America. The cause a lot of damage and have been labelled as rodents. There are many predators that eat them, and their only defense is to run away. The zig zag pattern they use is to protect them from predators.
Tree squirrels make their homes in trees and are found all around the globe, usually in backyards and parks. They find their nesting materials and food on the ground and in the trees. They can turn their ankles 180 degrees while climbing!
Flying squirrels don’t actually fly, but their jumps and leaps carry them farther than other types of squirrel because of extra flaps of skin between their legs. When they jump, they spread their legs wide and float on the breeze. They can actually end up traveling a distance of 10 times their body length.
A group of squirrels is called a scurry, and a squirrel’s nest is referred to as a dray or drey (although sometimes dray is used to describe a group of squirrels).
One interesting fact about gray squirrels is that they not only bury their nuts, but they dig them up and rebury them somewhere else – over and over again! This is to prevent other squirrels from stealing their stash. But 74% of those nuts are never recovered because squirrels have terrible memories and forget where they’ve been hidden.
Squirrels hibernate in the winter, using those stored nuts as a food source. They use their sense of smell to find the nuts again. The longest hibernation is over 8 months, and is performed by the arctic squirrel. This unique squirrel can lower its body temperature to below freezing so it can survive!
Ideas for Squirrel Appreciation Day
Other than feeding the squirrels around you, here are some other ways to celebrate this weird holiday.
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