Squirrels are actually classified as rodents and that may well be why their popularity is down with many humans. But they certainly do have the cute factor going for them! I didn't realize it, until I started researching squirrels for this blog, that there are over 265 species of squirrels worldwide. The squirrel family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, flying squirrels, and prairie dogs, among other members of the rodent family. Squirrels, like frogs, can live in almost any habitat and are found nearly everywhere; from tropical rainforests to semiarid deserts regions. Like us frogs, they're not crazy about the super-cold so you won't find either of us living with the polar bears!
Although many juvenile squirrels die in their first year, adult squirrels can live 5-10 years in the wild and often live 10+ years in captivity.
Since tomorrow is Squirrel Appreciation Day, I've assembled a few fascinating facts about these furry critters that, I bet, many of you don't know. I sure didn't!
1. The smallest squirrel is the Pygmy African Squirrel at just under four inches long (10 cm); the largest known squirrel is the Indian Giant Squirrel which measures in at a whopping 3 feet long!
2. Squirrels are very trusting animals and are of the few critters in the wild that will eat out of a human's hand.
3. In colder regions, squirrels store food supplies in order to survive challenging winter months. They store nuts and seeds in various locations, then return to them when food supplies become scarce.
4. Squirrels run in erratic paths; this is intended to confuse potential predators...they won't know which direction the squirrel will actually run in.
5. Squirrels are extremely smart creatures. They will often put on elaborate (but bogus) food-burying displays to deceive onlookers. These fake burials are meant to trick food thieves. The would-be food-snatchers will then focus on the fake site, allowing the squirrel to buy his real food safely in another location.
6. Tree-dwelling squirrels build dreys which are similar to bird nests. they are made of twigs, high up in the tree, and are lined with grass, bark, moss, and feathers...for comfort and for insulation. Pretty clever, eh?
7. Squirrels communicate with each other through various vocalizations and scent markings. They also use their tails as signaling devices. A twitching tail means they're uneasy and will alert other squirrels to potential danger.
8. There are 44 varieties of "flying squirrels." These squirrels don't actually fly but glide using a membrane which stretches from their wrists to their ankles. These "wings" allow the squirrel to glide to safety must the way a parachute will aid a human.
9. The squirrel is the native American symbol for thriftiness, preparation, and trust.
10. Squirrels when they are afraid will, at first, remain motionless. if they are on the ground, they'll run up a tree to safety. if they are already in a tree, they will circle the tree trunk and press up against the bark tightly with their their body.
Christy tell us that "The celebration of the event itself is up to the the individual or group - anything from putting out extra food for the squirrels to learning something new about the species." And, may I suggest, using #squirrelappreciationday on all your social media tomorrow.