History of National Squirrel Appreciation Day
In 2001, wildlife rehabilitation specialist, Christy Hargrove, founded National Squirrel Appreciation Day in Asheville, North Carolina. Christy created this day to encourage kind attitudes towards our bushy-tailed neighbors by setting out food and water for squirrels, and even allowing them to play with that bird-feeder you normally don’t want them touching. We might generally look at squirrels as being an unnecessary nuisance, but their existence is actually beneficial to the environment, and in urban areas, assists in park beautification. Albeit by accident, squirrels plant seeds (initially meaning to store away nuts to come back to when they’re hungry) which eventually grow into trees, thus assisting with forest renewal. They’re natures gardeners!
Up until the mid-19th century, squirrels weren’t present in American cities. In order to have squirrels in the middle of urban areas, you’d need to transform the landscape by planting trees and building parks. You also needed to change the way people behaved by discouraging them from shooting squirrels and encouraging them to start feeding the animals instead.
The first documented introduction occurred in Philadelphia’s Franklin Square in 1847. Boston and New Haven followed suit and brought in squirrels a few years later in 1850. The squirrel experiment had ended by the 1860s, when many squirrels had either passed or were killed amid concerns that they would disturb birds and lead to insect problems. But releases began again in the 1870s, this time on a larger scale as expansive parks were built in New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, and other major cities, providing a welcomed habitat for squirrels to live and thrive.
National Squirrel Appreciation Day timeline
Squirrels are introduced to parks in small numbers to beautify and add interest.
Rocket J. 'Rocky' Squirrel, the plucky flying squirrel, is introduced to The Bullwinkle Show and lasts five years as the best friend and ally of the Western moose, Bullwinkle.
Aunt and nephew Animaniacs duo Skippy and Slappy Squirrel take over television screens with their own animated segment.
Christy Hargrove coins National Squirrel Day and says you can make of it what you want, as long as it's in the name of squirrel positivity!
National Squirrel Appreciation Day Stats
25% of nuts are stolen
An interesting quirk about gray squirrels is not that they bury their nuts, but they’ll often dig those nuts up and then rebury them somewhere else, over and over and over again. Why go through all this trouble, you ask? Well, apparently squirrels can lose as much as 25% of their cached nuts to thieves! And the largest perpetrator of such crimes are other squirrels, specifically other gray squirrels. So by burying, digging up, and then reburying their food supply, squirrels ensure the safety of their nuts and throw off nosey thieves following their trail.
74% of buried nuts are never recovered
With all this burying, digging up, and reburying, you’d think squirrels have such a great memory to continuously find their nuts. But actually, squirrels fail to recover up to 74% of the nuts they buried. And most of the nuts they dig up, are nuts that they steal from other squirrels! So what happens to the nuts they forget and their squirrel buddies couldn’t find? Well, the gray squirrel’s forgetfulness actually helps reforestation, as the nuts they were unable to find for the winter begin to sprout in the spring, and grow into giant trees over time. In fact, the further a squirrel reburies their cache, the more tree growth spreads, which is actually great for the environment.
200 squirrel species
According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), there are over 200 species of squirrels, which are categorized into three types: tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and flying squirrels. These three categories are further broken down into many other squirrel types, such as: Albino, Mountain Tree, Antelope, Spotted, Gray, American Red, Douglas, Fox, Pygmy, Northern Flying, Souther, Arizona Gray, Idaho, Arctic Ground, Albert’s, Franklin, Richardson, Rock, White, and Black. The smallest species of squirrel is the African Pygmy, measuring about 5 inches in length and 0.6 ounces in weight. The largest squirrel is the black giant squirrel, which can weigh up to 3 pounds and can reach a length of around 3 feet from head to tail.
National Squirrel Appreciation Day FAQs
Is there a squirrel day?
What day is celebrated on the 21st of January?
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National Squirrel Appreciation Day Activities
Build a squirrel obstacle course
Help squirrels celebrate the day by building the most imaginative obstacle course for your neighborhood squirrels and then film them tackling it, and post it for tips and feedback online. Accompanied by the Mission Impossible theme, this is a really good way to appreciate the squirrel in your life.
Dress your dog up as a squirrel
One of the best things about squirrels is that you can dress your dog up as one, and then take a load of pictures of your dog, and everyone will not only love your dog more, but also, love squirrels more.
Say the word “squirrel” a lot
Not all words carry quite the delight of this one, which for some reason seems to capture the rapid, eager balance and wiliness of the beloved animal. In Scrabble, the word scores 17 points, and that’s if you don’t happen to capture any triple word scores, but perhaps the most delightful thing about it is to simply repeat it, over and over, perhaps altering the pitch, cadence, and volume, until you either crack up laughing, or simply crack up. You know why? Ask Christy Hargrove. Because like Christy Hargrove said, you can do with this day what you want.
Why We Love National Squirrel Appreciation Day
It got bigger than anyone ever thought
When Christy Hargrove started National Squirrel Appreciation Day back in 2001, she didn’t really think it would be a big deal. Christy Hargrove just said people should do whatever they think is right to celebrate National Squirrel Appreciation Day. Maybe put something on Twitter with a hashtag, wrote Christy Hargrove, on the Internet, about National Squirrel Appreciation Day. Little did she know what a success this day would become in just a few short years. A little bit like the humans who introduced small numbers of squirrels to America’s parks in the 1850s, just to make them look a little more interesting.
It celebrates the squirrel’s cunning and duplicity
As you know, squirrels bury nuts. But did you know that they often will only pretend to bury those nuts, in a sort of fake move, because they know that they’re being watched? Sometimes, squirrels will pretend to bury a nut, walk away, then come back to it as many as five times, removing it and putting it somewhere else until they’re certain that they weren’t being watched.
Three words: Squirrel obstacle courses
If ever there was an animal with more tenacity in its pursuit of food, we do not know of it. A quick Internet search for “squirrel obstacle courses” will yield some remarkable videos, and there’s something really delightful and deeply inspiring about watching these beautiful creatures use their tails for balance in the searching-out and devouring, or storing, of nuts.
National Squirrel Appreciation Day dates