Nutty Facts You Probably Don't Know About Squirrels

On #SquirrelAppreciationDay, let's give these little critters some love

Photo via Creative Commons

It's nearly impossible to set foot in a yard in an established neighborhood, in a park, or in a wooded area without coming across one of these furry critters. They could be climbing a tree, digging for food or executing some incredible acrobatic moves that would make Cirque du Soleil performers envious.

We've even seen a squirrel show some incredible stamina by scoring a touchdown during a college football game.

While that particular feat was amazingly entertaining, some people — especially people with bird feeders — may consider them a nuisance, but they really are some incredible creatures.

In honor of National #SquirrelAppreciationDay on January 21, here are some nutty facts about these tiny wildlife wonders.

No. 1

Their teeth never stop growing

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

On average, their incisors will grow six inches per year, but during normal chewing, the teeth — when properly lined up — will grind against each other to prevent them from getting too long and causing issues.

No. 2

They're hoarders with bad memories

Photo via Creative Commons

Studies show squirrels fail to recover up to 74 percent of the nuts they bury, making them unintentional heroes when it comes to reforestation.

No. 3

Squirrels can be pretty sly

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

To help safeguard the stash they don't forget about months later, squirrels can be crafty little critters and have been seen engaging in "deceptive catching." That involves digging a hole, then covering it up without depositing the nut when they think they're being watched. This is to throw off food thieves, who are estimated to steal up to 25 percent of a squirrel's underground stash.

How do they decide what to eat and what to bury? They're more likely to immediately eat a white-oak acorn, which has less fat and will germinate soon after it is buried in the fall, while stashing away the red-oak acorn because it won't sprout until spring and also contains more fat, which comes in handy to survive the cold winter months.

No. 4

They're a bunch of scaredy cats

Photo via Creative Commons

If you have an invasion of squirrels causing problems in your yard, go low tech to keep them out. For example, beach balls in a fenced yard will work wonders, because the wind knocking them around will frighten them. Plastic bags tied to branches also can work, although your neighbors may not approve of the littered look.

No. 5

So many squirrels, and some can fly

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

In all there are more than 200 species of squirrels worldwide. Without a doubt, the coolest is the flying squirrel, even though they technically don't fly but can execute gliding leaps in excess of 150 feet.

No. 6

Sweaty feet

Photo via Creative Commons

They have sweat glands on their feet and those feet — sweaty or not — can run up to 20 miles per hour.

But if you've watched the previously mentioned video of the squirrel scoring a touchdown, you already knew they're fast.

No. 7

Snow's no problem

Photo courtesy of Jim Kloss

A keen sense of smell means squirrels can sniff out their buried treasure even when it's under a foot of snow.

No. 8

Babies are a rare sight

Photo via Flickr

Odds are, you've never seen a baby squirrel in the wild. They're born without fur, their eyes and ears are closed and they only weigh one or two ounces. Because of this, they're extremely vulnerable to predators and will spend up to ten weeks in the nest with their mother.

The litters are usually born in the early spring and late summer.

No. 9

Urban dwellers

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

How did squirrels become so common in urban environments? You can thank humans, who transported the tiny critters in the late 19th century in an attempt to bring some natural charm into what was quickly becoming a concrete jungle. Their ability to reproduce in large numbers — they breed twice a year and can have one to seven babies in each litter — meant their population soon swelled in cities.

But that's not necessarily a good thing. ...

No. 10

Danger lies ahead

Photo via Creative Commons

When frightened, they will quickly dart back and forth to try to confuse and escape predators. That works great when the predator is a hawk.

However, it's a dangerous tactic when vehicles are involved, which is why many squirrels living in a city environment have a lifespan of about a year.

 

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