Did you know that this Sunday, January 21 is Squirrel Appreciation Day? While some may not always appreciate this nutty little rodent for stealing birdseed and terrorizing attics, squirrels play an important ecological role and are highly entertaining to watch, especially for children. In honor of these little nuts, I thought it’d be fun to share a few fun facts about squirrels, a couple squirrel jokes, some favorite squirrel books and even a craft and snack you could make with your kids. Every squirrel deserves it’s day, so let’s show our appreciation!
15 fun facts about squirrels
- There are about 200 species of squirrels in the world. There are about 10 tree species in North America. The lifespan of a squirrel is about nine years.
- A squirrel has 2 to 4 babies at a time and can raise two litters of “kits” per year. Baby squirrels are born blind without fur. A baby squirrel is totally dependent on its mother until about three months old.
- A squirrel’s four front teeth never stop growing. – This is a common characteristic of other rodents, as well. If their top and bottom teeth don’t line up correctly their ongoing growth can cause major health problems for a squirrel such that it may drool excessively or be incapable of closing its mouth, leading to difficulty eating and starvation.
- Squirrels are hoarders and bury their nuts, one at a time, scattered around their territory. Squirrels have a difficult time keeping an eye on all their hidden food and may lose 25% of their food to thieves. In the winter they can smell their food buried under a foot of snow. To look for nuts they’ve buried in the past, squirrels use visual landmarks like particular trees, rocks and streams.
- Squirrels have been observed engaging in “deceptive caching” and may pretend to bury a nut to throw off potential thieves. Sometimes squirrels dig a hole and vigorously cover it up again, but without depositing the nut to throw off potential food thieves.
- Squirrels don’t always dig up all of their buried nuts, which results in trees! They have accidentally contributed countless trees to our nation’s parks and forests. If you ask us, that’s a pretty great reason alone to appreciate squirrels.
- When squirrels feel threatened or want to escape predators, they run away in a zigzag pattern. This is an incredibly useful strategy to escape hawks and other predators. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work so well on cars. Consider slowing down and giving squirrels a brake!
- Squirrel paws are hand-like, with little primitive thumbs and strong claws for grasping at tree bark. These features, combined with a squirrel’s ability to rotate its hind feet 180 degrees, allow the animal to descend head-first from a tree.
- Squirrels are acrobatic, intelligent and adaptable. Their nimble hands make it easy for squirrels to steal from birdfeeders, particularly platforms or cage-like models. To prevent a squirrel from getting to a hanging bird feeder, make the cord slick by coating it with vegetable oil.
- Quick and nimble as they are, squirrels regularly get stuck if they run into tight places too fast. To check out space constraints, even in the dark, squirrels use whiskers on their faces and their legs. These highly sensitive hairs allow the animal to feel how close the sides of a hidey-hole are and decide how close is too close.
- A squirrel’s diet includes a lot of nuts, berries, stems, roots and other plant matter. However, they will eat meat and other sources of protein when under stress or as the opportunity arises. This includes bird eggs, snakes, smaller rodents and chickens, among other things.
- Squirrels bulk-up to stay warm during the winter. Putting on some extra weight is one strategy squirrels use to stay warm during the cold winter months.
- Contrary to some popular beliefs, squirrels aren’t quiet. Squirrels talk through whistling, chirping and clicking. They warn other squirrels about danger. They can produce a range of vocalizations including barks, grunts, squeaks and their familiar chatter.
- A squirrel’s nest is called a drey. It is about the size of a football and is built high in trees. It is made from sticks and inside has dry grass, moss, feathers and shredded tree bark.
- Humans introduced squirrels to most of our major US city parks in the 1850s and 1860s. Feeding squirrels was seen as a means to encourage kindness to all animals. People thought that by adding squirrels to our parks in cities, we could bring pleasure and entertainment to the people who couldn’t leave the city and enjoy nature.
Favorite squirrel jokes for kids
Q: Why can’t you be friends with a squirrel? A: They drive everyone nuts.
Q: How can you catch a squirrel? A: Climb a tree and pretend to be a nut.
Q: Why couldn’t the squirrel eat the macadamia nut? A: It was one tough nut to crack.
Q: Why was the squirrel late for work? A: Traffic was NUTS.
Q: What do you get when you cross a detective and a squirrel? A: A nut case.
Children’s books about squirrels
Whether it’s due to their adorable nature or their abundance in nearly every backyard in the country, squirrels make for some really wiley and hilarious storybook characters. In honor of Squirrel Appreciation Day, we’ve put together a list of sixteen books about squirrel adventures, antics and appetites! These books are entertaining for kids of all ages, from preschool through school-aged kids and will not only teach them about our furry friends, but entertain them along the way.
The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri
Scaredy Squirrel Melanie Watt
Squirrel’s Acorn by Lizbeth Stone
Bird & Squirrel on the Run by James Burks
Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep by April Pulley Sayre
A Squirrel’s Story: A True Tale by Jana Bommersbach
Squirrels on Skis by J. Hamilton Ray
Those Darn Squirrels! by Adam Rubin
Nuts to You! by Lois Ehlert
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
Aw, Nuts! by Rob McClurkan
The Secret Life of Squirrels by Nancy Rose
One More Acorn by Don Freeman
In the Middle of Fall by Kevin Henkes
Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide by Richard W. Thorington Jr.
Earl the Squirrel by Don Freeman
A couple squirrely crafts
If you’re looking for a fun activity to do with your kids in honor of Squirrel Appreciation Day, here are a couple of ideas that are sure to please:
Happy Acorn Necklaces – How adorable are these painted happy-faced acorn necklaces? They’d also make adorable key chains or ornaments.
Acorn Cap Squirrel – I love this project of creating a silhouette of a squirrel out of collected acorn caps. Not only does it build fine motor skills, but it gets kids outside to collect the materials.
Paper Squirrels – These colorful paper squirrels stand up for an interactive displayable squirrel.
Leafy Squirrel – Create your own unique squirrel and setting out of natural materials such as leaves. For extra credit, add some branches and acorns to your masterpiece.
Pinecone Felt Squirrel – This step-by-step tutorial shows you exactly how to turn a pine cone into a cute little critter, with just some felt and a glue gun.
Sneaky snacky squirrel
What would a squirrel celebration be without a few “nutty” snacks to go along with it. Here a few of our favorite treats for all your little squirrels.
Sweet Acorns – For a sweet treat, dip the top portion of donut holes in Nutella and then coat with chocolate sprinkles. Pop half a pretzel stick in the top and viola — acorns!
Nutty Squirrel Bars – If you want something a little nuttier, try these Nutty Squirrel Bars – a sweet and salty combination of roasted chewy caramel crunch.
Chocolate & Peanut Butter Acorns – For a winning combination of chocolate and peanut butter, try these super easy to make acorns, made from a Hershey kiss topped with a bite-sized NutterButter cookie.
Squirrel Cookies – For the cutest snack around, check out these adorable chubby-cheeked squirrel cookies, made with a salty/sweet combination of Ritz crackers and Nilla wafers.
We’re lucky to have these clever, charismatic creatures living among us, but like most wild animals, the best way to appreciate squirrels is to watch them from a distance. Squirrels may look sweet and cuddly, but children (and adults) should not interact with them (they bite!). In addition, feeding wildlife is generally a bad idea, since it portrays people as a food source and could discourage natural foraging.