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Appreciation Day

By Jane Whitmore - | Jan 25, 2021

Everything has its designated “day” and today, Jan. 21, is National Squirrel Appreciation Day.

Here’s what it says online: Originally a creation by Christy Hargrove, National Squirrel Appreciation Day on January 21 is a day to learn about and celebrate the world’s cutest rodents. Here’s the thing about squirrels: some people hate them and say that they’re “invasive species.” But can those people leap across a space ten times the length of their body? Didn’t think so.

Let me tell you about my grandpet Sadie and her interaction with squirrels. Sadie is a German shepherd, border collie rescue dog who lives with her humans in Texas.

Sadie has a green space beyond the fence in her yard. A small herd of deer roams the green space, going from one end of the neighborhood to the other. Often a doe or young deer will come up to the fence and could look nose to nose with Sadie. They’re fine.

Sadie has close encounters with an occasional skunk that wanders into the yard from the green space. Needless to say, curious Sadie is never the winner at these meetings.

On the other hand (paw) – squirrels seem to pose a serious threat. Sadie will chase them out of her yard. Once they are in the green space, Sadie has done her job and she will walk away. If she is indoors and she sees a squirrel, Sadie will stalk the squirrels from window to window. She does a good job of keeping them away from the bird feeders closest to the windows.

Sadie is a smart little girl. She knows the word “squirrel.” Her ears perk up and she’s on the alert, running to the window to check it out. Trying to trick her, Sadie’s humans often refer to these critters as “tree rats”.

The squirrels have their own feeder in the back yard in Texas. They seem to enjoy bouncing up and down on the bungee cord feeder as they pry a kernel of corn from the cob. However, just because the squirrels have their own feeder it doesn’t keep them away from the bird feeders.

I am amazed at how squirrels can bounce from one tiny tree branch to another. It’s kind of like their own bungee cord in the trees. They are excellent tight wire walkers, navigating along electric wires from one end of the block to the other. Squirrels are acrobatic, intelligent and adaptable.

Squirrels are natural gardeners They plant a lot of seeds and nuts, dig up previously planted ones, and aerate your lawn with holes all at the same time. I read that squirrels may lose 25 percent of their buried food to thieves.

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. The most common tree squirrel species here in Iowa are fox squirrels and eastern gray squirrels.

Here’s a fun squirrel fact: When squirrels feel threatened, 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.

Whether you look at squirrels as friends or foes, they do provide a lot of entertainment. Happy “Squirrel” Day!