Twelve things about Squirrels that will blow your mind

Squirrels rule. Here’s why:

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Where have you been all my life?

I’ve tried to explain my love of squirrels to folks before, only to watch them back away slowly and speed dial their doctor for a rabies vaccine. So here it is (with pictures), twelve amazing facts about squirrels for the uninitiated.

1) There’s a squirrel super hero: Squirrel Girl!

2) Squirrels can jump vertically five feet, and can leap between objects that are over ten feet apart. Given that squirrels are less than 1/10th the size of people, if you could do this, you would be a superhero who could literally jump onto five story buildings and clear buses and trucks in a single bound.

3) Squirrels can sprint faster than you. (Unless you’re Usain Bolt, in which case you’re probably faster than a squirrel. But can you run vertically up a tree at 12 mph? I didn’t think so.)

Twiggy has experienced more in two squirrel years than most people do in a lifetime.

Twiggy has experienced more in two squirrel years than most people do in a lifetime.

4) Squirrels are good swimmers, although they usually prefer not to. Except for Twiggy, the water-skiing squirrel.

Rare Oberlin Unicorn squirrel.

Albus, the rare Oberlin unicorn squirrel.

5) The college I went to had a rare white unicorn squirrel in its central square. I saw it once, and it was one of the best days of my life.tumblr_m2s6z0PdWp1qgugy6o1_500

Moments later there was nothing left but bones. (Image from Brian Ashcraft)

Moments later there was nothing left but bones. (Image from Brian Ashcraft)

6) In Japan, there are squirrel gardens (where you can pet squirrels with oven mitts).

7) The white fur on the inner thigh of a squirrel is the softest thing you have never touched.

8) Squirrels pull out their tail fur for their young.

9) A squirrel nest is called a drey. It looks like a leafy piñata in a tree, but please don’t hit it with a stick.

10) Squirrels in North America used to migrate in massive numbers, following the cycles of bountiful acorn harvests. When settlers first arrived in this country, they reported squirrels being so thick in the trees above during a migration that they blocked out the sun for days. The best part — squirrels could do most of the journey from the East coast to Indiana without ever touching the ground. But as settlers started to clear the forests, the great squirrel migrations became fragmented. Where squirrels had to cross fields, they were killed in the thousands by coyotes, foxes, and other predators, including people who reported killing hundreds of squirrels per hour with clubs (and getting a penny a pelt). The last great squirrel migration was in 1963 in Wisconsin, when a couple million squirrels were seen migrating (and dying on the highway and in lakes). One fisherman reported a wave of squirrels swimming toward his boat and nearly sinking it as they ran over him. Since then, this mass migration behavior has gone extinct.*

11) The Japanese flying squirrel is the cutest thing you have ever seen. (If this doesn’t win you over to the squirrel side of the force, then try number 12).

Laugh not. We ate a dog.

Laugh not. We ate a dog.

12) Squirrels have been known to gang up and attack much larger animals. Don’t believe me? Check out this BBC report of squirrels in Russia who killed a large Rottweiler that barked at them and “carried off pieces of its flesh.” The moral: don’t mess with squirrels!

And we can fly too!

And we can fly too!

*Okay, this post might seem to have very little to do with writing (except for the fact that squirrels are awesome, and therefore an inspiration to every writer ever) but for years I’ve wanted to write a book on squirrel migration (see #10). Trouble is, when I tried to research it, I found that very few biologists know about this behavior, and one of the leading experts, Dr. Flygar, (yes, that really is his name) I fear has passed away. So it’s been a tough one to investigate, but if you know any experts on squirrel migration, or migration witnesses, please send me their contact information. The wonder of squirrel migrations must be documented before all knowledge of this fantastic (and now extinct) behavior fades away!

Final note: There is a Squirrel Lovers Club. Don’t judge. Just join.

Comments

  1. Amie A. Conant says:

    Love this post! I’m glad to find another lover of squirrels. When I started my degree, 26 years ago, for photography the first two weeks– were all pictures of squirrels. Also created a poem about squirrels last year. When I was a child, my grandparents had a white squirrel on their farm, which was fascinating to me.

    • Squirrel poetry! Please share!

      • Amie A. Conant says:

        [Not]

        queer, hairy, creatures
        shuffling, shambling, wallowing
        no bones in their bodies

        discover a good way
        to avoid admiring only acorns.

        wrapped in skins of sage rabbits
        the dirt old and thick
        strangely blurred
        divided by seams
        and wrinkles worn to the weather
        for ages.

        pass a circle
        closely besieged
        begged whiskey
        tobacco, to get away
        from the gray, grim

        see them vanish
        fellow beings—
        [not] the society of squirrels and woodchucks

        (words from John Muir’s “First Summer in the Sierras” August 24, 1869)

        This is an erasure poem–I left out words and then arranged them. As part of an exercise in poetry 412 class with Dr. Steensen. The fascinating part was the dichotomous difference between the way that John Muir described people –the native Americans, and the animals– such as squirrels.

  2. A squirrel just destroyed my supposedly squirrel proof bird feeder.

  3. Don’t forget Red Squirrels. Red Squirrels are gorgeous.
    One of them started the Tufty Club!* http://www.rospa.com/about/history/tufty.aspx
    Tufty has kept thousand of children safe on the roads since the 1960s in Britain.
    * Probably with the help of some people, but, whatever

  4. Squirrels cook says:

    Per #6, where would one find Japanese oven mitts for squirrels? And who puts them on the squirrels? And how do they get them to stay on? So many questions.

  5. This made me laugh, but it made my husband cringe. I’m pretty sure one of the main reasons he gets up in the morning, is to make our neighborhood squirrels’ lives a living hell. He has a long history of battling squirrels and a vast majority of his day is occupied patrolling the bird feeder outside his office window. Thanks to this post, Todd, he’s now afraid to let our 95-lb boxer outside…

  6. Anyone ever see a BBC (or PBS) documentary film about a squirrel in England who was raised by a cat, and would bury nuts in the litterbox, and play with the other kittens? I think it was from the 70′s or 80′s. I saw it on late night TV years ago (after a big night out), and have been searching for it ever since. I think the squirrel’s name may have been Sammy. It was an incredible story. Needs to be a picture book.

  7. Here it is. Many thanks to Ronald Cree for finding this. It’s the best documentary ever! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YkEqQ5pnXM

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