The 21st of January is a day to celebrate our furry little friends that offer entertainment to everyone across the five continents they inhabit. According to the founder of Squirrel Appreciation Day, wildlife rehabilitator, Christy Hargrove, people should help celebrate squirrels by taking the time to learn more about the species.
So, this Squirrel Appreciation Day we’ve put together this blog packed full of facts and useful tips all about squirrels to help you appreciate them in your garden and outdoor spaces.
Quick Squirrel facts
- Squirrels are vital when it comes to the spread and growth of trees, especially oaks, as they only recover about 70 per cent of the nuts they store.
- Squirrels are fast! Their padded feet can help them reach speeds of up to 20mph.
- A squirrel’s front teeth never stop growing. This ensures that the constant gnawing on nuts and other objects doesn’t wear out their four front teeth.
- Squirrels’ main form of communication is their tails. They use them to signal, twitching them if they’re suspicious of nearby threats. They also communicate with a wide range of calls, such as ‘squeaking’ noises and territorial barks.
Squirrels in Winter
Winter is a tough time for squirrels across the UK, much as it is for other garden wildlife. Food is scarce and reliable water can be hard to find when the temperature drops. This also leads to frozen ground, which means squirrels may not be able to get access to their previously buried food stores.
Many of us assume that, much like other common garden mammals such as hedgehogs, dormice and bats, squirrels must be hibernating during the coldest winter months… This would explain why we don’t see so many of them during mid-winter. But actually, both the grey and indigenous red squirrels are physically unable to hibernate. This is partly due to the fact that they can’t store enough body fat to survive hibernation. This makes sense if you think about how acrobatic squirrels are!
What do squirrels eat?
Nuts, nuts and more nuts! Squirrels enjoy many different types and are especially keen on acorns. If you have an oak tree in your garden let those acorns fall, then watch the squirrels scurry along collecting them to eat or store for winter. You’re likely to see this happen in parks and woodland areas as well if you take the time to sit and watch. They are also partial to hazelnuts and pine trees.
Although they are a firm favourite, squirrels don’t just eat nuts. Their diet is much more diverse than many people think. They also eat many fruits, seeds, plants, insects, berries and vegetables. One interesting way squirrels contribute to the ecosystem is by eating mushroom spores. By eating the spores and then excreting them after they’re digested, the fungi help matter to decompose and give plants the nutrition they need to grow. Squirrels help maintain the symbiotic relationship between plants and mushrooms and help spread the growth of plants all over the world.
Ways to help on Squirrel appreciation day
Squirrels need our help as much as birds during the winter months. Supplying them with a constant and reliable food source to supplement their diets during the colder months can be vital to their survival. Why not buy a specialised squirrel feeder? It will help keep our furry friends well-fed throughout the year.
This Squirrel Appreciation Day go outside and watch the squirrels in your outdoor space or local parks and woodlands. What better way to spend 5 or 10 minutes than watching these furry little acrobats entertain us?