22+ Fun And Nutty Facts About Squirrels: Acorns, Habitat And More
Squirrels are some of the cutest animals in the world. These adorable, acorn-loving rodents are found in parks, forests, and backyards all around the world. Want to find out more about everyone’s favorite chubby-cheeked friend? In this article, we list off nutty squirrel facts.
Amazing Facts About Squirrels
Squirrels, everyone’s favorite bushy-tailed friends, are found all over the world. And with more than 200 squirrel species in existence recognized by the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), there are countless diverse breeds of squirrel to learn about.
Do you want to find out the nuttiest facts about squirrels? In this article, our experts reached out to zoology professionals and trawled through more encyclopedias that we would like to admit discovering everything there is to know about squirrels.
Squirrels: What Are They?
Before digging into the more obscure tidbits of information about squirrels, we should first go over the essential squirrel facts. A good place to begin is to discuss the family that squirrels belong to, the Sciuridae family.
Although difficult to pronounce, the Sciuridae family of animals is composed of simple rodents. Within the Sciuridae family are ground squirrels, marmots, flying squirrels, and even prairie dogs. Most rodents native to the Americas are squirrels belonging to the Sciuridae family tree.
Squirrels can be described most succinctly as small to mid-sized rodents. Believe it or not, these pint-sized little guys originated all the way back during the Eocene era, which was a prehistoric epoch that ended nearly 34 million years ago. That’s right, squirrels have somehow been around for tens of millions of years more than human beings.
Squirrels naturally occupy wooded areas and densely treed lands. This explains why squirrels are so commonly found scurrying up bushes and trees in one’s yard. Although there are some species of squirrel that occupy plains, most squirrels are native to forests and areas rich with vegetation.
The Craziest Squirrel Facts
Now that we know the basics about squirrels, let us go over some of the most mind-blowing squirrel facts. After spending days researching everything there is to know about squirrels, we compiled the following list of the most interesting squirrel facts we could find.
Squirrels Are Victims of Theft
Like humans, squirrels always must be vigilant against the threat of theft. One of the main reasons why squirrels bury their food, especially acorns, is because they are trying to protect their food supply from being stolen. But even then, some experts estimate that up to a quarter of a squirrel’s buried food supply is stolen by other squirrels.
To prevent this from happening, squirrels usually bury multiple stockpiles of food. Although this might work well in theory, it often results in the squirrel forgetting where they buried some of their food. Consequently, sneaky birds or other squirrels sometimes find it before they do.
They’re Elusive Prey
You may not be surprised to learn that squirrels are hard to catch. In fact, even some of the most predatory creatures in the animal kingdom have a hard time getting their hands (or claws) on a squirrel. This is because squirrels naturally scurry in a zigzag pattern to fake-out their predators and catch them off guard. Pretty smart, huh?
Squirrels Are Pranksters
Although it is probably more of a natural method for eluding predatory thieves, squirrels are known to throw pranks on other animals. Zoologists have noted how squirrels tend to “pretend” to bury a cache of food in the ground so their predators are tricked into thinking it’s buried there. This crafty yet deceptive plan keeps predators away from their real food supplies.
Squirrels Were Imported into America
This interesting article in Popular Science describes how Americans imported squirrels to city parks in the 19th century. When cities were first starting to urbanize in the 1870s, creatures such as sparrows and squirrels were deliberately brought into the municipal parks. Early city planners introduced these animals to make urban environments seem more welcoming and bucolic.
Since then, squirrels have become something of a cultural symbol for American urban life. Since they are a human-friendly species, squirrels have been able to thrive alongside human beings in cities for generations. Therefore, squirrels are one of the only animal species that are commonly found in urban areas.
They’re Natural Acrobats
Like many rodents, squirrels have a natural tendency to climb objects, scale walls, and generally mount anything you put in their way. With hands that resemble vice grips, squirrels can latch on to thin wires, dense fabrics, and everything in between. This quality makes squirrels a threat to bird feeders and mailboxes everywhere, since they can easily get inside either.
Squirrels: Nature’s Balloon
In preparation for the winter months, squirrels bulk up on nuts and other food items to gain weight. Having an extra layer of fat on their bodies help them stay warm when it is cold outside. Over the course of the winter season, squirrels will fast for long stretches of time which causes them to shed all their excess weight—just in time for the beach season!
Squirrels Plant Trees
It is a little-known fact that squirrels are tree planters. That squirrels happen to plant trees is, in fact, a bit of a happy accident. This is because squirrels bury their nuts, seeds, and acorns underground to keep away from predators. Since squirrels have bad memories, they usually forget where some are buried. Over time, their planted food grows and turns into trees.
Squirrels Can Play Dead
Although it may be hard to believe, squirrels can stay still for prolonged stretches of time. However, squirrels only hold a still pose if they are mortally scared. Usually, the first thing a squirrel does when they detect danger is stand perfectly still for a few seconds to trick their predators from afar into thinking that they are either dead or too far in the distance.
A Creature of Habitat
Squirrels, like birds and beavers, construct intricate habitats out of their natural environment. Using sticks and twigs sourced from tall trees, squirrels build dreys and nests in a tree or, more rarely, on the ground. In fact, grey squirrels often build their dreys so high in trees that they are commonly mistaken for birds’ nests.
Although you might not be able to picture it, squirrels are able to speak to one another to communicate, court mates, and resolve conflicts. Squirrels emit basic vocalizations that sounds like squeaks or chirps. Aside from that, squirrels also mark their territory via scent, which is another way that squirrels can pass messages to their peers.
Squirrels come in all shapes and sizes. However, almost all squirrels are small in stature, even by rodents’ standards. The smallest species of squirrel is the African pygmy which is only eight or nine centimeters long and less than 10 ounces in weight. On the other extreme of the spectrum, the Laotian giant flying squirrel is over a whole meter in length.
Quick Squirrel Facts
Now that we have covered the zaniest squirrel facts out there, let’s now go over some of our favorite quick facts about squirrels. These facts cover essential aspects of squirrels as well as lesser-known, fascinating bits of trivia.
What’s in a Name?
The origin of the word “squirrel” comes from the Greek word “skiouros,” which roughly translates to “shadow-tailed”. This is a reference to the squirrel’s bushy tail. The word first appeared in English in the early 14th century.
Squirrels Are Worldwide
Squirrels are a species found on all corners of the earth. With nearly 300 species of squirrels, you can find some variation of a squirrel in every permanently inhabited continent except for Australia.
Small but Mighty
The arctic ground squirrel, which is one of the only squirrel species indigenous to the northern Arctic, has a unique ability. These squirrels are the only warm-blooded mammal able to survive prolonged body temperatures in sub-zero temperatures during hibernation.
In Southern California in 2013, local police quarantined a community after an infected squirrel was found. That squirrel was deemed responsible for the death of a teenage boy who had contacted the squirrel earlier.
One-Liner Squirrel Facts
Haven’t gotten your fill of squirrel facts yet? To wrap things up, we put together a list of our favorite fast squirrel facts. Since they are so short and succinct, these facts are great for memorizing and reciting if you want to impress your friends.
Squirrels can jump horizontally to distances of up to 20 feet.
Squirrels can run up to 32 kilometers an hour if necessary to escape a predator.
Squirrels only have four toes, with razor-sharp nails on each for easier climbing.
Squirrels can smell their mates from miles away when in heat.
Acorns are the favorite food for many European and North American squirrel species.
Squirrels typically mate of a period of four months during the late winter and spring.
Female squirrels become pregnant for roughly six weeks until ready to give birth.