In the past, Farmers’ Almanac has shared helpful advice about what to do about squirrels—often as pests with tips on how keep them out of your bird feeders. They are also the subject of some popular weather lore sayings about winter. But whether you find them adorable or annoying, there’s no denying that squirrels are fascinating creatures that provide lots of entertainment. Who hasn’t laughed at the videos and images of their Olympic-worthy gymnastics—hanging upside down, swinging from eaves, walking the tightrope on power lines, and outsmarting squirrel-proof feeders—just to get food?
In honor of Squirrel Appreciation Day, January 21, we’ve got some “nutty” facts about these critters that will surely prove they are more than deserving of our appreciation!
8 Nutty Things You Didn’t Know About Squirrels
1. They’re Related To Groundhogs
Squirrels are small mammals that are part of the Sciuridae family that includes chipmunks, groundhogs, prairie dogs, flying squirrels, ground squirrels, and tree squirrels.
Fun fact: The word “rodent” actually derives from the Latin “rodere,” which means “to gnaw.“
2. They Have A Keen Sense of Smell
Squirrels rely on their sense of smell to find food. They can even smell food buried under a foot of snow. They’ll dig a tunnel until they find it!
3. They Use Tricks To Confuse The Enemy
Squirrels use a zigzag technique to escape predators (rabbits do this, too). When they are threatened, they run in circles to confuse overhead predators. They have also been known to “fake bury” an acorn —digging an empty hole and then covering it back up—to trick other squirrels that are trying to steal their stash.
4. Baby Squirrels Are Called “Kits” or “Kittens”
And when they’re newborns, “kittens” are blind, hairless, and are only an inch long.
5. They’re Excellent Climbers
Most squirrels have 4 toes on their front paws and 5 toes on their back paws (it can vary with species), each with very sharp claws. This gives them excellent climbing ability.
6. They Live Longer Than You Might Think
How long do squirrels live? A squirrel’s lifespan varies depending on whether or not they’re in captivity (a whopping 24 years) or out in the wild (6-10 years). Which may surprise some, since they seem to always be darting out in busy traffic.
7. Squirrels Have Great Eyesight
Squirrels’ eyes are positioned in a way which allows for excellent peripheral vision. They can see what’s above them and beside them without having to move their heads. This makes sneaking up on them virtually impossible.
8. They Have Their Own Bridge To Safely Cross A Busy Road
The city of Longview, Washington, constructed a rodent-scaled bridge named Nutty Narrows so that squirrels could safely cross the busy road of Olympia Way. In 1963, the 60-foot-wide bridge, made of aluminum and a recycled fire hose, was hoisted over the road between two trees. It cost $1,000 and has saved a lot of squirrels. During the holidays, they add a small Christmas tree with lights to the center of the bridge.
Now that’s squirrel appreciation!