Have you hugged a squirrel today?

Photo of squirrel taken in 1937, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin.

Photo of squirrel taken in 1937, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin. (Identifier 2129386, National Archives at Chicago)

While poking around the web while I ate my lunch, I discovered that today is Squirrel Appreciation Day! I know many gardeners can’t stand the little beasts, and when we tried to grow tomatoes a couple of summers ago, I didn’t feel too friendly toward them, either. But usually I’m quite taken by these fluffy-tailed guys. And I’m not the only one—President Ronald Reagan used to feed the squirrels outside the Oval Office.

President Reagan laying out acorns for the squirrels outside the Oval Office. 11/4/83 (Reagan Library, C18085-17)

President Reagan laying out acorns for the squirrels outside the Oval Office. 11/4/83 (Reagan Library, C18085-17)

I love the way squirrels flick their tails when they’re agitated and chitter at you self-importantly from their safe perches far overhead. I can’t help but smile when they’re all fluffed up in winter or nod sympathetically when they’re draped across a branch, trying to cool off in summer. Way, way back, when I was a tiny thing, one of my favorite cartoons was even “Secret Squirrel.”

Squirrels also have an important job planting trees. They bury far more acorns and seeds than they can possibly uncover and eat, and the forgotten food then sprouts. They also won the sweepstakes when it comes to cuteness. Without that plume of a tail, they’d not look much different from their rodent cousin, the rat. But with the fluffy factor, they’re the subject of countless tourist pictures around the Mall here in Washington and elsewhere.

As soon as I found out it was Squirrel Appreciation Day, I went to the Archives’ Online Public Access prototype search tool and typed in “squirrel.” I was surprised at the number of hits that I got. Many of them were about pest control and squirrel hunting, but today’s not the day for that. You can look that up for yourself. My favorite is a picture from FEMA files. It shows two members of a veterinary rescue team working on a baby squirrel after Hurricane Katrina.

FEMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams helped out with stray animals found in areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina. This team works on a baby squirrel. September 8, 2005 (ARC 299205)

FEMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams helped out with stray animals found in areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina. This team works on a baby squirrel. September 8, 2005 (ARC 299205)

So spare an appreciative thought for squirrels today. In winter, they’re not stealing your vegetables or uprooting your tulips (yet). Let them entertain you with their acrobatics on the high wire or amazing leaps from tree to tree. Squirrel chases across fences and spiraling around treetops are also highly entertaining. And though my squirrel tales have been mostly about the gray squirrels in our backyards, don’t forget to appreciate ground squirrels and flying squirrels, too!

Squirrel study on Wagner Butte, Crater Forest, Oregon, 1922 (ARC 299205)

Squirrel study on Wagner Butte, Crater Forest, Oregon, 1922 (ARC 299205, National Archives at Seattle)

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4 Responses to Have you hugged a squirrel today?

  1. Peg says:

    Wow, you had a much more productive lunch hour than I did!

    Like

  2. Corinne Porter says:

    Ahhhh! So that’s why the squirrels around the White House are so friendly – President Reagan used to feed them! Being quite the squirrel enthusiast myself, I’ve always enjoyed stopping by Lafayette Park across from the White House with some birdseed to feed the squirrels. They eat right out of my hand and don’t seem to mind much that I’m not the president!

    Like

  3. aleta says:

    Cute! Though that last one is a chipmunk; Crater Lake National Park is swarming with them.

    Like

    • Mary says:

      Yes, aleta, it is a chipmunk, but they’re squirrels, too–ground squirrels. At a squirrel program at my local nature center, I learned a lot about about flying squirrels, tree squirrels, and ground squirrels. I was most surprised to learn that woodchucks are also part of the squirrel family.

      Like

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