Let’s Hear it for the Squirrel !
by Corinna of TheFrogBag
Ahh, squirrels... so ubiquitous we may not even notice them. But doesn’t that very fact make them special ? Not many animals can make a go of it in our increasingly urban environment !
Lots of people label common animals like crows, skunks, and squirrels as pests. But stop and think: the only reason they are pests is because they can survive along side us, no easy feat if you ask a wolf, manatee or wolverine!
Personally, I became very familiar with squirrels during the time I spent working in a wildlife hospital. One season we raised over 120 injured and orphaned babies. And that was in addition to all of the adult squirrels that came in after tangling with dogs, cats, cars, and BB guns.
I became very well acquainted with squirrel teeth, too. I’ve spent the last decade working with animals, and have been bit by everything from baby rats to spider monkeys, so I can assure you that squirrel bites are among the most painful.
We only have three species of squirrel here in Southern California (of which only two are native) but there are at least 300 species found worldwide. The smallest is the African pygmy squirrel, which measures all of five inches. The largest is the Indian giant squirrel, which is three feet long! I have to say, I’m glad I’ve never been bitten by one of those!
But don’t let me leave you with the impression that squirrels are some sort of gladiatorial species, happy only when latched onto a hapless caretaker’s finger. On the contrary, squirrels are very good mothers. They take excellent care of their babies, building complex nests to keep them warm and dry. They are smart too: they often build an additional nest which serves as a get-away spot in case the babies need to be moved. Of course, nothing stops Mama Squirrel from taking a nap in the extra nest when the babies are being too rambunctious. Like I said, pretty smart!
Squirrels also might help us learn how to adapt to global climate change. Yukon red squirrels seem to be experiencing a rapid evolutionary response to the warming of their habitat, a finding that is among the first to document genetic change in a mammal. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised. Few animals are as adaptable as the squirrel.
So let’s hear it for that squirrel ! Or that 'skiouros', if you’d prefer to call him by the Greek word from which squirrel is derived. It means “shadow-tail”, a fitting appellation for an animal that is so often seen and so seldom noticed.