Eurasian red squirrel in the Cairngorms, Highlands of Scotland
© Images from BarbAnna/Getty Image
Observing a squirrelly day
January 21 is Squirrel Appreciation Day. Really. It was established by Christy Hargrove, a wildlife rehabilitator from North Carolina, to draw attention to the importance of these remarkably widespread creatures. Native to five continents and currently living on six (there's no Antarctic squirrel), there are about 285 species of squirrels in the world, ranging from the tiny African pygmy squirrel to the Bhutan giant flying squirrel (when in Bhutan, be ready to duck).
Like most squirrels, the Eurasian red squirrel pictured here eats primarily nuts and berries. It also has a habit of burying caches of food for later consumption—and even 'pretending' to bury food to mislead other animals that might be watching. But squirrel brain capacity being what it is, the squirrel inevitably forgets where some of the food has been buried. Out of that grows one of the humble squirrel's most important roles in the forest ecosystem: It's an inadvertent planter of new trees and bushes. Three cheers for the squirrel!