10 Fascinating Facts About Squirrels

In a recent viral video that’s as funny as it is scary, loud music plays in an upstate New York kitchen as two police officers enter the room. The homeowner had called the Brockport Police Department to complain that a squirrel was eating cookies and refusing to budge. A child tells Officers Joshua Sime and Tyler Dawson it was the squirrel who turned up the music.

Yeah, right, the officers were probably thinking – but then one of their bodycams captured what happened next. As the Brockport Police Department wrote on its Facebook page, “Officers Sime and Dawson arrived on scene but were not at all expecting the warm welcome they would receive from the squirrel.”

The squirrel leaps from the ceiling to the table, and then lunges at one of the officers. They back off, laughing as the squirrel dashes around the kitchen.

Off camera, after chasing the squirrel around the house, the officers were able to trap it behind the kitchen stove. The squirrel bit Sime as he grabbed it, but a department-issued glove protected his hand.

“We took it outside and once it ran up the tree, our job was done,” he told Inside Edition. “This is law enforcement. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Is it natural for squirrels to be so aggressive? When eight different people were attacked in 2015 by a squirrel in Northern California, wildlife experts blamed people who fed the squirrel, which in turn made it rely more on humans for food while reducing its natural fear of us.

“Squirrels are not dangerous in any shape or form,” Andrew Hughan, spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the Mercury News at the time, “unless you hand-feed them, which you shouldn’t do.”

Since Squirrel Appreciation Day happens to be January 21, here are some fascinating facts from the National Wildlife Foundation and National Geographic that you may not know about these smart and acrobatic creatures.

1. Squirrels are rodents.

They’re members of the family Sciuridae, which includes small- and medium-sized rodents like tree squirrels, ground squirrels, flying squirrels, chipmunks and prairie dogs. The character Carrie Bradshaw, not a fan of these critters, once said on a “Sex and the City” episode that a squirrel is just “a rat with a cuter outfit.”

2. A squirrel’s front teeth don’t stop growing.

To prevent those four teeth from getting too long, squirrels must frequently gnaw on things. (The same is true of other rodents. In fact, “rodent” is derived from “rodere” in Latin, which means just that: to gnaw.)

3. Other squirrels (and birds) steal a quarter of a squirrel’s hidden food.

Maybe that’s why the squirrel in the Brockport kitchen refused to stop eating cookies. Squirrels can also have difficulty keeping track of their buried stash, which is good news not only for other animals but for the environment as well, since those forgotten acorns grow into oaks in the forest.

4. Squirrels use something called “deceptive caching” to deter thieves.

Squirrels will sometimes cleverly pretend to bury nuts by digging a hole and then covering it up with nothing inside.

squirrel burying nut

Photo credit: synspectrum

5. Squirrels have powerful senses of smell.

In the wintertime, some squirrel species are able to smell food that’s buried under a foot of snow. They can then dig a tunnel to reach the food, whether it belongs to them or another squirrel.

squirrel in snow

Photo credit: Smabs Sputzer

6. Squirrels are not social animals.

Like Greta Garbo, these creatures want to be alone. They are territorial and rarely interact with one another.

7. Squirrels will raise orphaned pups.

If an orphaned baby squirrel is closely related to a female adult squirrel, she may adopt it as her own, according to a 2010 study. This is surprising because, the researchers wrote, “Although adoptions occur among species that live in extended family groups, it’s much less common among asocial animals.”

squirrels raise orphaned pups

Photo credit: Audrey

8. Squirrels run in a unique pattern to escape predators.

Running (even along tree branches) in a zigzag pattern makes it more difficult for squirrels to be snatched by hawks and other animals.

9. Before the 1800s, there were no squirrels in U.S. parks.

Nowadays it’s hard to imagine a park without squirrels. In the early 19th century, they were introduced to New York’s Central Park to create “a bucolic atmosphere that was entertaining, enlightening and salubrious,” Popular Science reports, quoting an article in the Journal of American History.

10. There are no squirrels in Australia.

But there are more than 200 species all over the rest of the world.

Photo credit: CarinaHofi

180 comments

Judy t
Judy t3 months ago

I once lived where there were no trees not even a bush and I had wished to have birds and squirrels in my yard to view at. Now I live where there are many trees, bushes and lots of wildlife, birds, etc., and of course lots of squirrels. I like to have yard decor and ornaments in my yard. But if it's not cement or nailed down the squirrels will knock it down or bust it. They chewed a hole through my shed, chewed my clothes, looks like someone welded in them they are shredded. They chewed through a plastic container with bird food in it. They devoured that. Always jumping off trees onto my roof. The cushions on my swing are now flat with holes. Cotton strolled everywhere and hanging from the trees. Looks like it snowed in the middle of July. Chewed all the bird houses up. The holes are so big a hawk could fit in it. The only thing that nests in them now are flying squirrels, bees or a snake. Had a nice second hand car until they chewed up all the wires to the motor. In the mornings I fix my coffee, look out my kitchen window and there's a big fat squirrel starring back at me giving me that cartoon dog Muttley laugh making me wonder what kind of mischief that pesky varmint is going to destroy for the day. Am I still glad that I had wished to have squirrels in my yard to view at? Not really! Moral of this story.......Be careful what you wish for.

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Amanda M
Amanda M3 months ago

Les M, I'm with you! Call them whatever synonym for "cute" you want, but after yanking up countless black walnut sprouts from my flower and vegetable gardens, having to cut down saplings that miss the pulling-up, replanting flower bulbs that they dig up (which is no easy task once the ground's frozen), replanting potted flowers that they dig up on my deck, and using many forms of repellent to keep them away from my bird feeders (and finally succeeding with a new feeder that slams the ports shut when anything heavier than a bird lands on it, I still now and always will consider squirrels to be a complete and utter PAIN IN THE ASS! They drive me absolutely crazy! To make matters worse, my next door neighbor FEEDS the damn things, which makes them think they have carte blanche to raid my feeders too! Every fall and spring, war is declared. So far, it's a standoff, but I'm at least winning on the bird feeder score! Now, if I can just get them to plant their stupid walnuts someplace else, like the neighbor's yard....

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Hannah K
Hannah K3 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Sonia M
Sonia M3 months ago

Interesting article thanks for sharing

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Cindy M. D
Cindy M. D3 months ago

I love watching the squirrels run around my Mom's back yard. :) I hate seeing them dead in the road. People need to slow down and pay attention. :(

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Jim V
Jim V3 months ago

thank you

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Jim V
Jim V3 months ago

thank you

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Debra G
Debra G3 months ago

Squirrels are responsible for “planting” walnut trees in my driveway and peanut plants in my hanging flower pots. Have seen the crows wait for them to finish digging holes (deceptive caching), then swoop down and explore those holes. Nature is awesome.

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Jess B
Jess B3 months ago

Poor thing, glad they got it back outside.

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Daniela M
Daniela M3 months ago

Oh, so adorable! I love squirrels!

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