Five Reasons to Appreciate Squirrels in Colorado
Next Tuesday, January 21st, is National Squirrel Appreciation Day. Initially founded in 2001 by North Carolina wildlife rehabilitator Christy Hargrove, this event celebrates the squirrel and all of its unique squirrel-ness. Let’s dig in and explore some of the top five reasons to appreciate squirrels!
They Provide Beneficial Ecosystem Services
Squirrels can be messy eaters, and that is good news for the trees and plants that produce the pine cones, nuts, and fruits that squirrels consume. Squirrels help disperse the seeds of plants while foraging, and also through their caching behavior.
They Aren’t All Disease Ridden Vermin
While it is possible for squirrels to host disease, their reputation as vermin is much overstated. Rabies is exceedingly rare in squirrels. Plague, an invasive disease introduced to North America by merchant ships, is primarily transmitted by fleas, and if a squirrel is infected it may quickly die.
They Serve as a Keystone Species
The squirrel family includes tree squirrels, like pine squirrels and fox squirrels, as well as ground squirrels, which include marmots, woodchucks, and prairie dogs. Prairie dogs are a classic example of a keystone species – their presence is crucial for the entire grassland ecosystem. Their burrows provide shelter to other animals, including the adorable burrowing owl.
They Are Smarter Than You Think
Ask anyone who has ever tried to keep a squirrel out of their bird feeder and they will attest to their problem solving abilities. Their spatial intelligence and memory is also top notch, helping them to find cached food many weeks later. Another squirrel trick: pretending to bury food in a fake cache to outwit squirrel thieves.
Some of Them Can Fly
Flying squirrels are some of the most unique mammals on Earth, and we are lucky enough to have a few right here in Colorado! A recent discovery by Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists confirmed the presence of northern flying squirrels in the remote Roan Plateau region of the state.
There you have it, five reasons to appreciate our Sciuridae friends this January. Now get out there yourself and observe or photograph a squirrel and find five more reasons of your own!