National Squirrel Appreciation Day
Originally a creation by Christy Hargrove, National Squirrel Appreciation Day on January 21 is a day to learn about and celebrate the world’s cutest rodents. Here’s the thing about squirrels: some people hate them and say that they’re “invasive species.” But can those people leap across a space ten times the length of their body? Didn’t think so.
HISTORY OF NATIONAL SQUIRREL APPRECIATION DAY
In 2001, wildlife rehabilitation specialist, Christy Hargrove, founded National Squirrel Appreciation Day in Asheville, North Carolina. Christy created this day to encourage kind attitudes towards our bushy-tailed neighbors by setting out food and water for squirrels, and even allowing them to play with that bird-feeder you normally don’t want them touching. We might generally look at squirrels as being an unnecessary nuisance, but their existence is actually beneficial to the environment, and in urban areas, assists in park beautification. Albeit by accident, squirrels plant seeds (initially meaning to store away nuts to come back to when they’re hungry) which eventually grow into trees, thus assisting with forest renewal. They’re natures gardeners!
Up until the mid-19th century, squirrels weren’t present in American cities. In order to have squirrels in the middle of urban areas, you’d need to transform the landscape by planting trees and building parks. You also needed to change the way people behaved by discouraging them from shooting squirrels and encouraging them to start feeding the animals instead.
The first documented introduction occurred in Philadelphia’s Franklin Square in 1847. Boston and New Haven followed suit and brought in squirrels a few years later in 1850. The squirrel experiment had ended by the 1860s, when many squirrels had either passed or were killed amid concerns that they would disturb birds and lead to insect problems. But releases began again in the 1870s, this time on a larger scale as expansive parks were built in New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, and other major cities, providing a welcomed habitat for squirrels to live and thrive.
NATIONAL SQUIRREL APPRECIATION DAY ACTIVITIES
1.Build a squirrel obstacle course
Help squirrels celebrate the day by building the most imaginative obstacle course for your neighborhood squirrels and then film them tackling it, and post it for tips and feedback online. Accompanied by the Mission Impossible theme, this is a really good way to appreciate the squirrel in your life.
2.Dress your dog up as a squirrel
One of the best things about squirrels is that you can dress your dog up as one, and then take a load of pictures of your dog, and everyone will not only love your dog more, but also, love squirrels more.
3.Say the word “squirrel” a lot
Not all words carry quite the delight of this one, which for some reason seems to capture the rapid, eager balance and wiliness of the beloved animal. In Scrabble, the word scores 17 points, and that’s if you don’t happen to capture any triple word scores, but perhaps the most delightful thing about it is to simply repeat it, over and over, perhaps altering the pitch, cadence, and volume, until you either crack up laughing, or simply crack up. You know why? Ask Christy Hargrove. Because like Christy Hargrove said, you can do with this day what you want.
WHY WE LOVE NATIONAL SQUIRREL APPRECIATION DAY
A. It got bigger than anyone ever thought
When Christy Hargrove started National Squirrel Appreciation Day back in 2001, she didn’t really think it would be a big deal. Christy Hargrove just said people should do whatever they think is right to celebrate National Squirrel Appreciation Day. Maybe put something on Twitter with a hashtag, wrote Christy Hargrove, on the Internet, about National Squirrel Appreciation Day. Little did she know what a success this day would become in just a few short years. A little bit like the humans who introduced small numbers of squirrels to America’s parks in the 1850s, just to make them look a little more interesting.
B. It celebrates the squirrel’s cunning and duplicity
As you know, squirrels bury nuts. But did you know that they often will only pretend to bury those nuts, in a sort of fake move, because they know that they’re being watched? Sometimes, squirrels will pretend to bury a nut, walk away, then come back to it as many as five times, removing it and putting it somewhere else until they’re certain that they weren’t being watched.
C. Three words: Squirrel obstacle courses
If ever there was an animal with more tenacity in its pursuit of food, we do not know of it. A quick Internet search for “squirrel obstacle courses” will yield some remarkable videos, and there’s something really delightful and deeply inspiring about watching these beautiful creatures use their tails for balance in the searching-out and devouring, or storing, of nuts.
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