While you might enjoy spotting the occasional squirrel in your yard, you probably don't realize just how interesting and unusual these creatures can be. For example, as well as being pretty cute, they are highly athletic and excellent problem solvers. Here are ten facts you didn't know about squirrels.
#1. Motivated To Maneuver
When motivated by food, squirrels become especially good at tackling obstacle courses. Several studies have proven that squirrels reliably find effective shortcuts, walk along tightropes and balance on unstable planks in order to locate their next meal or snack
#2. Their Tooth Never Stop Growing
The gnawing behavior of squirrels is explained by the continuous growth of their teeth. Squirrels will chew on any object that can help to wear their teeth down to a manageable size. In at least one remarkable case, this chewing resulted in problems with the NASDAQ stock market (after squirrels chewed through electric wires and caused a short circuit). Like all rodents who have continual tooth growth through life, if for whatever reason (injury, etc.) they are unable to keep the teeth ground down, they can become saber-toothed.
#3. Massive Leapers
Squirrels have impressive jumping skills. They can leap approximately five feet into the air, and they can jump between objects that are more than ten feet apart. Jumping down from high surfaces is another squirrel talent, as their padded feet help to ensure safe arrival.
#4. Extreme Agility & Speed
Squirrels are also excellent sprinters, with many of them being capable of running straight up a tree at twelve miles an hour. Their speed and excellent reflexes also help them to avoid dangerous predators, such as rattlesnakes. However, they have developed other clever ways to discourage some of their natural predators. Specifically, squirrels have been known to chew dead rattlesnake skin before licking themselves, causing scent-tracking predators to believe they are on the trail of a venomous snake rather than a vulnerable squirrel.
#5. Pack Mentality
Squirrels may be small, but they sometimes exhibit smart group behavior that allows them to triumph over much bigger animals. For example, one report describes a group of Russian squirrels who attacked, killed, and ate a dog after it approached them in an aggressive manner. While this type of attack is unusual, experts speculated that lack of adequate food supply may have played a role.
#6. Excellent Swimmers
Although most squirrels stay away from water, they are actually excellent swimmers if they need to be. Their swimming style resembles the ‘doggy paddle’ and involves using the thick tail as a rudder.
#7. Albino squirrels Exist
Albino squirrels exist in some parts of the United States, but they are rare. As a result, an organization called the Albino Squirrel Preservation Society works to protect these unusual creatures.
There are two types of white squirrels in the U.S. ~ Albino squirrels and a rare morph of the eastern grey squirrel.
#8. Actually Quite People Friendly
Japan has created specific ‘squirrel gardens’ in which you are free to pet the friendly resident squirrels as long as you are wearing protective gloves. Most squirrels in these gardens are happy to feed from a hand and will even climb up onto your arm.
#9. Female Spring Fever – Angry Squirrels
Female squirrels become especially bad-tempered in spring when hormonal changes prompt them to become defensive of their nests. This defensiveness turns to aggressiveness if strangers approach the nest.
#10. Peanuts Are Bad!
Although most people who feed squirrels tend to think that the animals enjoy peanuts, the trypsin inhibitor in peanuts will stop the squirrel from being able to effectively digest protein. Other nuts are a much healthier choice for squirrels.