Wherever you call home, it’s almost a guarantee you’ve spent some time with squirrels as your neighbors. After all, these fluffy-tailed rodents are ubiquitous in the outdoors all over the planet… well, almost all over. We might take them for granted, but squirrels are actually quite fascinating.
For instance, did you know that squirrels live on every continent except Antarctica and Australia? That’s nuts! In fact, there’s a lot about these little critters that you might not know. Here are a few more facts about our favorite furry forest friends…
1. Prince Charles once proposed a bizarre plan to get rid of squirrel pox: In an effort to cut down on squirrel pox, a disease often carried by gray squirrels, Prince Charles proposed a plan to give the animals an oral contraceptive that would be hidden in small servings of Nutella.
2. While albino squirrels do exist, there are some non-albino Eastern gray squirrels that are just white: These squirrels have a rare recessive gene that causes their fur to be white. Technically, they should be called white squirrels, not albino, but that has yet to be changed.
3. There’s a white squirrel capital: Olney, Illinois, is the home of the white squirrel for a good reason. They’re so beloved there that the critters are granted the right-of-way on the road! And anyone who hits one with their car must pay a hefty $500 fine.
4. The Washington D.C. black squirrel is native to Canada: Anyone who’s paid a visit to the United States capital has encountered one of the many black squirrels there. As it turns out, those little guys are native to Canada, but somehow a few managed to escape when being shipped to the National Zoo. The population grew from there!
5. Squirrels once shut down the Nasdaq stock market: When a squirrel chewed through a power line on December 10, 1987, it subsequently shut down Nasdaq for all of 82 minutes! In turn, it prevented more than 20 million shares from being traded.
6. Squirrels are known to greet their nest-mates with a kiss: Researchers have found that, when returning to the nest from looking for food, many squirrels will nuzzle their mates as if they’re giving them a “hello” kiss! Isn’t that just the cutest thing ever?
7. Spring is Baby Squirrel Awareness Season: It’s common during the spring months to find baby squirrels who have fallen from the nest. The best thing you can do is make them a temporary nest and leave them by a tree. There’s a good chance their mother will come find them!
8. Male squirrels masturbate: And they do it quite often, to boot. Researchers have found that the males will do this as a means to flush out their old sperm and to help get a higher quantity of seed for the next time they mate.
9. Squirrels can be domesticated (but they probably shouldn’t be): You can make a squirrel your pet, but you’ll probably wind up regretting it big time. You’ll never be able to stop them from doing things like burrowing holes in your furniture to store food!
10. Squirrels know when they’re being watched: If you’ve ever seen a squirrel suddenly bury something in your backyard, there’s a reason why. When they feel someone is watching them, they’ll act as if they’re burying something, but secretly put it in their mouth instead. This is because…
11. Twenty-five percent of all the food squirrels hide is stolen: Squirrels spend three-quarters of their day hiding food. They wouldn’t have to do so much if a huge portion of their reserves weren’t constantly being raided by birds or other squirrels. It’s just too bad many of them use the same hiding spots!
12. Squirrels adopt orphans: If you needed a reason to love squirrels even more, this is definitely it. Squirrels have been known to find an abandoned newborn squirrel and happily make it a part of their family!
13. There are actual squirrel whisperers: Yes, you read that correctly! A Penn State University student named Mary Krupa has a natural gift to attract and interact with squirrels. She gets so close that she’s able to give the tiny animals different hats and earmuffs to wear.
14. Squirrels’ front teeth never actually stop growing: Like most rodents, squirrels have to gnaw at things to keep their teeth from growing out of control. The word “rodent” actually comes from the Latin rodere, which means to chew or gnaw.
15. Squirrels excel at finding food: A squirrel can sniff out food under even a foot of snow! Researchers believe this is because their noses are so strong and so close to the ground, making it easier for them to smell food that’s fallen. No peanut is safe!
16. Tim Burton trained squirrels for Charlie & The Chocolate Factory: Well, the famed director didn’t train the animals himself, per se. In an effort to avoid using CGI, he had 40 squirrels trained by a professional to open nuts!
17. If a squirrel looks fat to you, it’s probably for a good reason: One way squirrels stay warm in the chilly winter months is by gaining upwards of half their own weight in a protective flabby layer. How’s that for a winter coat?
18. Arctic ground squirrels are just incredible: When one of these bad boys hibernates for the winter, they will drop their body temperature to 26.6 degrees Fahrenheit—that’s below freezing! This is, by far, the lowest core body temperature of any mammal in existence.
19. Some squirrels can survive a rattlesnake bite: Yes, there are some adult California squirrels with a protein in their blood that makes them pretty much immune to rattlesnake venom. Nevertheless, you have to imagine they wouldn’t want to test to see if it works!
20. Squirrels had a sole purpose in Nordic mythology: Known as Ratatoskr in Norse mythology, a squirrel’s only role was to literally carry insulting messages between a dragon and eagle—animal enemies—who lived at the “World Tree,” Yggdrasil.
Who knew squirrels were this interesting? These sweet-faced cheeky rodents will continue to amaze and entertain us for years to come.
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