January 21st is Squirrel Appreciation Day. So here are some interesting facts about these cute (and sometimes annoying) little critters.
- A squirrel’s front teeth never stop growing. This is true of many rodents. As a matter of fact, the word “rodent” comes from the Latin word “rodere” which means to gnaw.
- A group of squirrels is called a “scurry” (a Scurry of Squirrels—appropriate).
- Squirrels can smell food under as much as a foot of snow.
- Squirrels actually put on weight in autumn to bulk up for winter.
- A squirrel can leap up to 10 times its body length.
- A squirrel eats its own body weight in food every single week.
- A squirrel’s eyes are positioned so they can actually see behind them.
- The word “squirrel” comes from the Greek words for “shadow” and “tail.”
- The smallest squirrel is the African Pygmy squirrel which measures about 5 inches from nose to the tip of its tail—that’s about the size of a mouse.
- The largest squirrel is the Indian Giant squirrel which is about three feet long.
Squirrels are fun and curious—and, in my garden, annoying! I have found a few things that can help keep them from becoming too much of a problem, however.
- Squirrels don’t like crushed pepper flakes. If they come along behind you and dig up the seedlings you just planted, sprinkle red pepper flakes around on the soil. Stops them every time.
- Squirrels don’t like strong smelling herbs, like lavender, rosemary, oregano, sage.
- Ever wondered what to do with all that extra cat or dog hair you routinely vacuum off the furniture or out of the carpet? Save it and sprinkle outside in areas where squirrels are a problem.
- Clean up fallen fruits, nuts or acorns from your yard. Less available EASY food=fewer squirrels.
- There are commercial repellents available on the market. You can find recipes online for home-made repellents but I found the thought of chopping and pureeing all those nice hot peppers (and the resulting burning eyes and runny nose) off-putting so I prefer to buy them.
- If squirrels are stealing your green tomatoes, I’ve got the solution! Squirrels actually don’t eat tomatoes—ever notice they just take a bite and drop it? They’re after the moisture content. That’s why you don’t usually notice the problem until mid-summer during a bit of a dry spell.
Spray your tomatoes with a hot-pepper spray (either home-made or commercial) then provide an EASILY accessible water source 15 or 20 feet away—a birdbath, fountain, even a plastic saucer filled with fresh water. Problem solved. I do this every summer in my garden—and it works!
When you’re not worried about them getting into stuff you don’t want them getting into, spend a few minutes watching them. They are inventive, agile, and creative. Yes, they can sometimes become a problem in the garden, but they’re still remarkable and entertaining. And remember, the nuts and seeds they bury and forget about, sprout and become new trees or plants. In this way, squirrels help disperse seeds for future trees.