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Squirrels have their special day

Not exactly a common site in outback Australia.

Did you know that January 21st was/is World Squirrel Appreciation Day? I certainly didn’t.

I grew up in a country that doesn’t have squirrels. When I say that, it startles many of my UK friends. Squirrels here are so commonplace. They have adapted well to an urban environment. And of course are all over the countryside.

When I first came to the UK, and met my first squirrel, I was delighted. I still smile every time I see one. Why?

The closest thing to a squirrel we have in Australia is, I guess, a possum. Possums are equally well adapted to the urban environment.

When I was a kid at boarding school they used to come to the windows at night and we would feed them bread stolen from the school kitchen. That was cute. Not so cute was the noise they made thundering up and down the corrugated iron roof of our building in the middle of the night. It sounded like a football team up there.

Unlike squirrels, possums are mostly nocturnal- so you don’t see them much during the day.

Possums grow quite big. Their body can be 50 cm long (or more) and then there’s a tail almost that long again. They have very sharp front claws. They can be a terrible pest and I have memories of them being trapped and removed from the school. Of course, they came back. They aren’t stupid. There were a lot of girls there willing to feed them.

Australia also has tiny sugar gliders – which are like gliding squirrels. They are small and delicate and you rarely see them in the wild. They are incredibly cute but so very timid. Sadly, they are much prized by the trade in illegal animals. Some states allow them to be kept as pets, but I wouldn’t do that. I’ve met a couple at an animal hospital where they were being nursed back to health, and for me, I would much rather see them released into the wild than caged.

The sugar glider has the softest fur I have ever touched. It’s like silk threads.

Back to why I like squirrels. I think any cute furry animal that you first saw in your thirties is always going to have the appeal of being new and different.

Squirrels are smaller than possums, which makes them a bit cuter. They are more cheery and outgoing than a sugar glider, which means we see them a lot more.

I know about the way the imported grey squirrels are pushing out the red ones – and certainly the red ones are lovely. But, as an Aussie, I don’t have the same dislike of the greys. I still think they are cute.

They always seem so busy. Running along the fence behind my house, or jumping between the trees in my garden. Burying things in my plant pots.

It seems to me that squirrels have a sense of humour. I swear sometimes they are laughing at me. They certainly laugh at our poor old cat as he sits staring at them, fully aware that he will never be able to catch them.

So – Squirrel Appreciation Day – I’m there for it. Every time I look at a squirrel, I smile. That’s a good thing. Perhaps the world needs more squirrels right now.

I love the way they don’t seem to have a care in the world – and certainly have no truck at all with mundane things like gravity.


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One Response to Squirrels have their special day

  • Lovely photos, Janet.

    I have to be honest and say that I’m somewhat ambivalent about grey squirrels. When I was a child, they were considered vermin and there was a price on their heads – or, more accurately, on their tails – a shilling a tail.

    But I do love our native red squirrel.

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