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Wildlife

7 fascinating facts about squirrels

In praise of squirrels big and small.

  • Jan 20, 2016
  • 482 words
  • 2 minutes
A red squirrel helps itself to a snack in Algonquin Park Expand Image
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Thanks to the Internet, there is a day of recognition for just about anything you can think of, from beavers (April 4th) to tripe (October 24th). On January 21st, the humble squirrel had its day in the sun.

The hashtag #SquirrelAppreciationDay trended on Twitter and prompted an outpouring of admiration for the rodents. As squirrel fans ourselves, we thought we’d share a few fun facts about these quirky creatures.

1. There are 22 different species of squirrel found in Canada

Six are tree species, while 16 are ground-dwelling species.

A golden-mantled ground squirrel peeks out from behind a dandelion. (Photo: Michelle Tsoi/CanGeo Photo Club)

2. They are found in every province and territory

From the Douglas squirrel in the west to the Arctic ground squirrel in Nunavut to the red squirrels introduced in Newfoundland in 1963, sciurids are as Canadian as maple syrup.

The douglas squirrel, a native of the west coast. (Photo: Ron Racine/CanGeo Photo Club)

3. They have multi-purpose tails

Tree squirrels like the Eastern Grey Squirrel have bushy tails they use to help them balance in high places and as a rudder when jumping from branch to branch. Their tails are also used for warmth in winter and for signalling their mood to other squirrels.

An eastern grey squirrel jumps between branches. (Photo: Richard Cooper/CanGeo Photo Club)

4. They are eating machines

Some species within the Sciuridae family, such as chipmunks and ground squirrels, have pouches in their cheeks to assist with carrying food for storage or consumption.

A chipmunk packs its cheek pouches full of nuts and seeds. (Photo: Pamela Beale/CanGeo Photo Club)

5. They come in a wide range of sizes

The largest squirrels found in Canada are Hoary Marmots, sometimes called “whistle pigs” for the high-pitched sound they make when threatened. Hoary Marmots can be up to 80 centimetres long and weigh six kilograms.

The smallest squirrel species in Canada is the chipmunk, which typically weighs only 50 grams.

A hoary marmot sunbathes near Hinton, Alberta. (Photo: Garfield Milne/CanGeo Photo Club)

6. They help plant trees

While they can be a nuisance to gardeners thanks to their fondness for flower bulbs, squirrels play an important role in forest regeneration. As winter approaches, squirrels prepare by burying nuts and seeds to help see them through. Inevitably, some of their stash will be forgotten and germinate in the spring.

An eastern grey squirrel in Ottawa. Urban squirrels can be pests, but in forests they play an important role in tree regeneration. (Photo: Valentina Tosheva/CanGeo Photo Club)

7. They are hilarious

Squirrels are a popular subject for photography — at least among Canadian Geographic Photo Club members — thanks to their curious nature and gravity-defying acrobatics.

A red squirrel peeks out from a birdhouse in Val d’amour, NB. (Photo: Rachel Chiasson/CanGeo Photo Club)
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