Squirrel appreciation day?

So is it just another Hallmark holiday? Do you have your nut-shaped greeting cards in the mail? But seriously, Squirrel Appreciation Day just sounds like one more artificially created holiday to distract us from something serious for a few moments.

After all, what is worthwhile about a squirrel? In my youth, the only function they had was as target practice with my grandfather’s pellet gun. In fact, here are the reasons why this should instead be called:

Squirrel Depreciation Day 1

  • Think of the birds. Anyone with a bird feeder knows how these little thieves survive by pilfering the livelihood of chickadees and goldfinches. They are addicts, who will go to any length for one more hit of that sweet sweet nutty suet or the tender greens in your garden.
  • Go hide that someplace else. In their efforts to feed their nut addiction, squirrels can reek havoc on yards and gardens, as they dig without discretion.
  • Utility terrorists. They don’t stop with food. Squirrels chew on things much more dear to our modern economy, like power and telecommunications cables. For example, “Squirrels have brought down the NASDAQ stock market twice, once in 1987 and once in 1994.” 2
  • DISEASE! Squirrels are rodents. As such, they are a vector for a number of viruses and bacteria which are dangerous to humans. Ever hear of plague? 3
  • They’re worse than rabbits. Have you ever walked around a college campus? Squirrels seem to give rabbits a run for their money, in their ability to proliferate. There are far too many squirrel’s in the world. Time to depreciate them. 4

I could go on. They get into attics and basements. They harass park goers. They play in trash. But just so it’s clear that I’m not just a squirrel bigot, here are a few items in defense of appreciating squirrels.

In Defense of Squirrels

  • They are farmers par excellence. While they have an incredible memory 5, they still don’t get to all the nuts and seeds they bury.
  • Squirrel is tasty. They are a food source for more than just some humans. Snakes, hawks, owls, foxes, bobcats, weasels, raccoons, and cats and dogs all belly up to the table.
  • God made them? Presumably they are part of the evolved order and a member of God’s cosmos. But this is a point of contention.

Okay, so some of those are backhanded compliments. But squirrels do make up an important part of a healthy ecosystem. Unfortunately, our constructed systems put this natural balance out of whack, and foster some of the reasons for squirrel depreciation.

But only some. They’re still just fluffy rats.

Notes:

  1. Some take this a bit more seriously. For example, see anti-squirrel.com
  2. http://goo.gl/abbJML
  3. CDC. “Diseases directly transmitted by rodents.” 2011. (accessed 21 Jan 2014). and CDC. “Diseases indirectly transmitted by rodents.” 2012. (accessed 21 Jan 2014).
  4. Of course, a large reason for this overpopulation is human-caused. “Thanks to all the supplemental food available in cities and suburbs, squirrels are able to reach densities that aren’t possible in the wild. (http://goo.gl/abbJML)”
  5. Jacobs, Lucia F., and Emily R. Liman. “Grey squirrels remember the locations of buried nuts.” Animal Behaviour 41, no. 1 (1991): 103-110.
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