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Squirrel Appreciation Day

January 14th 2022| Michael Mountford
January 14th 2022 |

Squirrel Appreciation Day

January 21st is a day to celebrate our furry little friends that offer joy and entertainment to everyone across the five continents which they inhabit. According to the founder of Squirrel Appreciation Day, wildlife rehabilitator, Christy Hargrove, people should help celebrate squirrels by putting out extra food and learning about squirrels.

So, this Squirrel Appreciation Day we’ve put together this blog packed full of facts and useful tips all about squirrels to help you appreciate them in your garden and outdoor spaces.

Interestingly here in the UK, we do actually have both Grey Squirrels as well Red Squirrels, however, their respective population count is rather surprising.

Whilst Grey Squirrels are still the most prominent in the UK this was not always the case, even at one point not even existing in the UK before the 1800s. Nowadays an estimated 2.5 million are residents across the UK.

Our native Red Squirrels species by stark contrast only have an estimated 140,000 across the UK and has declined to the point that they are considered an endangered species.

Winter is a tough time for squirrels across the UK, much as it is for other garden wildlife. Food is often scarce and reliable water can be hard to find when the temperature drops, freezing water sources.

This also leads to frozen ground, which means squirrels may not be able to get access to their previously buried food caches.

Read on to learn some more about Squirrels and find out how you can help your local squirrels by going outside to feed them.

Sneaky Squirrels steal acorns – Spy in the Wild – BBC Earth

This clip is from BBC Earth’s documentary series where researchers go undercover to explore the world of animal intelligence and reveal their use of tools, self-medication, culture and subterfuge.

In this clip, Spy Squirrel discovers how real squirrels use intellect and subterfuge to outwit other thieving squirrels.

Where Red Squirrels Live | Destination WILD

Ewan McGregor talks us through how the change in seasons brings a new and plentiful landscape for the red squirrel.

Helping red squirrels

If you are lucky enough to have red squirrels visiting your garden and you wish to help the population thrive and survive – there are some actions you could take to make life a bit easier for them.

Providing a little extra food, planting and maintaining some red squirrel-friendly shrubs and reporting any squirrel activity in your garden.

All of these small things help the Red Squirrel population.

When to feed

A couple of things you should first consider before you decide to feed your squirrels, you should address a few simple issues.

The main factor is the presence of grey squirrels; if you have grey squirrels visiting your garden, feeding red squirrels could bring the two into close contact and put the red squirrel at risk of catching squirrel pox virus, which is lethal to them.

So, unfortunately, if you do have grey squirrels visiting your garden, you should not put out food for, or attempt to attract, red squirrels.

The second factor to consider is access to your garden. If a busy road separates you from the nearby red squirrel habitat, attracting squirrels into your garden could put them at risk of being run over. It may be better to simply let them find their own food naturally rather than encouraging them to cross a busy road.

Alongside these factors, I would highly recommend conducting your own research on this. Even if it’s simply just to be more aware of the subject, or to apply it directly to try to help your local Red Squirrel population.

If you conduct the proper research and you believe there are no issues, then you should be able to help feed them all year round.

The summer months can be one of the hardest times for red squirrels to find food, as the spring shoots and buds are gone but the autumn berries and seeds haven’t arrived yet, so keeping a ready supply of food all year round can help red squirrels.

What to feed

The first thing to remember is that you are supplementing your red squirrels’ diet, not replacing their natural food sources. Only put out small amounts of food every few days to avoid squirrels becoming dependent on this, or artificially increasing squirrel numbers beyond what the local habitats (woods) can naturally support.

You can provide a wide range of nuts and seeds, and really the greater the variety the better. Hazelnuts are a favourite, especially in their shells, but sweet chestnuts, sunflower seeds and pine nuts are other good options.

If you are using peanuts ensure they are aflatoxin-free, and only use them as part of a varied diet as they can lead to a calcium deficiency. Fruits such as apples and carrots can be used to add some vitamins, and extra calcium can be provided through bone meal or a cuttlefish bone.

Creating a natural food source

Planting shrubs or trees that provide a natural food source is a fantastic way to encourage a balanced feeding place for Red Squirrels. A wide range of plants can be planted; including brambles, raspberry, wild cherry, bird cherry, crab apple and many more. Thorny plants can also double as a cat deterrent, helping reduce predation.

Record and report

Finally, you can help keep track of the UK’s red squirrel population by reporting any sightings to your local wildlife trust, whether in your garden or further afield.

*Source – www.wildlifetrusts.org/saving-species/red-squirrels

Teacher’s Pet Resources

We are currently in the midst of designing our Squirrel Day resources so keep an eye on the front page of our site for our brand new resources all about Squirrels and how you can help them.

View all posts by: Michael Mountford
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