Your backyard’s curious, mischievous creatures are more than they seem.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the wild charm of squirrels beyond their notorious reputation. Do you ever find yourself in a battle of wits with the mischievous, fluffy-tailed creatures that frequent your backyard? Those infamous raiders of bird feeders and champions of acorn trickery? Forget about the mechanical furballs from Caddyshack — squirrels come in a whopping 278 species, each with its own unique flair. From the acrobatic Flying Squirrel to the urban-savvy Eastern Gray, these spirited, tree-leaping mammals are more than what meets the eye.

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Snack snatcher, whimsical entertainment, or exotic culinary morsel?

Have you ever tried to outsmart them at your bird feeder? The struggle is real. The National Wildlife Federation has ten ingenious ways to outwit these clever critters. But admit it, there’s a certain entertainment factor when you catch them staring back at you through your patio door or clinging to your window screen: hello there!

But what about their own squirrel mind games? Picture this: a squirrel digs a hole and pretends to bury an acorn, all just to fool its fellow furry friend. Talk about next-level intelligence!

Ever wondered what squirrels taste like? Apparently, it’s not your typical gamey fare. Depending on their diet, squirrel meat can boast hints of walnuts, fruit, vegetables, and seeds. Some even say it tastes like chicken thighs. Quite the unexpected culinary delight!

From teeth to tail: Wild facts about our furry friends.

So let’s dive into the realm of fascinating facts about these cute, clever creatures. Did you know that fox squirrels, North America’s biggest tree squirrels, weigh a whopping 2 to 3 pounds and are double the size of a gray squirrel?

Surprisingly, squirrel teeth never stop growing and can lengthen 6 inches per year! Chewing through tree nuts like acorns, walnuts, and hazelnuts is a necessary full-time job.  But they also like to sink their teeth into Skippy Super Chunky Peanut Butter and fruitcake. Know what else is nuts? Squirrels can unintentionally help trees grow! Burying nuts in secret caches, squirrels sometimes forget to dig them up, allowing new tree seedlings to sprout. Have you noticed any oak seedlings in your yard?

Even under a foot of snow, these little foragers can locate their hidden treasures. And that fluffy tail? It’s not just for show—it serves as balance, shade, protection from the elements, a blanket, and even a rudder when they decide to take a dip. Talk about multitasking!

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A word of caution…

But before you consider turning squirrels into your backyard buddies, remember that interacting with wildlife might not be the best idea. Feeding them could disrupt their natural foraging instincts; if you are accidentally nipped by a squirrel, seek medical attention pronto.

Craving more info about these cuties?

For more tales of exuberant craftiness, head over to the National Wildlife Federation. And if you’re feeling particularly appreciative, celebrate National Squirrel Appreciation Day with a homemade squirrel cake. Because, let’s be honest, these little guys deserve more than just a bad rap as birdfeeder bandits—they’re the unsung heroes of our backyard!

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Written by Yvonne Dwyer

Written by Yvonne Dwyer

Master Naturalist and OPL Content Contributor

It is truly an honor for me to be a contributor to One Planet Life.  By sharing my experiences and lifetime of learning, I hope to inspire conservation, sustainability, stewardship, and awareness of enjoying the natural wonders of the world for the wellbeing of people and the planet.