On #Janathon Day 22, I repeated my activities for Janathon Day 3–shoveling and coercing a sleepy 9 year old to take her mother’s picture doing a snowy plank, this time in pajama pants. (Said 9 year old was on the phone with her friend, when I asked her to help out. I heard her say–“Can you just hold on a minute? My mom needs me to take her picture doing a plank outside again. I know. Sigh.”
The snow pile doesn’t look significantly higher than it was on January 3, but we definitely got more snow–maybe 12″. And it’s the light, fluffy kind, which means good sledding. Except that it is only 9F and with the wind, it feels like -19F. That’s -hellhasfrozenover in celcius, if my calculations are correct.
In non-related #Janathon news, today I learned that yesterday, Jan. 21, was Squirrel Appreciation Day! How did I miss that? According to the MNN (Mother Nature Network), here are 21 excellent facts about squirrels (all truly fascinating, although nos. 10 and 11 make me queasy):
There are more than 200 squirrel species worldwide, from tree squirrels and flying squirrels to chipmunks and marmots. They’re all in the Sciuridae
family, which is native to every continent except Australia and Antarctica.
2. Squirrels range in size from the five-inch African pygmy squirrel to the three-foot Indian giant squirrel.
3. Squirrels have four front teeth that grow continuously, at a rate of about six inches per year. This helps their incisors endure the constant gnawing.
The NASDAQ stock market was briefly shut down in 1987
due to squirrels chewing through power lines.
In 2005, a pack of squirrels in Russia reportedly killed a stray dog
that was barking at them. They may have been starving due to a pine cone shortage.
6. Adult squirrels normally live alone, but they sometimes nest in groups during severe cold spells. A group of squirrels is called a “scurry” or “dray.”
When squirrels hide food for winter, they often dig fake holes
to fool would-be thieves. To make sure they don’t fool themselves, they lick their food
before burying it, leaving a scent they can later detect even under snow.
All tree squirrels belong to the genus Sciurus
, which comes from the Greek words “skia” (shadow) and “oura” (tail). The name reportedly reflects tree squirrels’ habit of hiding in the shadow of their long, bushy tails.
The eastern gray squirrel
is the most common tree squirrel species in the U.S., and humans have helped introduce it not only to western North America, but also to Europe and South Africa.
The eastern gray has become a pest in the U.K., where it threatens the survival of smaller, native red squirrels. This has made it popular for Britons to eat gray squirrels
, part of a global trend toward eating invasive species
There’s also a rich history of eating native squirrels in the U.S., where they’ve long been used in dishes like Kentucky burgoo
and Brunswick stew
. Squirrel meat has fallen out of favor lately — especially that of flying squirrels, which are relatively rare — but many Americans still hunt and eat eastern grays.
12. Tree squirrels mostly eat nuts, seeds and fruit, but they are omnivores. Gray squirrels, for example, have been known to eat insects, snails, bird eggs and animal carcasses when other food is scarce.
13. Better hope those carcasses aren’t too rancid, though — squirrels, like many rodents, can’t vomit. (They also can’t burp or experience heartburn.)
14. The average adult squirrel needs about a pound of food per week.
A 2010 study
found that some squirrels collect old rattlesnake skin, chew it up and then lick their fur, creating a kind of “rattlesnake perfume” that helps them hide from the smell-dependent predators.
tree squirrels may look like distinct species, but in most cases they’re actually just color variations of gray squirrels.
An eastern gray “rally squirrel
” became an impromptu mascot for Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals when it ran onto the field during the 2011 playoffs. The Cardinals went on to win the World Series.
18. Flying squirrels
can’t really fly — they just use flaps of skin between their limbs to glide through the air — but it often seems like they can. Their acrobatic leaps between trees often span up to 150 feet.
Red squirrels are solitary and highly territorial, but in some rare cases they’ve been known to adopt orphaned pups
of their relatives.
Marmots are celebrated as weather forecasters
in the U.S. and Canada, but their skills are a bit overhyped. Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions were mostly wrong
between 1988 and 2010, for example, while a study of Canadian groundhogs found their success rate was only37 percent
over 30 to 40 years.