Squirrel Appreciation Day

We don’t know who thought up the nutty idea to call today Squirrel Appreciation Day, but since we’ve been gathering information on those furry rodents for some time, today seems the right time to pass along our nuggets of knowledge.

For starters, although there are plenty of critters known as squirrels—ranging from the giant Malabar squirrel of southern India to the tiny pygmy squirrels found in the trees of Asia and Africa—don’t think the appendage “squirrel” guarantees the animal is part of the nearly cosmopolitan squirrel family.

The barking squirrel is really a prairie dog, squirrel frog names neither squirrel nor frog but a tiny tree toad, a sugar squirrel is an opossum, and seam squirrel—that’s seam as in the sewn edges of clothing—is apparently a more seemly name for the body louse.

Then there’s the chipmunk, which actually is a squirrel, but which is believed to have its name origin in an Ojibwa word meaning “red squirrel.” And while the flying squirrel really is a squirrel, it doesn’t fly, but instead makes long gliding leaps.

We’ll leap now to our final term, one that shows the less-than-tender feelings expressed by humans toward the bushy tailed rodents: squirrel food. Squirrel food is a nickname for “death camas,” plants from the lily family that poison animals in the western part of the U.S.

(To see where that originated, go to Miriam-Webster’s Word for the Wise)

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