It’s National Squirrel Appreciation Day today, and the Internet is going a little… nuts. As the meme-able furry rodents flood our timelines, we take a second to appreciate the District’s squirrels.
There’s a remarkably high number of black squirrels here, especially in Northwest. This population has its roots in—what else?—international relations. In 1902, Ontario’s Department of Crown Lands sent the first group of black squirrels to the National Zoo in exchange for some of its gray ones. The Canadian black squirrels were released into the northwest corner of the park; from there, the dominant black gene spread throughout the local population.
The Library of Congress tweeted out this page from the long-gone Washington Star. Basically: Squirrel meets kitten; a kind of four-legged dance-off ensues. Ylla, a famous animal photographer, captured the scene in 1950.
This squirrel bonds with a cat in a photo taken by the well-known animal photographer, Ylla (Camilla Koffler). Check out more photos in our historical newspaper archives. https://t.co/oHXdt22ANf #ChronAmParty #SquirrelAppreciationDay pic.twitter.com/mToRDuusFa
— Library of Congress (@librarycongress) January 21, 2020
Squirrels that roam the District’s common spaces—especially near the National Mall—seem to have shed their fear of people. It might be because they’re getting fed by eager onlookers, like this one.
Atlantic staff writer Adam Serwer was on a run one morning in summer 2017 when a squirrel jumped onto his chest. No harm done, but the incident was jarring nonetheless, his colleague Adrienne LaFrance reported. Similarly dramatic encounters with squirrels on the offensive populate the internet, especially if you search “squirrel attack DC” on YouTube. Some of the incensed rodents are funny. Some are downright scary. (It’s worth noting that any squirrel acting particularly unhinged might have rabies, in which case you should keep your distance or call DC Animal Control.)
It’s rare. But every now and then, the r/washingtondc subreddit will light up with an albino squirrel sighting — near Florida Ave. and Decatur Place, or by the National Gallery of Art, or in McPherson Square. They stand out for their bright white fur and reddish eyes. Prince of Petworth keeps track of the squirrels with posts filed under “Friends of the White Whale Society.” And if you’re interested in white squirrels nationwide, Rob Nelson, a biologist in Charlotte, keeps track of the country’s white squirrel populations on his blog.
This little guy is from Southeast Asia, so his distinctive reddish-brown underbelly stands out among his mostly gray and black local neighbors. You can visit him in the Small Mammals Room at Smithsonian’s National Zoo.
— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) January 21, 2020
Broken-leg baby squirrel
In 2014, this DC-born baby squirrel on the mend broke the Internet — and our hearts. She fell 75 feet from a tree onto concrete and broke her leg. Caretakers at the City Wildlife and Rehabilitation Center put the broken leg in a tiny cast, prompting the sympathetic oohs and aahs of thousands of Internet users.