A Salute to DC’s Squirrels

A roundup of some of our most notable rodents on National Squirrel Appreciation Day

Photograph via iStock.

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.

Black 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.

Black Squirrel Storing Up For Winter

Photo by Flickr user audreyjm529

Vintage squirrels

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.

Brave squirrels

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.

Angry squirrels

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.)

Albino squirrels

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.

Albino squirrel by the National Gallery of Art! from washingtondc

Prevost’s squirrel

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.

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.

Nora McGreevy
Editorial Fellow

Nora McGreevy joined Washingtonian as an editorial fellow in January. Originally from South Bend, she has worked for The Boston Globe and the South Bend Tribune. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame.