In 2001, wildlife rehabilitation specialist, Christy Hargrove, founded National Squirrel Appreciation Day in Asheville, North Carolina. Christy created this day to encourage kind attitudes towards our bushy-tailed neighbors by setting out food and water for squirrels, and even allowing them to play with that bird-feeder you normally don’t want them touching. We might generally look at squirrels as being an unnecessary nuisance, but their existence is actually beneficial to the environment, and in urban areas, assists in park beautification. Albeit by accident, squirrels plant seeds (initially meaning to store away nuts to come back to when they’re hungry) which eventually grow into trees, thus assisting with forest renewal. They’re natures gardeners!
Up until the mid-19th century, squirrels weren’t present in American cities. In order to have squirrels in the middle of urban areas, you’d need to transform the landscape by planting trees and building parks. You also needed to change the way people behaved by discouraging them from shooting squirrels and encouraging them to start feeding the animals instead.
The first documented introduction occurred in Philadelphia’s Franklin Square in 1847. Boston and New Haven followed suit and brought in squirrels a few years later in 1850. The squirrel experiment had ended by the 1860s, when many squirrels had either passed or were killed amid concerns that they would disturb birds and lead to insect problems. But releases began again in the 1870s, this time on a larger scale as expansive parks were built in New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, and other major cities, providing a welcomed habitat for squirrels to live and thrive.