Hi Kids,

I just learned something new and I want to share it with you.  On January 21, 2001, Christy Hargrove, a wildlife rehabilitator in North Carolina started National Squirrel Appreciation Day.  Wow, a special day just for squirrels!  Now that I know about National Squirrel Appreciation Day, I will make a special treat for my neighborhood squirrels on January 21st, a Pine Cone Feeder.  You can make one too.  Just follow the instructions at the end of this article.

I love squirrels, always have, and spent many hours as a kid watching and laughing as they leaped through the tree branches and ran across the fence, flicking their tails, daring our dog to catch them.

There are many types of squirrels; tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and flying squirrels.  The most common squirrels we see in the Illinois River Watershed are the Eastern gray squirrel and the fox squirrel, which are both types of tree squirrels.  They are very adaptable and you can find them in the city, on farms, in forests, in our parks, pretty much anywhere there are trees and a food source for them.  How can you tell the gray and fox squirrels apart? The easiest way is to look at their underbelly (tummy); gray squirrels have white underbellies and fox squirrels have reddish-orange underbellies.

Squirrel in Cedar Tree

This is one of my busy little backyard squirrels.  Can you tell what kind of squirrel she is?

Fun Facts About Tree Squirrels

Leaf Nests:

Squirrels typically build and use these nests in the summer.  Also known as “dreys”, they are made with small tree branches woven together and lined with grass, leaves, moss, and pine needles.  They are easy to see in the winter, just look up into the trees.

Tree Dens:

Hollow tree trunks are also used for nests, especially in winter.  They are more stable and protected from bad weather.  Squirrels usually have more than one tree den they use in their home range.


Many squirrels hibernate in winter, meaning they become inactive or dormant.  Gray and fox squirrels do not hibernate so they are active in winter.

Squirrel Teeth:

Squirrels have four front teeth that grow continuously, at a rate of about six inches a year, which allows them to continually gnaw on nuts and trees.

Fave Foods:

Nuts and acorns are a large part of gray and fox squirrel diets.  They also enjoy the fruits and buds of hickory, pecan, walnut, elm and mulberry trees, berries, seeds, and corn.  Gray squirrels also eat insects and both eat bird eggs occasionally.

Where Is It?

How do squirrels find the food they bury?  They lick their food before burying it, leaving a scent that they can detect later.  However, they don’t always find their buried nuts and acorns.  What do you think happens to the nuts that stay buried?  Forgotten nuts and acorns often grow into trees.  Squirrels actually create habitat with their lost food.  Yes, squirrels are terrific reforesters!


Gray Squirrel Licking then burying Nut

Gray Squirrel Licking Acorn…                      Gray Squirrel Burying Acorn


Not everyone loves squirrels.  They are considered pests by many gardeners and bird lovers.  They compete for food at bird feeders, dig up flower bulbs, and occasionally eat vegetables in gardens.  Sometimes they even destroy property by chewing through wood walls to make a nest.

Some people love squirrels in a different way.  Squirrel hunting is a popular sport in Arkansas and Oklahoma, as well as other states.  There is a long history of eating squirrels and even now some folks enjoy squirrel meat in dishes like Kentucky Burgoo and Brunswick Stew.


Ok, let’s get busy making our squirrel treat.

How to Make a Squirrel Pine Cone Feeder for National Squirrel Appreciation Day

You will need:

  • Pine cones – any shape or size. (They should be open so there is space for the peanut butter)
  • Peanut Butter – smooth style
  • Birdseed, Sesame Seeds, Peanuts, Other Nuts, or a mix
  • Natural Cotton, Jute, or Hemp String (Do not use plastic string, birds or squirrels may eat it)
  • Bowl – for seed or nuts
  • Spoon – for spreading
  • Scissors – for cutting string

Making the Pine Cone Feeder:

  1. Protect your table with newspaper or a cover that can be wiped clean.
  2. Cut a length of string about 15” long and tie it to one end of the pine cone.
  3. Spread peanut butter all over the pine cone.
  4. Roll in seeds/nuts.
  5. Hang outside where you normally see squirrels. (birds might try to snack on this treat also)


DIY Pine Cone Squirrel Feeder

I just finished my Pine Cone Feeder


Now you are all set to celebrate National Squirrel Appreciation Day in the Illinois River Watershed!   Have a fun one and remember to look up and spot some of your neighborhood’s squirrel nests.



At the beginning of this article I mentioned the term wildlife rehabilitatorWhat is a wildlife rehabilitator?  They are special people that provide professional care to sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals so they can be returned to their natural habitat.  I will write more about wildlife rehabilitators in a future article.


Related Posts:

Clean Water Raingers: Getting to Know Our Bats

Clean Water Raingers: Watershed is Our Word For Today

Nature’s Classroom: The Water Cycle