Let's Hear It For Squirrels

Why do I love squirrels so much? I can't explain it. I have plenty of evidence that they don't love me -- I even have a well-developed theory that the two biggest jerks of the backyard animal family are squirrels and bluejays. But every time I see a squirrel, I'm fascinated: I want to know what the little guy is up to. What's going on in that squirrel brain? Probably some scheme related to nuts.

My apartment has flower boxes in the second-floor windows. Every time I plant something in the boxes, I find little squirrel-caches of nuts -- the oddest being peanuts in the shell, buried an inch or two deep. Where are they getting peanuts? And what do they have to gain by digging up my tulips and flinging them at my window? Clearly there's some master plan here that the squirrels have not shared with me.

I could have gone all "trivia" and actually learned something about squirrels, but for today let's take a look at some great squirrel videos. Here's a favorite short film, "Squirrel Eating Walnut." (I won't ruin the plot for you, just watch.)

Many more after the jump!

Okay, that's fun, but nowhere near as awesome as the similarly named "Squirrel Eats a Walnut," which features a rather amazing ending. Seriously.

"Squirrel Obstacle Course" is another fun one, and includes bonus footage of a vending machine heist:

"Will 'Cute' For Food" (now I know where those peanuts are coming from):

And the last one for today, a squirrel in Madison Square Park figures out how to drink from a water sprinkler:

If you actually want to learn something about squirrels rather than watching cute videos, check the mental_floss fact library, read up on Wikipedia or try the Squirrel Facts page from Squirrel Place.

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All National Parks Are Offering Free Admission on April 21

Looking for something to do this weekend that's both outdoorsy and free? To kick off National Park Week, you can visit any one of the National Park Service's more than 400 parks on April 21, 2018 for free.

While the majority of the NPS's parks are free year-round, they'll be waiving admission fees to the more than 100 parks that normally require an entrance fee. Which means that you can pay a visit to the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Yosemite, or Yellowstone National Parks without reaching for your wallet. The timing couldn't be better, as many of the country's most popular parks will be increasing their entrance fees beginning in June.

The National Park Service, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2016, maintains 417 designated NPS areas that span more than 84 million acres across every state, plus Washington, D.C., American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Massive Tumbleweeds Invaded a California Town, Trapping Residents in Their Homes

For Americans who don’t live out west, any mention of tumbleweeds tends to conjure up images of a lone bush blowing lazily across the desert. The reality is not so romantic, as Californians would tell you.

The town of Victorville, California—an 85-mile drive from Los Angeles—was overtaken by massive tumbleweeds earlier this week when wind speeds reached nearly 50 mph. The tumbleweeds blew across the Mojave Desert and into town, where they piled up on residents’ doorsteps. Some stacks towered as high as the second story, trapping residents in their homes, according to the Los Angeles Times.

City employees and firefighters were dispatched to tackle the thorny problem, which reportedly affected about 150 households. Pitchforks were used to remove the tumbleweeds, some of which were as large as 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide.

"The crazy thing about tumbleweeds is that they are extremely thorny, they connect together like LEGOs," Victorville spokeswoman Sue Jones told the Los Angeles Times. "You can't reach out and grab them and move them. You need special tools. They really hurt."

Due to the town’s proximity to the open desert, residents are used to dealing with the occasional tumbleweed invasion. Similar cases have been reported in Texas, New Mexico, and other states in the West and Southwest. In 1989, the South Dakota town of Mobridge had to use machinery to remove 30 tons of tumbleweeds, which had buried homes, according to Metro UK.

Several plant species are considered a tumbleweed. The plant only becomes a nuisance when it reaches maturity, at which time it dries out, breaks from its root, and gets carried off into the wind, spreading seeds as it goes. They’re not just unsightly, either. They can cause soil dryness, leading to erosion and sometimes even killing crops.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]


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