Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chicago Squirrels Scarce During Hot Summer

According to the Chicago Sun Times, squirrel sightings have become increasingly rare this summer, even in areas where the rodents are usually plentiful. One puzzled Chicago resident is quoted asking "where did all the squirrels go? It's so weird."

The reason for the absence of squirrels, the article says, is the relatively mild winter followed by this summer's unusual heat and lack of rain. While more squirrels than usual survived the winter, the resulting overpopulation combined with the drought and extreme heat have probably resulted in a large-scale die-off, especially among the spring litters.

An urban ecologist quoted by the paper, Steve Sullivan, states that this combination of factors could affect the next three generations of squirrels in the windy city.

Can someone bring me a glass of water?

Of course, that estimate is probably assuming that conditions return to normal next year. Unfortunately, the Sun Times completely ignores the larger issue of global climate change. Local and regional fluctuations in numbers of squirrels and other wildlife are likely to become more frequent, and more lasting, as temperatures continue to rise and rainfall becomes more scarce in coming years. And of course it's not just wildlife that will be affected by global warming.

It's little stories like this, that are so easy to overlook, that should be getting much more attention for what they tell us about the bigger picture of long-term global climate change.

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