Sunday, September 30, 2012

On the First Day of Squirrel Awareness Month...

On the first day of Squirrel Awareness Month my squirrel love gave to me
an acorn in an oak tree!

It's time to celebrate and learn more about our bushy-tailed friends. So throughout the month of October The News For Squirrels will be offering squirrel facts and trivia, the best squirrel videos from the internet, and a new verse each day for the Thirty-One Days of Squirrel Awareness Month song!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

German Squirrel Makes Dramatic Escape!

This video of a red squirrel hurling itself out of a kitchen window of an apartment in Germany has recently gone viral.

The squirrel appears to be unhurt as it is seen running in the courtyard after plummeting four stories.

A translation of the voices of the two people speaking in German can be read here.

The one question that is unanswered in the video and in the story linked above is, how did the squirrel get into the apartment in the first place?

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Soldier and His Squirrel

From the Huffington Post, here is a super-sweet story of a Belarussian army soldier, Pyotr Pankratau, and the baby squirrel that he rescued. The baby Eurasian red squirrel was near death when some of Pyotr's fellow soldiers brought it to him, and the soldier nursed him back to health. Now, two years later, out of the army and driving a cab, Pyotr and Minsk the squirrel are inseparable. While Pyotr is at work driving his cab, Minsk stays with him, sometimes sleeping in a little bed on the dash--and I have never seen a squirrel sleep on its back like that!

Theodore Roosevelt and the Flying Squirrels

Theodore Roosevelt, unlike many of today's Republicans, was known for his conservationist views and his respect for nature and wildlife. He was instrumental in the creation of the National Parks system during his presidency, in the first decade of the twentieth century. Although some of his views, such as his love of big-game hunting, are frowned upon by modern environmentalists, for his time he was definitely progressive.

Roosevelt also liked to be surrounded by animals. During his presidency, his family had more animals at the White House than any other administration. The Roosevelt pets included a bear, a lizard, a macaw, several guinea pigs, a hyena, a pony, a badger, a pig, a hen and a rooster, two cats, and rat, a garter snake, and several dogs.

The Roosevelts had a rustic cabin called Pine Knot in Virginia, where they spent vacations during his presidency. One feature of the two-story cabin was a family of flying squirrels that nested in the rafters. President Roosevelt and his wife Edith were evidently fond of the squirrels, as he wrote in his autobiography,
We loved having flying squirrels among the rafters of our cabin. At night we slept so soundly that we did not in the least mind the wild gambols of the little fellows, even when they would swoop down to the bed and scuttle across it.

And a letter written by the president in 1908 shows just how charming and amusing the Roosevelts found the flying squirrels, even to the point of annoying at least one of their friends:
Mother and I had great fun at Pine Knot. Mr. Burroughs, whom I call Oom John, was with us and we greatly enjoyed having him. But one night he fell into great disgrace! The flying squirrels that were there last Christmas had raised a brood, having built a large nest inside of the room in which you used to sleep and in which John Burroughs slept. Of course they held high carnival at night-time. Mother and I do not mind them at all, and indeed rather like to hear them scrambling about, and then as a sequel to a sudden frantic fight between two of them, hearing or seeing one little fellow come plump down to the floor and scuttle off again to the wall. But one night they waked up John Burroughs and he spent a misguided hour hunting for the nest, and when he found it took it down and caught two of the young squirrels and put them in a basket. The next day under Mother's direction I took them out, getting my fingers somewhat bitten in the process, and loosed them in our room, where we had previously put back the nest. I do not think John Burroughs profited by his misconduct, because the squirrels were more active than ever that night both in his room and ours, the disturbance in their family affairs having evidently made them restless!
I suspect that this was the last time Mr. Burroughs accepted an invitation from President Roosevelt to stay at his cabin. But that was his loss!

Hi Teddy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

October Is Squirrel Awareness Month!

This is an important time of year for squirrels! Summer is over, the weather is getting cooler, it's the time for finding, and hiding, nuts to get through the long cold winter ahead.

And it's also time for Squirrel Awareness Month.

This is the perfect time to get to know the squirrels in your yard and in your neighborhood. How best to do this? You can take a walk in the park and watch the squirrels and other animals there.

You can put food out in your own yard for the squirrels, and watch as they come to eat. WalMart and many other stores sell squirrel food mixes and dried corn to nourish your bushy-tailed friends. You can also simply put out some black oil sunflower seeds. If you have bird feeders in your yard, of course, you are well aware that squirrels are inventive at gaining access to those.

Of course, another way to learn more about squirrels is by reading The News For Squirrels. But of course that goes without saying.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Pair of Squirrel Websites of Note

I would like to give a shout out to a couple of squirrel-related websites that have come to my attention recently.

The first, At the Edge of the Wood, is a blog that documents, through essay and original photography, the wildlife of the author's backyard in Long Island, NY. The author, KC Bailey, uses a remotely triggered camera, an outdoor studio, and some creative set design, and the results, as you can see in the examples below, are stunning.

The second site is called What Will Squirrels Eat, and its subject is exactly what the title implies. The author and her husband, after moving to a wooded area, started experimenting by leaving different foods on their deck, and documented which foods the squirrels ate and which they refused. Every few days a new report is posted, along with photos!

Thanks to the authors of both of these sites for spreading a little more squirreliness across the internet!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Squirrel Facts: Richardson's Ground Squirrels Speak In a "Whisper"

The Richardson's ground squirrel lives on the plains of the northern United States and southern Canada. It is sometimes called the "flickertail" because of its habit of constantly shaking or trembling its short tail. This small (about 7-9 inches long) squirrel has a brown or buff back and tan underside, and remarkably short ears. It can be found both on the prairies and in suburban parks and yards.

Like most ground squirrels, Richardson's ground squirrels live in colonies. However, they are territorial. Closely related females live in proximity to each other and will not tolerate the presence of adult males or unrelated females around their burrows. They have a herbivorous diet, eating primarily leaves, grass seeds, buds, flowers, grains, cereal crops when available, insects, and sometimes carrion. They enter hibernation in July-September, depending on the area. Males emerge from hibernation earliest, in March, with females waking up a couple of weeks later.

When danger is detected, Richardson's ground squirrels, like most squirrels, give alarm calls to warn others of the threat. Recently, scientists have discovered that this species will sometimes give ultrasonic calls, high-pitched "whispers" that are inaudible to humans and many other species but which can be heard by the sensitive ears of other nearby squirrels (thanks to the blog At The Edge Of The Wood for bringing this story to my attention). The researchers in a recent study of ground squirrel communication noticed that sometimes a squirrel would open its mouth and seem to emit a puff of air but no sound, but that other nearby squirrels would rise into a vigilant stance. The researcher then used a bat call detector and found that the squirrels were in fact calling to each other using ultrasonic frequencies.

The advantages of this capability are obvious. The squirrels can alert each other of a predator's presence without being heard by that predator. Besides being undetectable by most species, ultrasonic calls are highly directional, further reducing the chance that they can be heard by unintended recipients. This makes ultrasonic calls extremely useful for sharing rumors about other prairie species.

Hey guys, you didn't hear it from me, but
Thelma the prairie chicken just got implants!