Given all the Star Wars propaganda throughout civilized society right now, it seems unfair to leave squirrels out of the intergalactic fun. Check me out (but put on your Darth Vader helmet first).
Well, one of the largest cities in Maine has decided squirrels are not welcome to join the Christmas celebration….
Here in Squirrelology-land we have been planning an interesting–albeit a bit odd–experiment on squirrel falls for sometime. We have now observed 4 squirrels in trees and 1 on a utility wire fall from up to 40 ft, land on the ground, and run off, seemingly unhurt. At some point these falls must be lethal and we want to know what that point it. Therefore, we have been planning an experiment where we drop already dead squirrels from the top of our four story building to test the impact effect of different substrates–grass, snow, ice, pavement. We plan to x-ray them after they are dropped to see what damage occurs to their skeleton (the squirrels we will use all died previously of natural causes and we collected their bodies subsequently).
This week, amazingly, we potentially got a preview of the study. One of our ear-tagged (only) squirrels was found dead outside a dorm, about 12 m from the main doorway. My read of the situation is that the squirrel was on the roof of the three story building and tried to jump to an adjacent white pine (inferred from the direction the body was pointing). The jump was a bit far and the branch tips a bit thin. The squirrel missed, and landed on the left side of its head, suffering mortal head wounds. Here are a few pictures. Let me know if you have any alternative hypotheses.
While I was away for a month (don’t be sad for me, I was doing research in the Galapagos) the mighty Squirrelologists had a series of fascinating field observations. Hopefully I can remember some of the highlights:
Rocket: observed, on two occasions, white-breasted nuthatches (I believe he said two birds together) going into a squirrel nest, and only leaving when the squirrel returned.
Jeremy: while walking through the center of campus as dusk, a flying squirrel flew into him. Luckily no injuries on either side. Jeremy also observed a grey squirrel crossing above the road on utility wires fall off the wires, land on the pavement, and run away.
Check out this interesting article in the Bangor Daily News from 11/12/15 on the apparently recent increase of black squirrels in Maine. It also details a historical transport between Michigan and Massachusetts. I’m a bit surprised there is no mention of the latitudinal theory of this color morph, where black is an adaptation to hold on to heat for more northern populations….