Monday, July 26, 2010

Squirrels in the News: Rocky Mountain Marmots

There's an excellent little snippet in the New York Times today about how global warming is affecting marmots in the Rocky Mountains.

The warmer weather makes it more difficult for the marmots to shed their Christmas and Thanksgiving weight gain, and marmots now are 3/4 of a pound more on average than they were when the study started back in 1962. (Side note: How do I get an awesome job like that, weighing and observing marmots in the Rocky Mountains?)

Also, the size of the marmot population has exploded recently. Apparently the combination of fatter marmots (I love fat marmots!) and shorter winters has led to a tripling of the population in this area in just the last decade.

I would also like to recommend, while I still have your waning attention, that you visit the marmot entry on Wikipedia. That profile picture just cracks me up.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Squirrels in the News: Wenatchee Squirrels

This article was sent to me by my mother a few weeks ago, but I never blogged about it. It's from a newspaper called the Wenatchee World, Wenatchee being the "big" town in the area where I grew up.

This article is about an invasion of fox squirrels in East Wenatchee, and the state government's concern that they are an invasive species.

Perhaps this calls for some background. You see, we didn't really have squirrels in the small town where I grew up. We had one that I can remember, and we saw him pretty infrequently. One day the power went out at our house for a couple hours due to a "rodent incident." And we never saw that squirrel again.

So you can imagine how incredibly excited I was when I moved to Minnesota for college and found that my campus was just bursting at the seams with rodents! And they were relatively friendly rodents too, always interested in the last bits of a bagel you were munching on your way to class. I loved them dearly, and this is when my love of squirrels really surfaced.

Other people think I'm crazy. "They're pests!" they say. "They're rabid half the time!" say others (not true). These people grew up with squirrels all over the place; they don't know how good they had it. I've only had eight years of enjoying these ADHD little rodents.

And I should note, that the squirrel population in my hometown has started to rise again. There is a particularly large grey squirrel who has taken up residence near my mother's home, and she is very excited about it. It's genetic, people!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Squirrels in the News: The Genius of Squirrels

So the very same day that I posted the article about how squirrels keep cool in hot weather, I found this article in the New York Times about how amazing squirrels are.

Some highlights from the article, since I know that most of you won't actually click on it:

1. The article quotes a professor at the University of Arizona who is a squirrel expert. IT'S A REAL JOB! I took the liberty of tracking down his website. Not only does he teach an awesome course on small mammals, he also maintains a Groundhog Day website where he tallies the results from each groundhog. Also, I went to one of his student's website, and am now wondering why I bothered with classics when I could have been doing biology and zoology. Seriously, one of his grad students did a project on rodent density in alpine meadows. She counted rodents all day, wrote about it, and got a degree. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

2. The Eastern Grey Squirrel is so successful that many consider it a pest.

3. Squirrels in a family will greet each other by nuzzling their cheeks together.

4. A squirrel's peripheral vision is as sharp as its focal vision.

5. If a squirrel knows it is being watched, it will sometimes keep the nut hidden in its mouth but pretend to bury it to fool would-be nut-stealers.

Lots of great stuff in this article, guys. I highly recommend that you actually click the link to read it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Squirrels In the News: Sweaty Squirrels?

This article has some great information about how squirrels keep cool in hot weather. (Spoiler: it's all in the tail!)

I haven't been in the habit of posting links to squirrel news in this blog, but since I've been so terrible about posting lately I figured I should give my audience something.