As promised, I'm back with the rest of the LATEST in squirrel news.

Squirrels and crime

Jon Barbour got in a dispute with his neighbor over feeding squirrels, which he claims help him stay in touch with his deceased parents (I reported the backstory here). He claims his neighbor tried to fight him, and then he shot his neighbor in the butt. Barbour must stand trial, charged with attempted second-degree murder and assault. Barbour since has pled not guilty, and the trial will begin in April of 2017.

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Portland’s police chief shot a friend in the back while squirrel hunting, and tried to saw his friend shot himself. That didn’t go over so well with the friend, and now the chief is stepping down.

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A couple went on vacation, and returned to find their home in a state of disarray. But it turns out the potential burglars loved…nuts. They “arrived back home to find papers and other items strewn about and bowls of nuts throughout the house completely emptied.” The squirrel was caught and set free.

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Apparently, some squirrels enjoy hanging out with the police so much they will jump on their cars and pose for pictures. Maybe they like donuts?

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Squirrels frequently interfere with forensic evidence…by chewing on bones? Yep, it’s true. “The damage rodents can cause and tooth marks they leave, sharp as knife strikes, can both confound and inform crime scene investigators.” These chew marks can make the bones hard to identify, or even obscure signs of trauma.

You can read the scientific article, The Taphonomic Effects of Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) Gnawing on Bone, published in the Journal of Forensic Identification, here.

An Irish community trying to prevent baby red squirrels from being squished by cars is despondent over the loss of two “Caution: Squirrel Crossing” signs. The theft is believed to be the act of pranksters.

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How a squirrel saved a man

When the power company was called to a man’s house to resolve a squirrel-related power outage, it turns out that the man was unconscious in the road. The workers were able to use an automated external defibrillator and CPR to revive the man. The squirrel has been credited with saving the man's life.

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Thieving squirrels

A squirrel broke into a seed display at a Lowe’s store, having a snack, and then taking off before getting caught. Seeds were all over the place.

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And a British squirrel broke into a butcher’s shop, helping himself to some sausage

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No baby’s snacks are safe in the bottom of a stroller. This squirrel proves it.

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Dead squirrel causes chaos

A principal had to call parents when a student showed up with a dead squirrel in his backpack. “Hilarity ensued” (for everyone but the squirrel). Turns out the kid wanted squirrel dumplings for dinner.

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Squirrel scam

A squirrel scam in Dallas has targeted the elderly, with scammers claiming they will remove a squirrel from someone’s attic in exchange for large sums of money. The scammer returns with a dead squirrel (apparently not from the attic), and demands thousands of dollars.

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Squirrels and sex?

A man who runs both a squirrel sanctuary and a sex club on the same property claims cops targeted him and shut the sanctuary down because of the sex club.

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Nursing home attacks

Earlier this month, a nursing home was sent into chaos as a squirrel came in, biting and scratching several residents. The 911 call reveals the state of panic: “It’s still in there and the people are bleeding.” One victim was “bleeding a little uncontrollably.”And an injured woman said “I feel lightheaded. I don’t feel good.”

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When the squirrel returned the next week, a staffer took matters into their own hands, and shot and killed the squirrel with a BB gun.

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Squirrel rescue

Squirrels helping themselves

Firefighters were called to save a squirrel hiding in a car’s wheel well, but the squirrel took off.

And a rescue mission was aborted when a squirrel saved himself. Folks called the fire department to report a squirrel stuck atop a telephone pole, but it turns out he was just chilling.

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But this squirrel was happy to be saved from the dashboard of a car, where she had hidden behind the glove compartment.

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And this squirrel was digging in the dumpster and got his head stuck. The squirrel was anesthetized and rubbed with lots of Vaseline and was eventually twisted out of the small opening in the dumpster.

It’s raining squirrels…hallelujah

More than 200 baby squirrels were blown from their nests during a storm in Virginia

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A squirrel was literally stuck to a fence in Boulder, CO. Luckily the squirrel only suffered superficial injuries and was freed.

A pet squirrel caused a traffic jam in London by getting loose and consequently trapped in a vent under a passenger seat.

And this time a DOG needed rescuing…after chasing a squirrel and falling into the sewer.

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A community divided

A squirrel named Cyril has caused controversy in a British housing development. Turns out some folks love Cyril and feed him nuts, and other folks resent Cyril entering their flats and digging up their plants to bury said nuts. Pest control was called to kill Cyril, but over 5000 people signed a petition to save him; the estate management firm agreed to let Cyril live.

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This week in cute

A squirrel was confused by squirrel statue that had bread on it. I’d be confused too.

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Squirrel meets cat AND a stuffed animal? Is that a cuteness overload?

This squirrel was busy playing with a stuffed animal, when the family cat jumps into the mix.

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A baby squirrel and a bunny don’t seem to know what to think of each other. A lot of hopping ensues.

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He wants IN

bowlofnutsThis squirrel could see the bowl of nuts inside; just open the window!

 

 

Welsh ravers put endangered squirrels at risk

raveI’ve always found ravers kind of annoying…this time they held a giant three day party with loud music right near a colony of red squirrels. Locals are worried that the loud music might have stressed out the endangered rodents.

 

Photobombs

A news reporter was filming a big horn ram when a ground squirrel made a brief appearance.

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Another squirrel showed up in a couple’s engagement photoshoot.

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Who let the nuts out?

Some campers in Canada brazenly left a container of nuts laying around. Perhaps the whisky impaired their judgement, as the nuts were an easy target for a local squirrel.

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History corner

In 1918, Californians were sent on a mission: eradicating the ground squirrel. Even children were enlisted in this failed, $40,000 dollar project, that beckoned residents to “Kill the Squirrels.” What brought on this mass hysteria? Squirrels eating farmers’ crops.

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Basically, I blink and two months have gone by and I have NOT REPORTED ON SQUIRREL ACTIVITY! In case you'd like to know what I have been up to, some shameless self-reporting here:

feldmanI recently spoke with comedian David Feldman about...cats, cats, and more cats.

 

 

 

 

 

And the Berkeley Newscenter recently interviewed me about my research on the food-storing behavior of squirrels.

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The squirrels do not find studying squirrels to be an adequate excuse for not reporting on squirrels.

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Yet here I am, packing my bags to head to DC for the conference of the American Association of Feline Practitioners. This year, one of the themes is feline behavior. That's right, 3 days of nothing but cat people and cat behavior!!! I'm really excited to hang with other cat peeps, including Kris Chandroo, Ingrid Johnson, Julie Hecht, Liz Bales, and Sarah Ellis (and I'm sure many more!). There will be plenty of talks from cat experts I'm excited to hear from!! I'll be tweeting from the conference, and hopefully a blog or two will happen in response!

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This will be a nice break from a semester of data cleaning, writing, teaching, grading, job applications, and consulting! I've been busy and it's really cramping my blog-style! ...continue reading

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Do you know what your cat does when she eats? You're probably giving me a little bit of a blank stare right now, like, she puts her face in the bowl and chews her food (or maybe like some cats, she doesn't chew it much at all…).

You throw your cat's food down and walk away so many times, but you might be missing some of the interesting behaviors that your cat is engaging in while she eats. Furthermore, a new study in the Veterinary Journal suggests that the behaviors that your cat engages in while she's eating might tell you just how much she likes the food.

Before we get into this new study, let's review some of the things we already know about how cats eat. Cats are obligate carnivores, and their teeth are really designed for shearing meat into strips, which they then swallow mostly whole. Not a lot of chewing going on… have you ever seen a cat throw up after they eat some dry food? It looks pretty much the same as it looked going down…

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Note the head tilt while eating! Photo of Hank the Cat eating, by Robert W. Howington. https://www.flickr.com/photos/whitetrashtexas/4309808872

As obligate hunters, cats also engage in a few interesting behaviors while they are eating, such as placing some of their food on the ground or tilting their head to the side while they chew. This behavior is because if they were eating a bird or rat, the body would likely be dragging on the ground. The harder the food is to chew, the more you'll see a cat's head tilt. Cats also shake their heads when they pick up a food item or a small bite of food. Leyhausen attributed this behavior to the instinct to shake a bird that has been killed to loosen the feathers. Cool! Even your kibble fed kitty has instincts related to the cat's evolution as a predator.

The new study, A Novel Set of Behavioural Indicators for Measuring Perception of Food by Cats, took place in Finland. The goal was to categorize what types of behaviors cats presented when eating their favorite food, as well as a less favored type of food, and finally to test out whether or not cats would notice if there was a tiny pill hidden inside their favorite food. ...continue reading

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KQED came and filmed my research subjects a few months ago for a feature article as part of their Deep Look series, in which we (sort of) recreated my study of fox squirrels' responses to frustration. The final video and article are posted and just waiting for you to watch!

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Power problems

poweroutAlthough I’ve been too busy to write about squirrel antics, it doesn’t mean they have been laying around doing nothing! As usual, power outages have been reported all over the country! Squirrels may have knocked out your power recently if you live in the following places: North Maketo, IAComstock Park, MIRedding, CTSpringfield, MAWauwatosa, WIGrand Rapids, MIKinnelon, NJMountain Home, IDKalispell, MTConcord, NHMonroe, CTAshville, NCCape Girardeau, MOMilwaukee, WITalahassee, FLSunnyside, WANew Orleans, LA, and for the third time in one month: Bay City, MI.

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Squirrels went international with power outages in Vancouver, and Kelowna, British Columbia as well as in Brazil. And journalists can't get enough of  cyber-squirrel attacks, with recent features about squirrel related power outages in Slate, as well as how independent microgrids limit the damage squirrels can do.

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Are cats just ruthless killers?

Letting your pet cats outdoors is a controversial topic (and apparently a cultural issue - here in the States, we lean more towards keeping them inside, and the Brits think we're nuts!).  Does it prevent behavior problems? Maybe -- but I have to say I have PLENTY of behavior clients with indoor/outdoor cats who fight with other cats, urinate or spray inside the house, or have aggression or attention seeking issues. So letting cats go outdoors is not the panacea for all feline behavioral ills as some might have you believe (I've previously written about some reasons to keep your cats indoors).

A new book "Cat Wars" might have you thinking that cats are the only source of avian woes (I've also written on this topic before for The Dodo - so don't forget about humans, squirrels, raccoons and other animals that make life rough on songbirds).

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Pica, or the ingestion of non-food items, is found in species as varied as parrots, humans, and domestic cats. It’s unclear why some animals eat things that aren’t food – some guesses include stress and nutritional deficiencies. This behavior in cats was first noticed in Siamese cats, who are prone to sucking and eating woolen items. However, once all breeds (including the domestic shorthair) were included in studies, it became apparent that this behavior isn’t limited to the meezers in any way.

A new study, Characterization of pica and chewing behaviors in privately owned cats: a case control study, sought to better understand factors that might predict pica in cats, in the hopes of helping the veterinary community in developing effective treatments. This study surveyed 91 pet owners with cats who ingested non-foods, and included a control group of 35 cats who did not.

The researchers asked questions about basic kitty demographics, including age, breed, sex, medical history. They also included questions about the environment (including types of enrichment available, other people and animals in the house, and access to the outdoors). Finally, they asked questions about potential gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting and diarrhea.

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Some cats are attracted to eating strings and shoelaces. Photo "Cat on a strong" by Stefan Tell via Creative Commons/https://www.flickr.com/photos/stefantell/354864230

All cats in the pica group ingested non-food items, with 79 of them also chewing (but not swallowing) other things on a regular basis. Twenty one out of thirty-five of the control cats (that’s 60%) also chewed on things that aren’t really chewables!

What do cats with pica like to “eat?” Perhaps not surprisingly, shoelaces, plastic, and fabrics were all in the top three. Other interesting choices included toilet paper, soap, ear plugs, kitty litter, and sponges. Plastic, paper, rubber, and wood were the chew-toys of choice for the cats who were chewing on items.

...continue reading

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The question has been coming up a lot, with Jessica Pierce's recent book, Run Spot Run (an EXCELLENT, thought-provoking read); and with scientists recently looking for even MORE non-domesticated species we can keep as pets (seems ill-advised to me, even if wallabies are incredibly cute).

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I recently spoke with Melissa Dahl at New York Magazine about ways to help keep our cats happy - my favorite ways: interactive play and food puzzles. You can read the story here!

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I wrote a guest blog for Petcube on many uses of pet cams beyond cuteness! Check it out here!

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In the name of full disclosure, I did receive a Petcube to test! (and it's fun!)

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