Once again, there is so much squirrel activity around the globe!

 Power outages

Squirrels shut off the power to over a thousand folks in Toledo, and left people with nine hours of no power in Luverne and Rutledge, Alabama. A squirrel was electrocuted and caused an “electrical smell” in Grand Haven, Minnesota, shutting off power at the local post office.

Finally, a squirrel in Rancho Cordova in California caused a fuse to blow that burst a gas line, causing not only a power outage but also a school cancellation. “The squirrel did not survive.”

Please don’t feed the squirrels

Berkeley is cracking down on its ordinance prohibiting the feeding of wild animals in state parks. This was proposed as an alternative to mass culling of ground squirrels in the Berkeley Marina, whose burrows may be leaching toxins into groundwater. Feed a squirrel? You  may be fined $100.

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Please do eat the squirrels

A contest for the best squirrel burger has caused controversy among vegetarians, animal rights activists and squirrel lovers alike. The grey squirrel is a pest in the UK, and now people are suggesting eating them to reduce their numbers. Would you give a squirrel burger a try?

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Bizarre biking accident kills squirrel, hurts human

A squirrel gave a man a concussion and minor facial fractures. It wasn’t a fight – the squirrel somehow ran into a racing cyclist and got caught in his front bike tire, jamming the bike and sending the man flying over the handle bars. The squirrel was sadly killed in the incident (note: graphic photo of dead squirrel).

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Squirrel loves clothespins

clothespinsThis couple can’t keep their laundry hanging on their clothesline as a local squirrel keeps stealing their clothespins, presumably to build her nest.

 

Squirrel shortage

Is Arlington, Virginia really seeing a decrease in its squirrel population? Local experts suggest that last year’s weak acorn crop could be to blame, but also note that like most rodents, squirrel populations are capable of a quick rebound in good years, so there’s no need to panic yet.

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Have you met…?

blsqThe giant black squirrel – one of the largest squirrel species on the planet, is native to Southeast Asia. They can be up to 110 cm long including their tail (that’s almost 4 feet long for us savages who haven't gone metric).

Squirrel meets panda...

We’ve seen panda bears startled by sneezing, but in this case, both a squirrel AND a panda are in for a big surprise when the squirrel climbs onto the panda at the Toronto Zoo.

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...and a dog

Pamela Gwyn Kipke explores the relationship between dog and squirrel, as a squirrel must fight for her life when cornered by Kipke’s dog.

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 Campus squirrels

Many university campuses have infamous squirrel populations. Students at the University of Virginia share some of their encounters with the rascally rodents, and historian Etienne Benson addresses just why they are often so aggressive.

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Squirrels love tulips?

One park has resorted to using “blood meal” to cover its planted tulip bulbs; apparently tulip bulbs are a favorite squirrel snack. Apparently the scent of cattle blood is enough to deter squirrels from digging.

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How to catch a squirrel?

Mimic their call, and they will supposedly come out of hiding. A hunter’s guide to squirrel calls.

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Bringing up baby

babyIt seems like there is no shortage of baby squirrel stories on the internet. This little fellow “Zip” will be released to the wild once he is ready. For now, cuteness and squee!

Conservation Corner

Prince Charles hates squirrels

Turns out grey squirrels aren’t just bad for red squirrels in the UK, the greys are also destroying record numbers of oak trees (ironically, a main food source for squirrels). Prince Charles has declared war on the wascally wodents, and is ordering a massive culling on his properties.

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Red squirrel recovery

Meanwhile, red squirrels are being bred and released from the Belfast Zoo in an attempt to save the cute beasts from extinction (which is mainly due to competition from grey squirrels).

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Why is there an alpaca in my grocery store?

What is the deal with emotional support animals? For the record, they are not the same thing as a service animal - but there's a lot of confusion about what is allowed and what isn't - and it's easy to fake a letter. Patricia Marx goes undercover and explores what happens when you bring a "therapy turtle" to a museum. Read here!

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Are you obsessed with your fitness tracker? What does the research say about how well they work? Read all about it here, in a post I wrote for the Berkeley Science Review.

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Giraffes: tall, quiet, understudied

NY Times featured a nice summary of what little we know about this beautiful and socially complex animal. Read about the giraffe here.

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Cats: misunderstood again

A new survey by Cats Protection in the UK suggests that when it comes to cats, people are still in the dark. The majority of respondents were unaware of some mayor indicators of stress in cats, such as overgrooming and urination outside of the litterbox. Cat owners also had little awareness that letting strange cats enter their homes could be stressful for their cats. We've still got a long ways to go!

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Bet you've never seen a mountain lion on a treadmill at the gym!

pumaScientists worked with captive pumas to develop a collar that can track movements and activity patterns of the cats in the wild. lt's like a Fitbit for big cats, and in case you're wondering how long it takes to train a puma to use a treadmill: 10 months. Read more here!

 

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Cats and urination outside of the litterbox.

Cat urination outside the litterbox can damage relationships and floors. Photo via InspectAPedia.

Cat urination outside the litterbox can damage relationships and floors. Photo via InspectAPedia.

Urination outside the litterbox is one of the most common behavioral reasons cats are abandoned and euthanized. Litterbox avoidance is a frustrating problem to live with, and damages property and the bond between an owner and their cat. While owners often attribute this behavior to a complex “revenge” plot by the cat (“he’s mad at me for x, y or z”), urination outside the box is typically caused by one of three things: something about the box the cat doesn’t like, a medical problem, or stress.

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Baby fish babbling

"Babbling" is the first stage of language development in humans in which infants make sounds that are considered pre-linguistic and practice for future chatting. Babbling has been found in several other animal species (including bats, monkeys and parrots), and now maybe in fish? Turns out that baby snapper (larvae) make "knocking" sounds that adults also use, which function to keep fish together in their schools. Read more here.

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Three weeks in squirrels

We're long overdue for a squirrel news update, and there's a lot to report!

Five amazing squirrel facts!

natgeoI won’t spoil all the fun, but my favorite is the fact that some squirrels hang fungi out to dry, essentially making mushroom “jerky” – gross (I hate mushrooms) but awesome. Read the facts here.

Ahoy, Matey

Why is this squirrel paddling around in the shallows of this beach in Wales? No idea.

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Controversial squirrel rescue causes more controversy

graceLast time I reported on Grace the disabled squirrel who a family had rescued and raised without a wildlife permit. Social media helped concerned folks get attention for this issue. The squirrel was seized by the state and brought to a wildlife rehab center. What is unclear is what will happen if Grace cannot be released back into the wild. Petitioners claim that in that case, the state will euthanize her instead of return her to her rescuers. Read about it here.

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"Thanks for the ride, lady"

(That's a line from Creepshow 2, in case you don't remember)

Scientists using camera traps with motion sensors weren't surprised to find a variety of animals among the nighttime photos in a South African park. But they were a little surprised to find a tiny mongoose relative, called a genet, using both rhinos and buffalos as a means of transport. The same genet was seen riding on the backs of several animals, in the same evening. Lazy or innovative? Or both?

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Science still hasn't totally solved the mystery of why cats love boxes so much. Photo by Walter Smith via Creative Commons License.

Science still hasn't totally solved the mystery of why cats love boxes so much. Photo by Walter Smith via Creative Commons License.

The cats-box thing is a bit of a joke (and internet phenomenon), I mean, why DO cats love boxes so much? Even science has tried (sort of) to tackle the question. We get a range of answers, from predation advantage (a great place to stalk prey from), to fun (think of Maru), to perhaps the most important reasons: safety and security.

But for one group of cats, cats in animal shelters, boxes aren’t just frivolous additions to the environment, they may be critical to reducing stress. Boxes may save lives. Yet another study, recently published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, demonstrates that having an appropriate hiding space reduced stress in shelter cats, and helped them adapt better to being in a new environment.

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Why would deer respond to human infant cries?

Two deer species have been found responding to distress cries of other species, including seals and humans. Why? These sounds all share some common sound structures and patterns, but the deer only responded when the frequency of non-deer cries was similar to that of their own infants. Structure and pattern may be a universal way to detect "someone is in danger" - and it may be helpful to know there is danger in the area, even if those making the calls are a different species. Read more here.

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