Monthly Archives: September 2014

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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Why we don't want to be "pigeon-toed"

If you live in the city, you likely see a lot of pigeons, and you likely see a lot of pigeons that could use a pedicure (if they have any toes left). WHY are pigeon feet so wonky? @TetZoo tries to work it out here:

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The short answer, injuries from urban "stuff" - but I think there are still more questions! Why so many pigeons and not other urban birds, like crows?

Read more here, where pigeon experts Dr. Haag-Wackernagel and Dr. Lisa Jaquin discuss how fibers get tangled in pigeon feet and cause all kinds of problems (thanks to SavorTooth for that tip!).

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Squirrel Drug-Running

A Russian squirrel took off with a baggie of drugs, teens chase, police get curious...you can't make this stuff up.

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Does this squirrel dress better than most college students?

Sneezy the campus squirrel has gained notoriety (and much media coverage) for her high tolerance for being dressed in cute outfits. A "squirrel whispering" student at Penn State has even turned this squirrel's cuteness into an enterprise, including a Facebook page with over 25,000 "likes." Is this squirrel-sploitation or just ridiculously cute? Is this putting Berkeley squirrels to shame?

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You can learn to love brown rice

Well it looks like the methods may be a little sketchy, but a small study suggests that people can learn to see healthy food as rewarding (and show less reward response in the brain to things like donuts and cookies). Can't we have it both ways? I love brown rice AND donuts.

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Ground squirrel too tubby; gets stuck in own burrow

Stocking up for the winter is a good thing, unless it's too much of a good thing, as in the case of this ground squirrel. Luckily he was helped out by some passers-by.

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Squirrel flirts with death at NASCAR race

In another "squirrel vs sports" moment, a squirrel almost got squished by sprinting across the racetrack at a recent NASCAR event.

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