Yuck! The poor people of Winnipeg, Canada, have a growing grody problem on their hand: mice and squirrels infesting cars and trucks during the winter, according to the Brandon Sun newspaper.
The reason? They’re dry, safe and full of human food.
“It’s food, inside on the carpets, inside the baby car seats. That’s what attracting mice,” Entomologist Taz Stuart told the paper.
(This immediately reminded us that our toddler’s car seat is currently festooned with many, many stale Goldfish crackers…and the last thing we want to deal with is a mouse infestation in our car.)
For squirrels, the nest building seems more likely to occur under the hood, hidden away:
A thirteen-lined ground squirrel going on a fat binge. Photo.
The editorial staff of Squirrels, Squirrels, Squirrels has visited Minnesota in December. So, we’re only partially surprised to read the findings of a cool study out of Duluth, which examines how the 13-lined ground squirrel hibernates without becoming a completely frozen solid squirrel-sicle.
(I mean, these cute critters of course have fur and can huddle together in their little hidey-holes, but still, when it’s -40 outside, …it seems like only White Walkers should be alive and in the mood for napping, while everyone else gets on an RV and heads to South Padre Island.)
Anyway, how do they do it? It takes extreme metabolism to counter the extreme weather. Precisely, they literally store fat in their hearts, and then slowly burn off that fat all winter long. Yes, it sounds counter-intuitive to long-term survival (equivalent to a human eating a triple-bacon cheeseburger for every meal), but the long starvation following their autumn pig-out creates a metabolic state known as “ketosis,” and that apparently brings them good tidings, cheer and above-average longevity compared to similar non-hibernating species.
Lest you wonder why the hell anyone cares, Katharine Gammon, writing in Chemical & Engineering News, clears that right up for you:
“Eventually, this knowledge may help researchers develop ways to protect heart tissue from the harmful effects of free radicals that are produced after a heart attack.”
So there. Squirrel research saving lives.
A squirrel enjoying a masting? Photo by Hills_Alive
The Albany Times-Union has an excellent write-up on the far-reaching ramifications of a masting, the awkward botanical term for a regional over-supply of acorns. Apparently, 2015 is a “masting” for the oak trees of the Northeast. (It does seem this way in my little corner of Queens, where walking under the gargantuan, smog-fed oak trees can leave one a little fearful of an acorn-related skull fracture.)
Why 2015? It seems to be related to optimal weather conditions, and the necessity is driven by survival: Acorns are so appealing to wildlife that oak trees have to over-compensate to guarantee a few won’t get eaten by critters.
“…Acorns are so tasty, such a nutritious food resource, so many animals like them, that if they produce a few every year every single one of them would be eaten up,” a biologist said.
And, at first this all sounds like a net positive: More acorns + more squirrels + more oak trees = more fodder for Squirrels, Squirrels, Squirrels.
But alas! There’s a dark side. We’ll not give away the spoiler, because the newspaper did all the hard work and we’re a firm believer in giving credit where credit is due. So check it out for yourself: This year’s acorn cascade has hidden impact
And, in celebration of the masting, here’s some gorgeous pictures celebrating all things acorny.
A hearty pile of acorns for the NYS Conservationist magazine (which runs a terrific Facebook feed) for selecting squabbling squirrels as their weekly “caption this” contest. Check it out, and give it your wittiest best.
I wonder what the human did to get the squirrel to gnaw on the pumpkin victim in exactly the correct spots?
It’s…wait…what? A tiny dog…dressed as a tiny rodent…holding an acorn, with a dog leash coming out of its head. Yet we’re thinking about Rocky Balboa launching up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. So confused. And…we can’t help but wonder, what would a squirrel dressed as a Chihuahua look like? #deepthoughts
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/joyvanb/22319994635/