4. Getting_Squirrely_Exploratory_Essay

4. Getting_Squirrely_Exploratory_Essay - .- Jan Roser '...

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Unformatted text preview: .- Jan Roser ' English 102 May 1, 2009 Getting Squirrer When was the last time you were sitting outside when a squirrel darted by, froze dead in his tracks for an instant, then zipped off in an entirely different direction chirping and twitching all the way while you thought to yourself, “What the hell?” Just what exactly is going through that walnut-sized rodent brain? Is it possible that the entire species has some severe, inherent form of attention deficit disorder that just comes at birth with the frazzled, ever twitching tail? Will I ever understand the reasoning that must somehow lie behind their sporadic actions? Ever since I was a little girl on a park swing, such questions and hundreds like them seemed to be the pieces of an unfeasible squirrel behavior puzzle that I would never. be able to put together. Although I am not particularly a lover of the animal who fights for the individual rights and survival of each separate critter, I do find them very curious. It seems like I spot the little devils whizzing around every time I stroll out my front door or peer through my kitchen window. Then, I go on to see motion pictures that only further provoke my intrigue for the rodents. In the cartoon “Over the Hedge,” one of the main characters is a jittery little squirrel named Hammy who is literally bouncing off the walls at all times. So many qualities within the fictitious character coincide perfectly with my own observations of squirrel behaviors. Even the frantic, stashing squirrel in “Ice Age” who’s always greedily hoisting his precious acorns off to some hidden stock pile makes me wonder about the facts that back the comedy. With something .2 that is so commonplace in my everyday life I fail to see any reason why I would continue to let these miniature wiry-haired creatures remain such a mystery to me. So what do we know about the “sciurus” species? The name is derived from the Greek language with the combination of “skia” and “oura”. Once translated, the meaning of their title is, “he who sits in the shade of his tail” (Simpkins 1). Most species live between 10 and 12 years, with 20 years of life in captivity being the longest squirrel life ever recorded. Generally, squirrels weigh somewhere between 14 ounces to 1.8 pounds and are anywhere from 9.5 to 12 inches long, not including the bushy tail that is often nearly the same length as the body. Since there are over 365 different species living all over the world, I decided to focus my research on the red squirrel, Scurius Vulgaris, which is the most common species found in Northern America and the most familiar to me’dKurtus 1) 0 Though I am aware of many forest animals hibernating during winter months, I was never exactly sure if tree squirrels fell into this perpetually sleepy category. While ground squirrels will often cluster inside their dens for weeks at a time when the temperatures outside drop dramatically, I was surprised to learn that common red squirrels stay active in their tree tops all year round. Here is where I found that there is a simple truth lying behind the characteristics of the prehistoric squirrel in “Ice Age”. While we all laugh watching him desperately collecting nuts, it is absolutely vital; even for our modern red squirrels, that summer months are spent discovering and saving enough food to last throughout the barren winters. The Scurius Vulgaris is most active in the fall around dawn and dusk as it is out of its hollow tree trunk nest gathering and stashing. Acorns and other sustenance are then carted off to some hidden location or cache, which the squirrel must remembeq (Mills 829);When I saw them so often crouched on their hind legs with noses pointed up into the air, I had to wonder just how keen their sense of smell really «‘3 was. I was informed when I read an article composed by Dr. T. Wesley Mills that conveniently, while squirrels were absolutely not given the gift of good memories, they were; however, given an exquisite sense of smell. Due to this they must “only rely on memory for the general location of each cache and allow their sense of smell to do the rest” (Mills 829). I was very impressed to learn that this impeccable sense is effective even when the collection lies beneath 12 inches of snow. Cleverly, squirrels understand the logic supporting the existence of several different hoards to avoid losing their entire supply to a hungry predator or even another clan of squirrels. While we say not to put all your eggs in one basket, they say not to put all your nuts in one hole. In the suspicion of being watched, some squirrels have even been documented digging holes and pretending to place goods inside before burying their deception to throw- off a potential thief, thus proving their ability to interpret intention of othersx(Picon 1) . While squirrels can be found on the list of the top ten smartest animals, it was not a surprise to me that they are nowhere near the list of animals nearing extinction. Early spring means peak breeding season which consists of high speed love chases as females and daring suitors take great leaps from branch to branch. As with most animals, the biggest and strongest mate is selected by each lady to ensure that her kin will be as strong and healthy as possible. I had no idea what strong kinship and close knit family relations were maintained by this animal. Many bold females will send out a specific warning call to their clan when danger is near. This selfless action often times will announce the exact location of its creator leading to a dual or even death of the mother squirrel (McDougall 239). Although the father figure won’t usually remain in the same dwelling as his mate, females generally care for their young from (‘4 birth up to several weeks after they have left the nest. It is typically the mothers who are dominant and sacrifice great amounts for their posterityF(Picon 1), Upon reading the article “Personality, Habitat Use and Survival of Red Squirrels” by Adrianne Boone, I learned that mothers actually bequeath all or part of their personal territories to their young. Since each female can have up to two litters of offspring consisting of three to six infants both times, I had to wonder how a mother could have enough territory so as to give a sufficient section to each youngster. In a personality study researchers discovered that maternal figures would raid other territories until they acquired dominion over enough area to support each of their young. Sadly, the more active each squirrel became combined with how much ground it traveled, the higher mortality rate became (Boone 1321). Later; in the same study of risky behavior, experimenters trapped seventy one female squirrels for examination. Of that same seventy one, fifty five were trapped more than once with several being trapped over six times in at least two different territories (Boone 1324). I never thought that female squirrels traveled so frequently from their safe homes and families just to ensure a prosperous life for their offspring. Dr. Mills observed in a separate study that after trapping several male red squirrels and releasing them, the second encounter each marked animal had with the same trap was more educated. While the subjects with riskier personalities would conceive elaborate methods of retrieving the bait within, most would clamber and prance on top of and around the trap, seeming to enjoy the event (Mills 830). Given the evidence provided from Boone’s research, it is apparent that there are several personality differences between individual squirrels. While there are obvious gender differences, researchers also concluded that some journey more willingly into harm’s way than others. When in captivity, observers noted that several squirrels of the same ‘5 gender, species and age would startle easy upon confrontation with human caregivers while at the same time, some would come running and eagerly gobble out of the observers’ hands (Mills 829). Almost every specimen in the first noted study conducted by Dr. Boone understood and even accepted the risks and consequences associated with entering what she knew to be a trap in order to obtain food. Through this we can infer that maternal instincts within a squirrel to ensure the survival of her family are greater than fear of losing her own life. All of us have either swerved around or rolled our vehicles over a countless number of the seemingly oblivious creatures, right? Sometimes there are days when I could swear I see as many of them motionless on the ground as I do chirping up in a tree. I currently maintain that one of them even committed suicide before my eyes when he unexpectedly bolted from a sitting position on the sidewalk only to touch the asphalt one last time beneath my Goodyear. He couldn’t possibly have meant to do it, could he? Why are they always darting back and forth and pausing in the middle of my lane? Though I may never know exactly what drew the little fellow’s attention so suddenly into the street that day, after researching their defensive. tendencies and survival ploys I do know now that they aren’t suicidal, they simply use the wrong survival tactics on humans and automobiles. Ron Kurtus claims that these clever creatures have several different defense mechanisms. Why is it that when a squirrel is eating a nut he is never exactly looking at what he’s holding in his paws? Somehow, I never quite acknowledged the fact that both eyes belonging to a squirrel are located on either side of its head. Due to this strategic placement, the individual must repeatedly flick its head back and forth to acquire a full image of its surroundings (Kurtus 1). While this gives the animal a wider range of vision, it greatly decreases its depth perception and also doesn’t allow the squirrel to see what lies directly in front of it. In an effort to gain an an accurate sense of distance between itself and a threat, the squirrel will stand perfectly still for a few moments. An understandable decision since its perception is even lower while moving. When battling enemies in the forest, one of the most effective techniques during a quarrel is to confuse the attacker. The best way for a squirrel to do this is by holding their frizzy tail over their head, jerking it from side to side, and then darting to and fro to eliminate any chance for the foe to predict the hyperactive rodent’s next move (Kurtus 1). If only the little fighters knew that human operated cars approach differently than snakes, birds and other predators. While vehicles generally advance in a straightforward manner; if they would only remain tranquil in their own territory, their threat would momentarily zoom by and go about its personal business. Another impressive way of survival that I had never heard of was simply the tail itself. Not only is it a beautiful decoration contributing to the unique image of the creature, but it is also key to a squirrels existence. When used appropriately, this extension is a means for balance when leaping and running across wires and braches. Tails can be parachutes to slow a fall and cushions for harsh encounters with the earth. The appendage is further used as a blanket of warmth in the winter and a source of shade in the summer (McDougall 239). Just like some lizards will break their tails off to escape from a captor, tree squirrels alike have skin on their tails that will slip easily away from bone and can be effortlessly re-grown later to squeeze out of a deathly grip. Even the red color of the tree squirrel helps to defend it from enemies as it can blend into the tree then dash to the backside of the trunk where the attacker cannot see that the squirrel has bolted to a new location. I was surprised to learn that squirrels can turn their [feet one hundred eighty degrees making such sudden movements possible. Also, I had never heard that upon challenging the infa-red vision of a snake in a dual, squirrels’ tails actually heat up. The hot '7 swishing object confuses the snake allowing the squirrel to bite and scratch his nemesis, and often times the serpent will slither away in bewilderment (Kurtus, 1). So when they aren’t fighting for survival and scurrying in the wild, what is the general temperament of a squirrel? How easily are they domesticated? Although my initial desire was to capture my very own squirrel for domestic observations of my own, I began reading tales of their fanatical behavior and thought it best to save the cleanliness of my own home and analyze the experiences of my fellow researchers.’ When I was in high school I knew a girl who came to class with a pet squirrel who spent a majority of the day curled up into a fluffy ball within her jacket pocket. The unnatural couple always made me curious. While many with squirrel pets would disagree; Dr. Mills reports that researchers Audobon and Bachman maintain in “Quadruplets of North America” that they “are doubtful whether this species can at any time be perfectly tamed” (Mills 830). My old friend from high school, Heather Haley, is one of the voices opposing against this observation. She claims that “if a squirrel is taken into human influence during infancy and reared with a large amount of human interaction, the animal will be very mild tempered and quite tame as it is used to its surroundings and knows none else” (Haley). James Newton Baskett wrote about the experiences he had with a wild squirrel when he removed the mammal from its well known forest habitat and observed him for a length of time inside a common human residence. Like most uncultivated animals, the squirrel was very shy and weary of his new surroundings throughout the first few days. Whenever startled while running, the squirrel would “halt with his tail ahead of him and over his nose”(\B‘a/1_s_lgett§lb perhaps willing to sacrifice his tail hoping that it would be taken leaving him behind? Baskett also noted that when walking past a new or suspicious object the squirrel would “outstretch his ‘8 tail between himself and the object in an effort to protect himself” from it until he could further investigate and understand the mystery at hand (Baskett 1). While all of this research has settled a majority of my curiosities toward common tree squirrels, at the same time it also raised new questions and sparked ideas for experiments and observations I would like to make of my own. Though no human being can ever fully comprehend why any animal, especially a squirrel, behaves; I now have a better understanding of why they have certain tendencies. Through researching common ' defense mechanisms, intelligence levels, and differences in personality traits, I have found answers to my questions regarding general red squirrel behavior. Jan Roser English 102 March 7, 2009 Works Cited Baskett, James Newton. “Squirrel’s Use of His Tail”. Birds and All Nature. Vol.3. March 1998. Boone, Adrianne. “Personality, habitat use, and their consequences for survival in North American red squirrels Tarniasciurus Hudsonicus.” Oikos. vol. 117. 8 Aug. 2008. Haley, Heather. Personal Interview. 18 Feb. 2009. Kurtus, Ron. School For Champions. May 2005. 15 Feb. 2009. <schoolforchampions.com>. McDougall, Len. The Complete Tracker: Tracks, Signs and Habits of North American Wildlife. lst. Guilford Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press, 1997. Mills, Wesley. “Intelligence of Squirrels.” Popular Science Monthly. McGill University. Nov. 1999. Picon, Barbara Bellons. Squirrel Sanctuary. 2002. 14 Feb. 2009. <squirre1sanctuary.org/behave_yourself.htm>. Simpkins, Karen. The Effect of Humans on Squirrel Behavior. 4 Dec. 2004. 15 Feb. 2009. <jrscience.wcp.mcohio.edu/nsfallO4/articles>. ...
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This note was uploaded on 10/16/2011 for the course ENGLISH 102 taught by Professor Bailey during the Spring '11 term at Boise State.

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4. Getting_Squirrely_Exploratory_Essay - .- Jan Roser '...

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