Photo from Metro Creative
Exploring Nature: Splooting Squirrels
I recently learned about a scrappy little squirrel that fought back from the brink of extinction, with a little help from some concerned humans.
The squirrel is the Delmarra fox squirrel, DFS for short. It is among the largest tree squirrels in North America and weighs about three pounds. It is a light gray color and stretches up to 30 inches in length, half of which is its very fluffy tail.
By the way, in central Texas, our most common squirrel is the eastern fox squirrel, a brownish critter with a bushy tail. We also have the rock squirrel, which has a blackish head and a grayish black body and prefers rock piles to trees for its habitat.
In all of the United States, there are some 10 squirrel varieties, ranging from the Albert to the Western gray.
The Delmarra squirrel is found in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. It almost went extinct back in 1967. That was a bad year for lots of species, including whooping cranes and bald eagles.
Thankfully, humans took steps to help all these, including the endangered fox squirrel. A large population of the squirrels was relocated to a protected refuge and some 11 new habitats were created to protect some 20,000 squirrels.
While the forests where the squirrels were relocated certainly protected the squirrels, the reverse was also true. The squirrels promoted growth of new trees and other plants by burying nuts, acorns and seeds as food caches.
The big Delmarra squirrels are similar to their smaller cousins in our area in one respect. Both species love to lie flat on their bellies during hot weather — it helps them cool off. And there’s even a name for this belly-flopping; it’s called “splooting.”
I sometimes see squirrels splooting atop the wooden rail that runs around my back deck. They look a little like road kill all flattened out.
If I thought I could fit, I might join them on that rail. A little splooting just might work for hot humans, too.