The Lonely Fox Squirrel

The single fox squirrel our Project Squirrel research group found in the Bowl on WCC campus.

The single fox squirrel our Project Squirrel research group found in the Bowl on WCC campus.

According to Scientific American on their citizen science webpage, they give a description of Project Squirrel. Under the description of the project, it mentions that fox squirrels and grey squirrels are two of the most familiar species of wildlife in many neighborhoods and natural areas. I agree with this, I see these types of squirrels the most often as well. Although we have not found any squirrels lounging or running around campus during the times we go out and search, I have seen one; once, outside in the Bowl between 1:10pm-1:30pm on a sunny, warm day. According to Animal Diversity Web, fox squirrels are “a medium-sized tree squirrel with no sexual dimorphism. The dorsal pelage is buff to orange and the ventral is rufous. Tail is well furred.” The squirrel we saw was a medium sized squirrel, pretty average for the Michigan area, the dorsal pelage was in fact an orange-ish-brown color and the tail was bushy a luscious. The site also provided a physical feature that we observed true through the squirrel’s actions, “an adaptation for climbing is sharp recurved claws.” That makes sense, because while a small, casual football game was in session, the football landed near the squirrel, and it climbed up a nearby tree rather quickly and gracefully, it didn’t seem to have a problem.

The same fox squirrel after it scurried up the nearby tree.

The same fox squirrel after it scurried up the nearby tree.

According to Project Squirrel’s website, under a survey where you insert and share your information and observations with the founders, squirrels feed off of bird feeders, human handouts, garbage, trees and other plants, and maybe even other things that are not specified. However, I have never seen squirrels eat from anything other than trees and plants. I have never noticed squirrels eating from any bird feeder, human handouts, garbage, or any other source than trees and plants. So we decided to test it. Once the fox squirrel was up in the tree, we decided to take some of my bread from an already made sandwich and offer it to the squirrel. It was perched perfectly between two branches on a leveled surface, eating some substance it found in the Bowl field with both of it’s tiny hands. Eric, a colleague in our Project Squirrel research group, took the piece of bread and lifted it up to the squirrel. In response, it stopped eating it’s current meal, and creeped it’s head closer to the piece of bread… and Eric flung and dropped it, I assume out of fear. Perhaps his reaction startled the squirrel and had an affect on the handout test, but it didn’t seem like the squirrel was going to take it to begin with by the way it presented it’s “interest.” After that, the squirrel climbed higher up into the tree and we were unable to try to test it again. Although my conclusion isn’t sampled fairly and is incomplete, I have concluded that squirrels don’t often take human handouts. Therefore, I am curious as to why that is one of the options on the Project Squirrel research survey, because I have never seen a squirrel take a human handout nor has it worked when we tried it.

Eric, described in this blog, and another fellow student, who isn't a part of our Project Squirrel research group, approaching the single fox squirrel in the nearby tree.

Eric, described in this blog, and another fellow student, who isn’t a part of our Project Squirrel research group, approaching the single fox squirrel in the nearby tree.

We went out every single day for the project, a total of nine work days. There were, however, days where we went into the computer commons in the Gunder Myran building for half of class and out on campus for the other half. Our locations included the Pine Woods, which is located at the southeast of campus, the Hard Woods, which is located on the southwest side of campus, the Bowl, which is located in the center of campus, and Gallop Park, which is actually off campus about a mile away. Our general search time was from 1:50pm-3:15pm. Not once did we see a single squirrel on any of those locations. Keep in mind the one time we saw the single fox squirrel was outside in the Bowl between 1:10pm-1:30pm on a day we also searched about twenty minutes after. Perhaps it’s the time, perhaps it’s the weather (it was kind of gloomy/muggy/rainy/windy most days, with the occasional sunny, warm days), or perhaps it was the construction in and around each of the locations. Whatever the cause, our single fox squirrel is still alone on a big campus.

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