Vandalism By Squirrels With Aroused Teeth

June 20, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Posted in Humans and other animals | Leave a comment
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Baby American red squirrel, photographed 20 June 2010 by Dan Leveille.

Baby American red squirrel, photographed 20 June 2010 by Dan Leveille.

Every one feels aroused and lustful at times.

Sometimes one part of your body feels aroused, and sometimes another.

But have your teeth ever felt aroused?

No?

Well, that proves that you are not a tree squirrel.

Previous posts on this blog have wondered what drives tree squirrels into a frenzy of arboreal vandalism several times each year.  The most recent of those posts was here.

At last, we have an answer.

A local citizen’s association sponsored a walk through a local park, with a park ranger to show us how to identify the type of each tree, and to explain its ecological role and prospects.

The ranger provided the long-sought explanation of what drove the tree squirrels to their periodic frenzies of vandalism.

The squirrels are not teething, but are driven by something close to teething.

A squirrel’s teeth would become over-long unless the squirrel gnawed on something hard.

Wikipedia confirms and expands upon this explanation: tree squirrel’s’ “characteristic gnawing trait also aids in maintaining sharp teeth, and because their teeth grow continuously, prevents [the] over-growth [of their teeth].”

In short, tree squirrels have aroused teeth!

Vandalism by tree squirrels isn’t confined to trees. Tree squirrels occasionally chew on electrical wiring, sometimes in the attic of a house, or strung between poles outside.

Their non-arboreal vandalism probably has the same explanation as their vandalism of trees.


The topic of this blog posting obliges me to end it on a more personal note.

As is clear from my picture, I am a prairie dog.

Prairie Dog, the poliblog, 2012-06-23 .

Prairie Dog, the poliblog, 2012-06-23 .

While researching squirrel teeth for this post, a relevant Wikipedia article contained this bombshell: “Prairie dogs … are a type of ground squirrel …”

Imagine my astonishment! This post has been about my own distant cousins!

Of course, prairie dogs differ from tree squirrels in important ways. That is why I have been careful throughout to call them tree squirrels.

Now, about those differences.

Prairie dogs hate black-footed ferrets. Not only are those sharp toothed nasty- dispositioned fiends of the right size to creep into our burrows, they do not read advice columnists, and therefore have no sense of boundaries.

Roy, a ferret, photgraphed by Alfredo Gutiérrez .

Roy, a ferret, photgraphed by Alfredo Gutiérrez .

A picture of a ferret's teeth, photographed by Erlendaakre, 26 September 2008.

A picture of a ferret’s teeth, photographed by Erlendaakre, 26 September 2008.

A ferret in the middle of a war dance jump. Photographed in 2005 by Inkrat773.

A ferret in the middle of a war dance jump. Photographed in 2005 by Inkrat773.

Tree squirrels do not have nightmares about black-footed ferrets.

On the other hand, prairie dogs are much bigger than tree squirrels, because our weight is not limited by the strength of the branches of the most numerous trees. So our paws are much bigger, too, and that is what enabled me to write this blog. With a small stubby strap-on on each front paw, two-pawed typing is possible on a keyboard. It is very similar to two-fingered typing by a person. With a strap-on, I can even swipe a touch screen. (A bare paw doesn’t work on a touch screen. A bare paw produces too complicated an imprint for a computer that is looking for the simple dot-like pattern of a finger tip.)

The paw of a tree squirrel is too narrow to serve as the stable mount for a strap-on.

Those are some of the differences.

But still, they are cousins.

So I have three wishes for them:
– teeth that are sharp and not over-long,
– the discernment to distinguish an insulated electrical wire from a twig,
– and the understanding that although random changes of direction do help when escaping from a pursuing animal, they do not help when evading a car.

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Squirrels: Frenzied, But Not Teething

March 22, 2015 at 10:53 am | Posted in Brain and mind | 4 Comments
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An Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in St James's Park, London, England.  Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 .

An Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in St James’s Park, London, England. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 .

A previous post asked for an explanation of a puzzling frenzy that squirrels exhibit each Spring and Fall. Thin new twigs of trees rain down upon the ground. Each twig has been bitten off by a squirrel, who then apparently immediately drops it without even nibbling it. Since there is a new crop of baby squirrels each Spring and Fall, the post had hypothesized that this vandalism was committed by teething baby squirrels. It asked observant readers to post as comments anything they observed that confirmed or refuted that hypothesis, and also to post any explanations that they knew of, or alternative hypotheses.

Twigs that had been chewed off by squirrels and unceremoniously dropped.  Photo by thepoliblog.WordPress.com.

Twigs that had been chewed off by squirrels and unceremoniously dropped. Photo by thepoliblog.WordPress.com.

The Spring frenzy started up at our house about two weeks ago, and it provides a partial answer.

There are no baby squirrels yet. So the rain of bitten-off but uneaten twigs cannot be due to the teething of baby squirrels. It is due to bezerk adults.

But what drives the adult squirrels into this frenzy?

In the Spring, all of the bitten-off twigs are new, and bear clusters of buds. But the frenzy is not due to squirrels being tickled or startled by the new twigs, because there are no new twigs during the Fall frenzy.

Are the twigs bitten off as a metaphorical chest-thumping by horny male squirrels?

Are they bitten off only by pregnant squirrels?

The twigs are not bitten off for nest-building, because the bitten-off twigs are all allowed to fall to the ground, where they are allowed to remain indefinitely.

Spring Break doesn’t seem to be a likely explanation, unless squirrels also have a Fall Break.
This explanation is additionally implausible because beer pong is considered to be beneath the dignity and intelligence of any squirrel.

The relevant Wikipedia article states that, ” To sharpen their teeth, squirrels will often chew on tree branches or even the occasional live power line.” Is that why they are biting off the new twigs? No, because if they were doing it to sharpen their teeth, they would not also do it in the Fall, I think.
If you spot a potential answer to this mystery, please post it as a comment below.

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Squirrels Teething?

December 22, 2013 at 10:42 pm | Posted in Brain and mind | 2 Comments
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A squirrel reaching for food on a garden bird feeder, this squirrel can rotate its hind feet, allowing it to descend a tree head-first. (Caption from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squirrel ; author 'waferboard', uploaded by 'Snowmanradio'.)

A squirrel reaching for food on a garden bird feeder, this squirrel can rotate its hind feet, allowing it to descend a tree head-first. (Caption from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squirrel ; author ‘waferboard’, uploaded by ‘Snowmanradio’.)

In the late Spring, freshly bitten-off young branches rain down from the trees.

In the late Fall, it happens again, but less intensely.

Squirrels are the obvious culprit.  But the chewed-off branches show no sign of having been eaten, even partially.

Why do the squirrels do it?  Why the frenzied activity?

Here is a guess.

In the Spring and Fall, new litters of baby squirrels are born.  By the late Spring and Fall, the new squirrels are developing rapidly.

When a human baby’s teeth start to develop and push out through the gums, the baby teethes.  The baby gnaws on anything handy, to try to quell the soreness of its gums.

A 9-month-old infant with a visible right lower central incisor.  (Caption on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teething.  Image produced 1 September 2009 by Daniel Schwen.)

A 9-month-old infant with a visible right lower central incisor. (Caption on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teething. Image produced 1 September 2009 by Daniel Schwen.)

Are the baby squirrels teething?

You can help answer this question.  If your home or your office has a window that looks at the branches of trees, see whether only the young squirrels are gnawing off the branches.

Comment to this post, to say what you have noticed.

Also, do squirrels ever gnaw the young branches of an evergreen when a deciduous tree is available?  We have never found a gnawed-off evergreen branch, but all the trees near our house are deciduous.  Maybe the young branches of an evergreen taste too bitter, so that a deciduous tree will be preferred over an evergreen wherever both are available.

It is easy to imagine a baby fish or alligator being born with tiny teeth.  The fish and the alligator do not depend on milk direct from their mother’s body.  But a baby mammal must be born toothless.  Otherwise its mother would not allow it to drink from her.

In fact, the age when teeth first develop probably marks the age at which babies in the wild stop drinking their mother’s milk.

But these are mere guesses.  I have no knowledge on those topics.  If you know more, please comment.

Original typed period caption: CONSOLIDATED CHIPPEWA 54: A Chippewa baby in the traditional cradle board at Indian rice camp at Little Rice Lake near Tower, Minnesota. Gordon Sommers, 1940.

Original typed period caption: CONSOLIDATED CHIPPEWA 54: A Chippewa baby in the traditional cradle board at Indian rice camp at Little Rice Lake near Tower, Minnesota. Gordon Sommers, 1940.

 

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