Update on Furless Tailed Squirrels

Furless tail on squirrel

Even in winter, the squirrels’ fur looks healthy…except for their tails.

Two winters ago, we noticed squirrels with nearly furless tails visiting our bird feeders. Our blog about them on Winding Pathways brought hundreds of visitors. Some from other countries! Apparently, we weren’t the only people seeing these hapless animals.

Last winter we had almost no squirrels in the yard. We wonder if the malady that caused them to lose tail fur might have knocked their population way back.

This fall we’re seeing plenty of both fox and gray squirrels in our yard. Their populations have rebounded. And, they have long, furry tails! Squirrels make us happy. While many people don’t like them gobbling seeds at the feeder, we are OK with that and find them as fascinating and fun as cardinals, chickadees, and goldfinches.

Squirrels and the Derecho

Now three years since the disastrous derecho that felled thousands of trees in the Eastern Iowa area, we’re seeing the vital work squirrels do. In the wake of the storm, people planted thousands of trees. Then came three drought years. The National Weather Service placed Cedar Rapids into its exceptional drought category in 2023.

The drought killed many human-planted trees but the ones planted by squirrels are doing just fine. Thanks to them, baby hickories, walnuts, and oaks are poking through the soil in nearby woodlands and our yard.

This fall we’ve watched squirrels carry acorns and walnuts across the yard, dig frantically, and bury their treasure. These enthusiastic gatherers and diggers plan to return during winter’s lean months to retrieve dinner from underground storage. Fortunately, squirrels bury more nuts than they’ll ever need. Unfortunately for them, some of the furry hoarders die with their hidden hoard untouched to sprout in the spring. Squirrels are master tree planters.

American Ninjas in the Yard

An oak and a walnut live about 150 feet south of our back deck.  Acorns and walnuts are epicurean squirrel delights, and our trees attract the furry acrobats. Squirrels like to use treetops as highways, jumping from one to the next. Our oak and walnut presented them with a problem. There is a several-foot gap between their branch tips. We are fascinated watching the squirrels make the long leap from twig to twig, sometimes leaping up to reach a branch on another tree, often while clutching a nut in its teeth. Their athleticism is astounding. So is their courage.

Squirrels fall. Twice we’ve seen one lose its grip and drop from the top of enormous trees. Both times the furry animals spread eagle their legs and tails while descending and hit the ground with a thump. They are shaken, rest, and then scamper off. A fall that would instantly kill a person, is hardly phased by the squirrels.

This winter we’ll again welcome squirrels to our feeders. They can dine on whole or cracked corn and cobs. We are assured of entertainment with their romps, athleticism and enthusiasm.