Squirrels are probably North America’s most acrobatic animals. They’re able to do seemingly impossible physical maneuvers.
One is hanging by their rear toes to snatch seeds from a hanging feeder. How do they do it?
Raccoons and house cats can climb up trees fairly rapidly but descending back to earth is a problem. Both must creep down tail first. It’s awkward and slow.
Squirrels, in contrast, can go up and down head first quickly and gracefully thanks to a special adaptation. Their ankles, or wrists, articulate. The squirrel may be heading down the trunk but its feet and claws point upward, enabling a good grip on the bark and a speedy dexterous descent.
Squirrels are outstanding tree climbers but once in a while they slip and fall. Twice at Winding Pathways we’ve seen squirrels fall from the top of big oaks. As they fall the hapless animals flattened themselves out and hit the ground like a swimmers belly flop. In both cases the animals shook themselves, looked around and scampered off unhurt. Imagine what would happen to a human falling 50 feet!
Next time you spot a squirrel hanging from a feeder or scampering down a tree examine its feet through binoculars. You may see upward facing feed on a downward facing animal. You Tube has some great close ups of squirrels paws and wrists. Enjoy the show!