A Thirst for Snow

An Eastern Gray squirrel scoops snow from the top of a broken tree, eating it to slake his thirst.

It looked like a sno-cone.

Yesterday, I watched a squirrel make and eat miniature snowballs. As he ate, that frosty childhood treat came to mind.  Then I realized my neighborhood creatures are experiencing a drought. Our snowy Michigan landscape looks eerily beautiful this week, but Arctic temperatures have frozen all the wildlife water sources.

This fellow ate his sno-cone with seeming gusto, and I wondered: How do tree squirrels cope with bitter-cold weather?

Their chipmunk cousins semi-hibernate in winter, waking up every few days for food, water, and nature’s call. But our Eastern Gray squirrels must maintain their 98°-102° body temperature year-round. They bulk up as winter approaches and then feed on calorie-dense acorns and other nuts they stored in caches scattered through their territories. Tree squirrels sleep communally in winter to share body heat. And they shiver!

Here’s a clip of my squirrel neighbor tucking into the snow. The temperature was in the low teens. Do you see any sign he’s in distress?

I don’t see any hint of shivering. Or brain freeze! Some of my friends (you know who you are) begrudge the squirrels’ seed thievery.  I think we should give a little more respect to these hardy creatures!

2 thoughts on “A Thirst for Snow”

  1. Hi Carol. We put out a heated birdbath in the winter for the very reasons you suggest. It is sometimes more popular with the birds and squirrels than the feeder.

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