A fluffy black squirrel tail hangs out of a tree, fluttering in the wind.

Curious Sciurus

A furry plume caught my eye.

Why, I wondered, would a squirrel enter a den to escape a raging snowstorm, but leave its tail hanging outside, waving in the wind? The animal could easily continue into the tree; there’s plenty of room in the hollow trunk. I have seen as many as four squirrels disappear into that den.

I watched, curious. When would the creature withdraw its tail and scamper the rest of the way inside? Twenty minutes passed, and the tail remained outdoors.

So, I turned to my zoom lens for a closer look.

I zeroed in on the bushy tail, from which the squirrel derives its name. The Greek word skiouros means “shade tail,” and the name is apt: We’ve all seen a squirrel resting in the summer shadow of its curled-up tail. On this wintry day, the squirrel needed no refuge from the sun, but he had good reason to keep his tail outside. It turned out that I wasn’t alone in my curiosity about nature’s goings-on. The squirrel was watching the forest, his exposed head warmed by his tail, a blanket of furry fluff.

The stormy conditions provided poor light for shooting video, so this short subject is best viewed on a small screen. But if you look closely, you’ll see the squirrel’s calm gaze as he surveys the scene outside his den. No sign of a shiver!

Today is the first day of winter, so it seemed appropriate to share this snowy snippet of squirrel life.

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