A free thinker in the Heartland...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Nuts for Squirrels

Shh... be very, very quiet... I am hunting squirrels!

"We're trying to get a glimpse of what your life is like if you are a city squirrel," said Brown, a biologist at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

He and a team of students will trap squirrels in Chicago and its suburbs this winter, taking skin samples for DNA analysis. They'll strap collars on them and watch what they do. And they'll attach threads to acorns and hazelnuts, then see where the squirrels take them and when they eat them.

While the methods aren't unlike those used to study animals in exotic lands, little attention has been paid to those in human neighborhoods. It is, after all, a lot sexier to track gorillas in Africa than a squirrel on Main Street.

"Our appreciation is least in our own backyard," said Brown, who is part of a small brethren of scientists around the country who've made it their business to figure out how squirrels go about theirs.

What they've discovered is that the critters are downright crafty.

Come to think of it, I wonder how the life of a city critter is different than the life of a country critter. Is the city squirrel more worldly than it's redneck cousins in the forest? Inquiring minds wanna know.

I myself think that the research on these squirrels will look striking like squirrel fishing...