I glanced out my front window, and my eyes flew to the flowerpot at the top of my front porch steps. There, among the hot pink geraniums, lay a squirrel stretched out on her back, eyes wide open.
I blinked. I double blinked. But there she remained—the squirrel—prostrate and motionless in my flowerpot.
I said to myself, “Self, she’s dead.” Yet, I could not find a possible perch from which a squirrel could have spiraled from my porch ceiling to my flowerpot.
But then squirrels aren’t ones to die from falling. If you are ever invited to a funeral for a squirrel, be assured its demise was not from a fall.
The fluffy-tailed, quick-footed little rodents weigh in around 300 grams. That fact coupled with equations my mind can’t decipher plus Newton’s first law says: “No matter how high, no matter how low, squirrels don’t die from falling.”
That’s the official scientific statement—in laymen’s terms. In On Being the Right Size, scientist J. B. S. Haldane put it this way:
To the mouse and any smaller animal gravity presents practically no dangers. You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mine shaft; and, on arriving at the bottom it gets a slight shock and walks away, provided that the ground is fairly soft. A rat is killed, a man is broken, a horse splashes. For the resistance presented to movement by the air is proportional to the surface of the moving object. Divide an animal’s length, breadth, and height each by ten; its weight is reduced to a thousandth, but its surface only a hundredth. So the resistance to falling in the case of the small animal is relatively ten times greater than the driving force.
Figure out Haldane’s statement; I’ll test you on it later. And my apologies to the squirrel, but “mouse” was the scientist’s example, not mine.
As it turns out, Newton and Haldane and their fellow experts were correct—at least in the case of the squirrel that had been tiptoeing in my geraniums. The second I opened my front door, she shot up like a living corpse trying to save herself from imminent burial.
No offense to Ms. Squirrel, but at her full height and breadth, she looked a tad or more over and above 300 grams.
She stood on her haunches and glanced right and left. Then, she hopped off the flowerpot’s rim and sprinted straight for me. A visual image of me chasing a squirrel through the house flitted through my mind as I slammed the door shut.
Not to worry. She reached the doormat, made a hairpin turn, and ran for cover under a rocking chair. That’s when I noticed the large nut she carried in the confines of her jaws and the inordinate amount of potting soil on the porch floor surrounding the flowerpot.
Ms. Squirrel had been digging a hole in my flowers’ soil to hide her precious nut. Since squirrels would find it beneath themselves to play “possum,” I must have entered the scene while she rested from her labors.
I can read your mind. I can. How, you ask, do I know she was a Ms. and not a Mr.?
That’s easy. In the squirrel world, females take care of the kits (kids), find food for the family, and store food for winter.
Males? Researchers fitted squirrels with GPS bands and discovered that the males just kind of hang out. They’re also more likely to become dinner for large birds or foxes.
It’s not every day that one finds a squirrel lying in her geraniums. I can only hope Ms. Squirrel didn’t store too many winter nuts in my summertime pot.
writer, blogger, columnist