San Francisco squirrels have been seen “squirting” or lying face down on the ground as they try to survive California’s heat wave.
Temperatures in San Francisco have reached a scorching 105 degrees, and while humans have been able to retreat to their air-conditioned homes, squirrels in the area can only resort to “splashing” to keep cool.
Alison Hermance, a WildCare worker in San Rafael, told SFGate that her animal hospital “had been getting a lot of calls about hot animals, including concerns about ‘spreading’ squirrels.”
“If you see a squirrel lying down like this, don’t worry, it’s fine,” the New York City Parks Department tweeted in August, responding to concerned residents who had seen squirrels lying on their stomachs during a heat wave in New York. York last year. month.
“On hot days, squirrels keep cool by splashing (stretching) on cool surfaces to reduce body heat. This is sometimes called heat discharge.”
Animals, including humans, need to regulate their temperature to avoid heat stroke or hypothermia. Humans have a variety of ways to cool down in hot weather, ranging from sweating, vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) in the skin, and body hair lying against our skin to prevent hot air from being trapped.
However, fur-covered animals cannot sweat, which means they need other ways to keep cool. Many mammals pant, evaporating heat through moisture inside their mouths, while others rely on behavioral cooling, seeking shade or laying their bodies against a cool surface, also known as “splashing.”
“The squirrel puts as much of its body surface as possible in contact with a cooler surface, often on concrete or pavement that has been in the shade,” said Charlotte Devitz, a biologist and doctoral student who studies the behavior of the squirrels at the University of Minnesota. she told CNN.
“[This is] also seen in other mammals. It’s gained a lot of visibility because a lot of people see it and get worried when they see squirrels upside down.”
Other animals have also been known to “splash”, including bears, dogs, cats, and otters.
These heat responses in California animals occur during an intense heat wave, triggered by a powerful “heat dome” over the state. This kind of scorching heat is thought to be a symptom of encroaching climate change, which is expected to increase the frequency of extreme weather events. While this will have damaging effects on humans, climate change will also affect millions of animals around the world.
“[We have received] young squirrels coming in with heat stroke,” Hermance said of this week’s heat wave, as well as “calls about hot deer and birds literally falling on their sides, gasping in the heat.”
According to an article published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2020, one-third of Earth’s animal and plant species could become extinct by 2070 if current greenhouse gas emission trajectories continue.