I am always learning and it's nice to think that I can also remember what I learn. For my last post I researched the squirrel since they are so abundant in my own back yard. I've been away and was sitting back at the computer that purposely sits right beside the sliding glass doors and noticed a sad looking squirrel. It took me a few moments and I remember that squirrels molt! All these years I thought I was seeing some mangy rodent on it's last legs. Mange is actually a real thing, it is caused by mites which bite the animal and irritate the skin follicle.
|bald patches on his neck and waist|
Molting is triggered by secretion of the thyroid and pituitary glands. Since it is his spring molt, he will undergo a compete head-to-tail molt. The fall molt is only rump-to-head and maintains his tail fur.
|it's a happier picture knowing it's not mange|
While on my walk today I saw a squirrel with a mouthful of leaves and bits of string and stuffing. He bounced across the street and then quietly slid around the trunk of a large maple tree and settle in the crotch of the large branches. I will take care to walk this way again to see the progress. I will also keep an eye out for the trees in my own backyard and see if the squirrels nest there again.
The photos of the squirrels in the last post were taken on February 2nd. So just six weeks ago they had not yet begun to molt. I wonder what signals the body to begin the secretions that shed fur? It is still below freezing here and no sign of getting warmer. Maybe they have little calendars in their dens and noticed that spring indeed has arrived.