During my freshman year at Lawrence, I found a friend in a squirrel named Bip. Now, you’re probably thinking: Madi, there are countless squirrels on campus! How could did you know who Bip was? Well, dear reader, poor Bip was curtailed.
Squirrels’ tails serve a few different purposes. If you watch as a squirrel runs along a telephone wire or particularly thin branch, you may notice its tail spinning or swinging to help maintain its balance. When a squirrel flicks its tail a certain way, it will warn nearby squirrels of predators. Tails are also important when finding a mate. Squirrels are also known to curl up in their bushy tails to protect themselves from rain or snow. Because of the ratio of tail to body on a squirrel, in the summer when it’s too warm for their li’l bodies, they can pump blood into their tails to help maintain body temperature.
The iconic squirrel tail is cute and practical! But my little Bip was special.
When I first saw Bip, his tail was clearly damaged. There was no bushiness to the fur and the tail sort of just flopped behind him. Something was up. When a squirrel’s tail is limp like that, it means that the tail has been injured and will probably fall off. Though tails serve many functions, squirrels can live long and can manage just fine without.
The next time I saw Bip, he was without his tail. It was simply gone and my small friend looked sort of like a tiny-eared bunny. He didn’t seem bothered by his missing caudal appendage. He frolicked and hopped, and he was my favorite.
Earlier this year, I was admiring the fauna in the walnut trees by Colman and Brokaw. I’ve seen downy woodpeckers and a handful of red squirrels. Naturally grey squirrels, and chipmunks too.
One morning when I was walking my dog, a few green walnut growths fell to the ground, I looked up and found an even stranger squirrel friend. This squirrel, whom I lovingly named Bop, had half a bushy tail and half a naked tail. The tip of his tail was just a pink sort of nub.
Bop stayed still long enough for me to observe his unique tail and then he was off to have his squirrely day doing squirrely things.