I realize that I neglected to post about my first sighting of a near-tailless squirrel in the summer of 2011. In all honesty, I was a little worried about the poor guy. (Gal? I have no idea how to sex squirrels.) Given the enthusiastic use to which all the other neighborhood squirrels put their tails as they dash from the oaks to the hemlock to the pines, I feared that poor Stumpy (as we uncreatively dubbed our visitor) would be unable to out-maneuver the neighborhood predators, which include hawks, outside cats, and the occasional wandering dog (not that I've ever seen the dogs around here attack anything).
But this week, Stumpy appeared again at our tray feeder, as frisky and healthy-looking as ever. While I missed the acrobatics, he had climbed a metal pole to access a tray six feet off the ground. Curious about the life of a squirrel without the appendage that always defines "squirrel-ness" for me, I of course turned to the Internet and learned that squirrels are capable of ditching their tails to escape from predators. According to a 2010 New York Times article, "Part of a tail is sometimes lost to a grasping predator, but the thin covering
of skin and muscle can be stripped away without mortal results, and a break-away
tail can thus allow the squirrel to escape. The exposed bone eventually falls
away and the stump heals" (C. Claiborne Ray. "Q and A: The Tale of the Tail." New York Times 5 July 2010). Evidently, a narrow escape is part of our squirrel's life story.
Stumpy making yet another escape, only a little the worse for wear.