*** Starting this week my UVM students will be posting occasionally in response to the prompt: Find something in the woods that you've never seen before and figure out what its story is. So look for that!
What: Last week Clay and I found a dead gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) on the sidewalk. It was a pretty good mystery as to how the squirrel had died. I skinned it with my Crow's Path kids and before we did the autopsy we couldn't detect any broken bones from getting hit by a car (plus it was about 10' from the road). The squirrel was a full grown male (just about the most enormous squirrel I've seen), and we thought maybe it could have eaten poison from a nearby house, fallen out of a tree, got hit by a bike or chomped by a cat/dog. We couldn't find any evidence of blunt trauma from getting hit by something, but when we pulled the skin up above the neck we could finally see two chomp marks that hadn't pierced the skin (so no external blood) but were most likely what killed this little critter.
You can notice in the two photos below the difference between the rear (left) and the front feet (right). The difference in color is due to the constant assault of the squirrels on the walnuts (see my previous post on how it stains their face and paws). I love looking up close at squirrels to see all the little differences between individuals, and this little guy, with a lone black chin hair popping out, was no exception. It also had orange staining its whole belly, probably from eating walnuts and then grooming its belly (around its crotch was particularly orange, which was amusing).