Red Squirrel: Sweet Treat

Red Squirrels: Sweet Treat
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Ambiance: Red squirrel DAT 98.9.4

We’re listening to the sounds of Red squirrels. If they run out of food this winter, they’ll turn to one of nature’s original sweet treats. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. American Red squirrels are found in evergreen forests throughout northern North America and this past fall, they were gathering pine cones and nuts to store for the winter. Naturalist John Serrao tells us more.

“Unlike our gray squirrel which will bury its food one at a time, Red squirrels pile them all up at the bottom of a tree, or in the root systems of that tree, and then throughout the winter, that’s where they go for food. And Red squirrels are very, very poorly insulated; the fur is not a very good insulation. Once the temperature gets down even into the forties, they have to eat a lot more in order to keep their body temperatures up. So you can imagine how much food they have to consume during the winter when the temperatures get down to zero degrees and they’re really loosing a lot of heat.”

And with all that eating, the piles of pine cones might be getting a little low right about now.

“At this time of year when winter is ending and spring is arriving, a lot wildlife has run out of the food that they’ve stored over the winter, so Red squirrels will go over to sugar maple trees and score the bark with their sharp teeth, allow the sap to run out, and then come back a little bit later when most of the water in that sap has evaporated in the sunlight and what’s left is sugar. And they’ll scrape the sugar off, or lick it off with their tongues. So they’re essentially the original harvesters of maple syrup in the United States. And this has been found up in the Adirondack mountains of New York and in Vermont. But it’s an amazing adaptation that Red squirrels have in order to get a very quick source of energy at the end of the winter when they’re starting to get more and more hungry.”

Please visit our website at pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

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Red Squirrel: Sweet Treat

Red Squirrels may be nature's original harvesters of Maple sugar.
Air Date:02/18/2005
Scientist:
Transcript:

Red Squirrels: Sweet Treat
Music
Ambiance: Red squirrel DAT 98.9.4

We're listening to the sounds of Red squirrels. If they run out of food this winter, they'll turn to one of nature's original sweet treats. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. American Red squirrels are found in evergreen forests throughout northern North America and this past fall, they were gathering pine cones and nuts to store for the winter. Naturalist John Serrao tells us more.

"Unlike our gray squirrel which will bury its food one at a time, Red squirrels pile them all up at the bottom of a tree, or in the root systems of that tree, and then throughout the winter, that's where they go for food. And Red squirrels are very, very poorly insulated; the fur is not a very good insulation. Once the temperature gets down even into the forties, they have to eat a lot more in order to keep their body temperatures up. So you can imagine how much food they have to consume during the winter when the temperatures get down to zero degrees and they're really loosing a lot of heat."

And with all that eating, the piles of pine cones might be getting a little low right about now.

"At this time of year when winter is ending and spring is arriving, a lot wildlife has run out of the food that they've stored over the winter, so Red squirrels will go over to sugar maple trees and score the bark with their sharp teeth, allow the sap to run out, and then come back a little bit later when most of the water in that sap has evaporated in the sunlight and what's left is sugar. And they'll scrape the sugar off, or lick it off with their tongues. So they're essentially the original harvesters of maple syrup in the United States. And this has been found up in the Adirondack mountains of New York and in Vermont. But it's an amazing adaptation that Red squirrels have in order to get a very quick source of energy at the end of the winter when they're starting to get more and more hungry."

Please visit our website at pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music