Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Weekly MUSE: Squirrels

The lazy squirrel Tino and I saw on our walk!
While I was walking my dog this weekend, I noticed something. Usually the squirrels dart around like lunatics – dashing across the sidewalks and bolting up the trees. But lately the squirrels seem lazy and nonchalant. They wait till we are at least 10 feet away before moseying toward a tree.
Why? Don’t they know that dogs and squirrels don’t mix?  

After pondering this conundrum for a while, I approached a hypothesis: These squirrels are moving slower because they are fatter. For the past couple of weeks they have been gorging themselves on acorns and other tree nuts to prepare for winter. This added body weight must be slowing them down.
Whether my hypothesis is right or wrong, we have found our Weekly Muse: SQUIRRELS!

Squirrels are rodents. In fact, a retired teacher friend of mine calls them “tree rats”. I think squirrels are way too cute to be compared to rats, but they are related.
All rodents are known for their ever-growing front chompers. That’s why they HAVE to chew on things to file down their teeth. Could you imagine if our teeth never stopped growing. YIKES!

There are over 200 species of squirrels, and they live all over the world except Australia. The smallest squirrel is the African pygmy squirrel which grows only five inches from nose to tail. The largest squirrel is the Indian giant squirrel, which grows up to three feet long. HOLY-MOLY! That’s a big squirrel!
Indian giant squirrel
Photo by: Kumar Viacom
There are three categories of squirrels: tree squirrels, ground squirrels and flying squirrels. Yes, I said FLYING squirrels. We’ll get to those in a moment.

Tree squirrels are the most commonly seen squirrels. These are the squirrels that Tino (my dog) and I see on our walks. They live in the trees but come down to the ground to find nuts.
Here in Indiana, there are two common species of tree squirrels: gray squirrels and fox squirrels.

Gray Squirrel
Photo by: Bobolink

Fox Squirrel
Photo by: Ingrid Taylar

Where I lived in Seattle, I would often see western gray squirrels, which look just like the gray squirrels in Indiana.
Take a look at this video to see how tree squirrels build their nests.

Ground squirrels live in the… you guessed it… the GROUND! These critters burrow dens and tunnel systems underground where they raise their young. Take a look at this video and see these small, yet brave little critters.

Flying Squirrels are the most fascinating! Unique flaps of skin connect their legs, which the squirrels use as gliders. See it for yourself!

Here is the most interesting fact I found. Across the world, squirrels cause thousands of power outages. How? Well, they snip power lines with those ever-growing chompers. But don’t feel too bad for those thousands of people who lose their electricity – the squirrel loses its life. ZAP!

Looks like we aren’t the only ones who use SQUIRRELS for a MUSE!

With this new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these what if questions will help you get started.
WHAT IF your main character had a pet squirrel?

WHAT IF your main was a squirrel who had figured out a way to cut power lines without zapping himself? What if he taught other squirrels how to do it too? Uh-oh!
WHAT IF your main character was a flying squirrel SUPERHERO?

The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own what if questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.
So, grab a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us.

With Imagination,
Professor Watermelon

No comments:

Post a Comment