The long pursuit of a squirrel and a marten short
This Week in Mammals, Part 2
I thought I was hearing things. It was the Christmas Bird Count, and for the third year in a row I could swear I heard the chatter of a Red Squirrel. It’s a species that persists in a few nearby places but is much more common in the boreal forests of the north. Here I was in a suburban forest preserve.
After the count, I mentioned it to a few people. They mostly reacted with a bit of a disbelief and maybe a shrug.
The next year on the Christmas Bird Count a fellow counter pointed out a fast-moving squirrel descending the trunk of a small tree. I snapped a couple pictures thinking I finally I had documentation of a Red Squirrel at the site. Then I got home and reviewed the pictures. This wasn’t a Red Squirrel but another elusive species: the Southern Flying Squirrel.
On the most recent year’s Christmas Bird Count, which took place on December 17, I again heard the cry of a Red Squirrel. Okay, I thought to myself, this is getting a little out of hand.
After the count, I reached out to the only contact I knew at the local forest preserve district and soon received a response:
In short, yes red squirrels have been recently seen and heard at Waterfall Glen by a knowledgeable observer. To our knowledge, the first observation was from 2020…It is a valid record. Apparently, DuPage falls within the historic range for the species even though most people don’t see them. Despite that, the INHS Mammals of Illinois Field Guide says there are no records of this species in the County. As a result, the 2020 record is the first time it was recorded for the County. Interesting stuff!
So I wasn’t imagining things and my squirrel detection skills are intact. Right here amid our megalopolis persists the Red Squirrel.
Another brief item, or a marten short
The American Marten isn’t a species we see in the Midwest much. One of the closest breeding populations is in northern Wisconsin.
Last summer, I recorded my first marten sighting in northern Ontario while canoeing. The Mustelid was easing down a log toward the water when it saw the canoe. It quickly turned around and disappeared into the muskeg.
“We saw a marten,” I said, smiling as we passed through the campground exit the next day. The exhausted college student staffing the booth reacted with a shrug (I get that a lot, it seems).
Just as I put the finishing touches on today’s post, this comes across from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. And here I thought I covered all the local ground squirrels! Franklin’s Ground Squirrel is a dwindling prairie species, found from the central provinces of Canada southeast to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and apparently Indiana. In fact, Rockford’s Bell Bowl Prairie was once home to Franklin’s Ground Squirrels.