A Short Tale

There are a lot of anomalies in the animal world, not unlike the human world. Animals are born albino – lacking the usual pigments, or melanistic – having darker than normal pigmentation. Some are born with extra toes or curly coats.

Eastern gray squirrels can exhibit several variations. In certain regions, many are all black. I even saw some around the U.S. Capitol that were white and light brown in color. I have learned that it’s not uncommon for them to have short tails.  I have noticed one frequent visitor to my yard. I dubbed it Stubby Tail. I am not sure whether it’s female or male, but I am thinking it’s female. I recently saw it being followed closely by another squirrel, and it just seemed like a female-male thing. So, let’s say Stubby Tail is a girl.

stubbytail2Normally, I can’t tell one squirrel from another, unless it has a specific field mark. Stubby Tail makes it easy. And normally I have no particular affection for the rodents, as they paw through my flower beds and try to break into my bird feeders. But I have come to like Stubby Tail.

At first, I thought she had survived some sort of attack and lost part of her tail. But the more I examine it, the more I think she was born that way. The tail is about one-third the typical length, very bushy and kind of stands up, with a bouquet of fur sticking out in all directions at the end. If it had been a normal long tail, and had gotten snipped off, I think it would be straighter and just look like a tail that had lost its end half.

stubbytail4When I did a web search on squirrels with short tails, I turned up some interesting tidbits. Other people have observed the same phenomenon, and I found some photos that looked exactly like Stubby Tail! I was not alone and neither was Stubby Tail. My Stubby Tail gets around fine and acts pretty normal for a squirrel, as far as I can tell. Her lack of tail length does not hamper her jumping or climbing or running. No doubt her body has adapted to a different way of balancing.

There are some functions that Stubby Tail will miss: squirrel tails can provide shade against the sun and warmth against the cold. But I suspect she already knows how to cope.

stubbytail8

Published by

Joan E. Miller

Born and raised on the east coast, I now live in the amazing Pacific Northwest. I'm a writer, photographer, lover of nature. I'm also a gardener, of food, flowers and shrubs.

3 thoughts on “A Short Tale”

  1. Interesting.
    There is a word used in the UK for one-off or highly unusual variations. We call them ‘sports’. So we might describe your short-tailed squirrel as a sport. It can be confusing when talking to someone who is not familiar with the term, because in general language it also means someone who is willing to join in, willing to laugh at themselves – the opposite of a sore loser.

    Do you have the naturalist’s use of the word ‘sport’ in the US?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi David,

      Thanks! Your comment is very interesting. I am not aware that “sport” is used in the US in that way. I’ve never heard it. You do have some unusual terms!

      Liked by 1 person

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