Stubs the squirrel

So many squirrels are eating nuts and seeds on my windowsill that I can’t recognize them all. There are babies, old adults, and battle-scarred veterans. This is one of the latter, and a squirrel I can easily recognize. I call it “Stubs” because a big chunk of its tail is missing (you can see the chewed-off bit as well as the missing fur):

There’s also a nick in the ear.

Because Stubs has been traumatized, and probably could use some nutrition, I always open the window and give him/her (I haven’t yet ascertained the sex) extra peanuts.

Tail amputation seems pretty common in squirrels. How do they lose their tails? Do dogs bite them off?  Is it internecine warfare? If you know, weigh in below.


  1. Karl
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
    • rickflick
      Posted August 4, 2017 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      I would have guessed squirrel on squirrel violence. The Times says no. So I’m wrnog again.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 5, 2017 at 1:59 am | Permalink

      Most edifying. 🙂

  2. amyt
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Chicago winters can be rough. Frost bitten tail is my guess.

  3. Posted August 4, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Wasn’t the farmer’s wife spotted recently with a carving knife? I think she might have something to do with it….


    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 4, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      I thought that was mice? 😀

      • Posted August 4, 2017 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        Thing is, the best reports we have were from visually-impaired individuals, so we can’t be entirely sure. But all rodents are urged to exercise additional caution, especially should they go jogging….



        • Heather Hastie
          Posted August 4, 2017 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

          I must admit, I’ve never seen such a thing in my life.

          • Posted August 4, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

            Bet you’ve never seen a sqrl run up a clock, before….



            • Heather Hastie
              Posted August 4, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

              Or a mouse for that matter …

              • Posted August 5, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

                Oh, for the poor, confused folks who never heard that American nursery rhyme, this must all look like gibberish! Google “Hickory, Dickory Dock.”

  4. Randy schenck
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Did not see any squirrels without tails while living out in the country. Maybe it is a city thing – lots of competition, enemies?

  5. jwthomas
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    There’s a small squirrel
    with a clipped tail in the the large public garden next door to me. The area is urban
    but the park is large and encloses a neighborhood where cars can easily avoid hitting wildlife. I’ve seen at least three deer in the area and briefly glimpsed a fox. I’d suspect that a fox bite
    was the cause of the missing tail. We get raccoons, skunks and predatory birds but a fox is about the only visitor I’ve seen capable of catching up with a running squirrel.
    Perhaps a feral cat…

  6. Posted August 4, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m guessing unlucky predator, lucky squirrel.

  7. BJ
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m more curious about how they still keep their balance as well with such a short tail. Or do squirrels not use their tails for balance as some other animals do?

    • rickflick
      Posted August 4, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      From the Times article appended above. Yes, balance is a major use of the tail. I wondered the same thing. I’d guess the first day or two after the amputation must be difficult until the squirrel learns to balance without as much weight and drag.

  8. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    For tame squirrels it seems trampled happens a lot.

    I also learned a new term – squirrel king – for the rare situation of entwined squirrels. Here is one king with six [!] squirrels caused by pine sap: . “They all got to keep their own tails, which is not always the case.”

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted August 4, 2017 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, I posted the raw draft. I meant to say “trampling” and that I googled it. I have to agree with Randy, I my impression was that tail amputation in squirrels is not frequent.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 4, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      Fascinating. 🖖

  9. Christopher
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    I would have assumed close calls with car tires played a roll. There are quite a few stubby tailed one in my old suburban neighborhood. I’ve always called them “bunny-squirrels” since they look like small rabbits.

  10. Redlivingblue
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    I think that stubs is competitive and possibly winning. Never trust someone without some scars on their face. in my experience, they have never stood up for anything.

  11. Posted August 5, 2017 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    Clearly it’s old mister brown the owl – – just ask squirrel nutkin!

  12. bobkillian
    Posted August 5, 2017 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    We lived with squirrels in our Chicago backyard for 38 years, and I was told (es verdad?) that squirrels have a two-year life span – so we saw 19 generations come and go.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 2:00 am | Permalink

      From the first link that pops up on a Google search for “squirrel lifespan:”

      Average Life Span in the Wild
      The average life span of grey squirrels is extremely brief — generally only between 11 and 12 months, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Despite this brevity in life expectancy, some free roaming grey squirrels have actually surpassed 10 years in age.

      In Captivity
      A single female grey squirrel that resided in a captive environment greatly outlived the typical life span of her species, making it to over 20 years old, reports the University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web.

      One assumes, then, that their wild life span reflects the effects of predation, car strikes, disease, etc. I guess the number of generations you witnessed depended on just how benign your backyard was. 🙂

      • rickflick
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 6:36 am | Permalink

        I was thinking the same thing. For example, it’s easy to forget that hawks require quite a bit of protean every day. Maybe as much as an entire squirrel for each daily ration and probably more if raising a family. They can’t wait for squirrels to reach a ripe old age. Hawks probably pick off many of the nestlings and juveniles before they have learned all the necessary quick escape maneuvers. This is going to bring down the average life expectancy of the squirrel population. Same goes for foxes and coyotes. They’re out there hunting every day while we are busy surfing the web. An average lifetime of 10 or 12 months doesn’t surprise me.

      • bobkillian
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 7:32 am | Permalink

        “Benign” is hard to calculate. We had hawks and the occasional coyote … but also a terrier-ist who spent ten years in vigorous pursuit without a shred of success.

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 9, 2017 at 12:05 am | Permalink

          Lol–“terrier-ist” is what I call my terrier mutt, too. 😀

  13. Kathleen Bannatyne
    Posted August 5, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Hello, I am a first time poster. I live in suburbia 8 to 10 miles north of Detroit. It is an older neighborhood that used to be cottages probably in the 30’s and 40’s. It has maintained some semblance of country looking natmosphere. We have deer, hawks, coyotes, and tons of squirrels. In fact a post about squirrels was what first caught my attention to your blog as I am a cat and squirrel feeder. We have a resilient squirrel named Stumpy who has been around for 7 years. Many others come an go but he is a local celebrity.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 5, 2017 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      Wow! Seven years? I had no idea they could live so long. That’s great.

  14. Kathleen Bannatyne
    Posted August 5, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    That is cat lover…. and squirrel feeder lol

  15. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 5, 2017 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    My chipmunks have their tails but they often have pieces missing out of their ears. I suspect they get in territorial disputes.

  16. Jenny Hoffman
    Posted August 8, 2017 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    I know of a tail that lost a squirrel – Had a power outage several years ago. While outside I glanced up at the big transformer and saw a bit of tail fluff. The transformer was blown (also sounded like a cannon going off when it happened) and I’m pretty sure the squirrel was blown up. I now would like to believe the squirrel got away – hope springs eternal.

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