FURBALLS

Why squirrels are so fat this winter

Getting ready for winter.
Getting ready for winter.
Image: Reuters/Lisi Niesner
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Across parks, forests and gardens in North America and Europe, a plump hoard is quietly massing: Squirrels. Really fat squirrels.

Squirrels typically need to store up fat to survive winters that are often freezing and snow-filled. But 2015 was the warmest year on record, following on from a period of unprecedented heat. There has been little snow, and little frost. Squirrels haven’t burned much energy keeping warm. Food has been abundant.

A researcher in Canada confirmed that the unseasonably warm weather has made squirrels fatter than usual. ”We have had a really warm November,” David Sugarman, a senior researcher at the Ontario Science Centre, told a Toronto news site. “Naturally, if you’re an animal that’s got to make it through the winter with little or no food, you want to pack in as much as fat as possible,” he said. UK commentators have said the same.

Now, fat squirrels seem to be everywhere:

Honestly, since this became a meme we’re not convinced all the fat squirrel pictures being shared are actually from this winter:

Or that they’re all completely real. Or even what to make of some of them:

But we know that when it comes to squirrels, fat equals cute: