Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Squirrel on Fire

When I bought my house a few years ago, a realtor advised me that the location I was interested in was undesirable because it was overwhelmed with “vegetative fuel”. That’s a fancy euphemism for “trees” in the business. I found another realtor and bought a house surrounded by beautiful Slash Pines, Live Oaks and Saw Palmettos.

Over the last few weeks my town has been plagued by wildfires. With an exceptionally long dry season and little rain in the forecast, the vegetative fuel forest that has enveloped the neighborhood now seems foreboding. Despite the lack of any pattern, arson was suspected for each fire, making the situation all the more concerning.

© Pete Corradino
On April 17th, a 5-acre brush fire broke out up the street, consuming one house and charring neighboring property. One burnt squirrel was discovered at the base of the power pole leading to the home and some began to blame the squirrel population for the outbreak of wildfires in the area.

Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are well known for their high wire acts. As nimble as they may be while crossing a line, if they touch a second line they can create a surge, electrocuting the animal and in this case, sending a flaming squirrel to the ground and starting a fire.

This isn’t the first time it has happened and it won’t be the last. Dry conditions continue in South Florida and hungry squirrels are on the move. I’m hoping for rain because we need it but I’m also concerned for the squirrels climbing around in the vegetative fuel in my back yard.  

The photograph of the Eastern Gray Squirrel was taken in the mangrove forest of Secret Woods County Park in Fort Lauderdale, FL – far from any power lines. 

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