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Ever See A Squirrel Or Other Animal Do This Pose? Here’s What It Means

On July 17, Patricia Chavez came across a squirrel in her backyard lying in an unusual position: it was sprawled out on its stomach, legs stretched out

On July 17, Patricia Chavez came across a squirrel in her backyard lying in an unusual position: it was sprawled out on its stomach, legs stretched out. In other words, it was “splooting.”

But what exactly is splooting? It turns out, it’s a technique that some animals turn to in order to lower their body temperatures during times of excessive heat.

Temperatures that day in Spring Branch, Texas, located north of San Antonio, rose to around 104 degrees and dropped only as low as the high 70s. And with the Southwest heat dome set to strengthen and expand through late July, this may become a common sight — but not just with squirrels.

With the exception of his flicking tail, a black squirrel lays flat out while enjoying some bird seed in a yard in Moreland Hills, Ohio on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010. (AP PHOTO/AMY SANCETTA)

Squirrels, cats, dogs and even bears, as a photo from the National Park Service shows, have been seen splooting. And while it may appear to be adorable animal behavior, it can at times be a sign that the animals are experiencing temperatures much higher than what they’re accustomed to.

“Many mammals have less fur on their bellies compared to the rest of their body, so on hot days, the animals will lie flat on their stomach against cooler surfaces, such as rocks or cooler ground, to shed some heat and keep cool,” said Dan Blumstein, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Los Angles, told AccuWeather in an interview during the summer of 2022 when squirrels were spotted splooting in New York City.

To keep pets safe in hot weather, Natalie Rubino, director of marketing for Big Dog Ranch Rescue told AccuWeather Senior Broadcast Meteorologist Kevin Coskren three key points were to limit extraneous activities, watch out for dehydration and to be cognizant of the impact heat has on the environment. Big Dog Ranch Rescue is a dog rescue shelter based in Okeechobee, Florida, and is no stranger to facing warm weather.

The recent heat wave across the southern portion of the U.S., however, has promoted excessive heat warnings that cover over 32.6 million people and heat advisories that cover another 51.7 million. Some of those heat advisories extend into northern and southern Florida. Okeechobee currently has no heat advisory but has been enduring a heat wave since late June.

“If you are someone that walks your dog every day, it’s very important to pay attention to the heat outside as the pavement temperatures can get into an excess and cause blistering and be very damaging and hurtful to a dog,” said Rubino. “So it’s important to make sure you’re walking your dog early in the morning or late in the evening.”

A dog drinks fresh water from a public fountain as her owner cools it down by wetting her pet’s fur after a midday walk on the Griffith Observatory trails in Los Angeles Friday, July 14, 2023. (AP PHOTO/DAMIAN DOVARGANES)

To keep their dogs cool while playing outside, Rubino said they place pools in each of the play yards and keep an eye out for any signs of dehydration.

“You’re going to see an excessive amount of drooling, heavy panting. They’re going to feel hot,” said Rubino. “Those are definitely signs that you want to get your dog cool. The number one important reminder which we have to talk about during this summer and especially during a heat wave is please don’t leave your dogs in any vehicle. Within minutes, a dog can die, and the temperatures rise exponentially within a matter of minutes.”

The heat wave in Okeechobee is forecast to continue throughout the rest of July, and the heat wave across the Southwest is likely to place a few more heat records in jeopardy. With that in mind, pet owners will need to continue to stay conscientious of the impact the heat can have on the animals.

Produced in association with AccuWeather

Edited by and

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