CFAES Give Today
News Releases Archive (Prior to 2011)

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Under a Squirrel's Umbrella (for the Week of April 19, 2009)

April 17, 2009

Q. Dear Twig: I saw a squirrel use its tail as an umbrella.


A. Excellent.

Q. It was raining pretty hard. The squirrel was sitting there eating something. It was holding its tail up over its back.

A. A scientist at the Grand Canyon saw that once. He was watching a Kaibab ("kie-bab") squirrel. A big storm hit. The squirrel hid next to a tree. "The squirrel crouched quietly on the leeward, partially protected side [the side away from where the rain was coming from], with its tail over its back," the scientist wrote. "It showed no apparent reactions to the lightning flashes or loud claps of thunder but did occasionally shake itself."

Q. Neat.

A. He also saw the squirrels there use their tails for protection in a snowstorm. (He spent a lot of time there studying them.) "It was rather windy," he reported, "and when feeding, the squirrels perched with the tail arched over the back and faced away from the wind."

Q. I like squirrels.

A. Me too.


P.S. Kaibab squirrels have black-gray fur, a mostly white tail and cool ears: they're tasseled.



The Kaibab squirrel is called the Kaibab squirrel because the only place it lives in the world is the Kaibab Plateau in northern Arizona (the north rim of the Grand Canyon and part of Kaibab National Forest). It's a subspecies of the Abert's squirrel, also called the tassel-eared squirrel. The two look a lot alike, but the Abert's has a whitish-gray, not grayish-black, belly, but there's also an all-black (melanistic) version of the Abert's.

Joseph G. Hall is the name of the scientist. He wrote a study called "A Field Study of the Kaibab Squirrel in Grand Canyon National Park" in Wildlife Monographs in 1981.


About This:

"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick" is a weekly feature for children (ages 9+; 4th grade reading level) about science, nature, farming and the environment. Online at

Brought to you by your scientific friends at The Ohio State University — specifically, at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) ( and with Ohio State University Extension ( OARDC and OSU Extension are the research and outreach arms, respectively, of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Written by Kurt Knebusch of OARDC and OSU Extension. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt at CommTech, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691;; (330) 263-3776.

Kurt Knebusch