Why do squirrels wave their tails?

Bushy squirrel tail

So, why do squirrels wave their tails? Why does a rodent need such a cute, bushy tail? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about a squirrel’s tail.

Squirrel on his own

Squirrels, with the exception of raising babies and hibernation periods, are solitary animals. Oh, sure they may look like they’re playing happily together as three squirrels race around the same tree, but that is a clear act of aggression. “Get away,” Squirrel #1 yells. “My tree! My Tree!” But, Squirrel #2 isn’t having it. Squirrel #3 thinks there must be something fabulous about the tree if Squirrel #1 and Squirrel #2 are fighting over it, although he doesn’t know what that something is. Nevertheless, he joins in the fight. If I were a squirrel I’d make at least one squirrel friend. And, that friend would have the biggest, bushiest, longest tail any squirrel has ever seen.

Squirrel with impressive tail

Fooled by the tail…

Be honest. If it weren’t for the bushy tail, we would just consider squirrels to be tree rats, which is a terrifying thought. That bushy tail, twitching and flitting, move squirrels from the nasty vermin category into adorable, Disney-should-feature-them-in-a-movie, woodland creatures. But, the squirrel tail is for much more than convincing us humans that these creatures aren’t rodents to be eradicated.

Squirrels and rats - only difference is the tail

Tricks of the tail…

A squirrels’ tail is the Leatherman Tool of the squirrel anatomy—so many useful functions. In the rain, the tail can act as a rain slicker, blocking annoying drops from beating on its back and head. The tail is used as an umbrella in hot, sunny weather, helping to shield the squirrel from the sun and heat. In winter, squirrels curl up with their big, bushy tails for warmth, even if they’ve already clawed their way into your attic and walls. So, yes, my squirrel friend must have the bushiest of bushy tails. I hate being cold.

Sleeping squirrel

The all-weather must have…

Along with it being the perfect, all-weather accessory, squirrels use their tails for balance. While the little squirrels jump from branch to branch and scamper across power lines, the tails keep squirrels balanced. 

Balancing squirrel

A squirrel’s safety net…

And, in case the squirrel trips and falls or misjudges the leap from branch-to-branch, his tail becomes a parachute. It flattens out a bit so that the squirrel will reduce its speed as it hurtles toward the ground. I wouldn’t be nearly as afraid of heights and falling to my death if I had a built-in parachute.

falling squirrel

So, why do squirrels wave their tails?

But perhaps the most important function of the squirrel tail is the answer to the question, “Why do squirrels wave their tails?” A squirrel’s tail is the text message of squirreling. Waving it quickly alerts any nearby squirrels that a predator has been spotted. “Danger! Danger!” With one wave of a tail, a squirrel can alert his rodent friends to danger then get his bushy tail out of sight.

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