The heat wave can keep people indoors to cool off with air conditioning. Animals have to find a way to survive the high temperatures and squirrels in New York City have resorted to splooting. Splooting refers to lounging on the stomach with the arms and legs stretched wide. If you spot squirrels lying down as if they are claiming the land, know that it’s an effective cooling strategy.
A variety of different animals display splooting behavior. Over 40,000 posts have been on Instagram with pictures of squirrels, dogs, and cats splooting to ward off the heat. It’s a healthy, instinctual strategy that helps them fight extreme temperatures.
According to Dan Blumstein, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, said: “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.”
Blumstein added: “I always referred to this as ‘doing the rug’ because the animals looked like bear or lion rugs… the ones where the head was still attached!”
The New York City Parks Department tweeted to let park visitors know that this is normal behavior for the squirrels and not a sign of distress. Their caption read: “If you see a squirrel lying down like this, don’t worry; it’s just fine. On hot days, squirrels keep cool by splooting (stretching out) on cool surfaces to reduce body heat. It is sometimes referred to as heat dumping.”
If the squirrels appear stretched out and done with life, it’s quite the contrary. They are trying to stay alive in the scorching temperatures.