Whereas most of us are blaming all of the eating and drinking for our holiday-season weight gain, squirrels have such a better excuse: climate change. The hotter-than-normal November and early December has meant more time for Toronto squirrels to enjoy the bounties of an urban harvest, which to human observers has made them look extremely obese — or, as one man described them, “friggin’ big man.”
“The extended fall means they can do their pre-winter foraging for longer, which makes them chubbier,” David Sugarman, a senior researcher at the Ontario Science Centre, told the Star. Squirrels don’t hibernate, so they need the extra flub to help them make it through the winter, when food is more scarce — though that’s less of a problem in cities.
However, it seems humans are just imposing our impossible beauty standards on the mammals. “They’re [squirrels] not looking in the mirror saying, ‘Whoa, I’m getting a little portly,’” Sugarman added. But, as another expert noted, all of that tree-climbing and sneaking close to humans and then sprinting away burns a lot of calories, and they tend to enjoy a diet that’s normally big on protein, so they probably won’t be hogging all of the treadmills at the gym come January 1.
It’s unclear if New York City squirrels are also struggling with extra poundage, although it’s not really fair to blame the unseasonably warm weather if you’re dining on pizza, milk shakes, and croissants year-round.
Update: Daily Intelligencer reached out to the New York City Parks & Recreation Department to see if they’d noticed any changes in squirrel girth in recent months. The Department said it doesn’t really have a baseline to compare it to, but pointed out that more people taking advantage of the nice weather might also mean more food left behind for squirrels in the parks. But, press officer Mario López did add that “staff in Brooklyn claim that the squirrels are always fat, especially in Fort Greene.”