Why squirrels are ‘splooting’ in the heat and what we can do to help them


AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s been a painfully hot August in Central Texas.

Temperatures have hit 100 degrees for 18 days in a row – but if it’s any consolation, it’s not just humans that are struggling in the blistering heat.

Some KXAN viewers have noticed that squirrels have been laying down flat on their stomachs with their legs stretched behind them, apparently slowed to a complete stop in the soaring temperatures.

Andrew Berger sent us this picture of his dog keeping a watchful eye on a “splooting” squirrel.

This squirrel stopped to stretch out (Picture: Andrew Berger)

And KXAN viewer Sher Neely sent us this photo, writing “This poor little guy couldn’t even make it to the puppy pool!”

Taking a break (Picture: Sher Neely)

Though the small mammals might look like they’re in stealth mode, it turns out they’re just trying to cool off.

Jill Calcote, of Moonshine Wildlife Rehabilitation in Cedar Park, came up with an analogy to explain why squirrels have been seen “splooting” on the ground.

“It’s super hot here in Texas right now, obviously, and those squirrels are basically just trying to cool themselves,” she said.

“I think of my child not feeling well on the bathroom floor — they spread out on the tiles. That’s exactly what the squirrels are doing.”

“They are basically getting as much of their body on a cooler surface. If it’s cooler than the air outside, they’re going to put their body on it and it’s going to cool their temperature,” she added.

It’s been getting a little too hot for Austin’s squirrels (Picture: KXAN)

There are steps that humans can take to help the little guys out – but be careful, because squirrels can bite, Calcote said.

“We always suggest that humans give wildlife their space, to watch from a distance,” she said. “You can give them water. We don’t ever encourage people to feed wildlife but clean water is great.”

Leanne DuPay, a wildlife rehabilitator with Texas Parks and Wildlife, said that people can leave shallow, plate-like dishes with cool water placed near where squirrels lay down, or near the base of their trees.

During cooler weather in the winter, squirrels will adopt the same pose to warm up, DuPay added.

Don’t be too worried if you see a squirrel spread-eagled on the ground or a tree branch, because they’ll be okay, Calcote said.

“If they are just laying, sprawled out and looking around, they’re fine,” she added.

A squirrel lays by a bird bath in Spicewood (Courtesy Thomas Blackwell)
A squirrel lays by a bird bath in Spicewood (Courtesy Thomas Blackwell)

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