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Archive for September 23rd, 2010

Experimental Determination of Squirrel Sprint Speed

So there we were, biking along the northern segment of the Dutchess Rail Trail, when a squirrel scampered up a fencepost a few hundred feet ahead of us and struck a classic tree-rat pose: standing up atop the post, tail arched behind, front paws together.

As we rolled closer, the squirrel noticed us and, as squirrels are wont to do, panicked.

*Must* *run* *away*

Squirrels tend to escape up the nearest tree, which works perfectly with most predators. In this case, though, the squirrel was already as high as it could get on the post and there were no trees within jumping distance.

Decision time: can’t run up, can’t escape to the side, must not run toward the threat.

*Must* *run* *away*

So the critter lit off along the top rail, hurdling over the protruding fenceposts in a dead run, as fast as its little legs could carry it.

Which, as it turned out, was just over 15 mph. We stopped pedaling and coasted, but this section is slightly down-grade and we didn’t slow very much.

The thing was running at my eye level, about five feet to my left, and kept pace with us for maybe a dozen fenceposts. Finally it decided this tactic wasn’t working and dove off the fence into the bushes beside the trail.

Squirrels must produce adrenaline like I produce saliva.

And I really, really need a helmet camera…

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