The ongoing unseasonably warm temperatures on the heels of a mild winter in the Chicago area has had a major impact on the city's squirrel population.
According to Steve Sullivan of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, the mild winter in Chicago meant that many of the animals that typically die from cold or starvation survived the most recent winter, Chicago Wildlife News reports. That has made for more competition among older, stronger animals for their younger counterparts.
Squirrels are also, according to the Wildlife News, sensitive to high temperatures because they are more susceptible to overheating and dehydration. Other surviving squirrels may be hiding out in the shade in an attempt to remain cool.
The impact of the heat wave on area animal populations is not unique to squirrels. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that wildlife of many shapes and sizes are becoming dehydrated and even debilitated by the weather.
Kim Rutledge, a wildlife rehabilitation manager at the Missouri Wildlife Rescue Center in the Castlewood area, told the Post-Dispatch that they have seen fewer baby opossums, rabbits and squirrels at their center compared to previous years.
And the drought has also made for a reduced insect population, including those pesky mosquitos. John George, wildlife regional supervisor at the Missouri Department of Conservation, told The Missourian that the area bug population this summer has declined, which impacts birds that rely on insects for sustenance.
Have you noticed fewer squirrels and other small critters in your neighborhood? Let us know below. Scroll down to learn more about Chicago's squirrel population in a video from Project Squirrel, which monitors squirrel populations nationwide: