Squirrel Hiccups

Ground Squirrel with hiccups (Otospermophilus beecheyi)

When I first heard this chipping noise I thought it was a bird. Then someone taught me it came from a Ground Squirrel. Eventually I saw and filmed one of the little mammals doing this rhythmic squeaking, “Yipper Revealed,” May 5 2020. I couldn’t see any utility to the sound as communication, and speculated that maybe the squirrel had a toothache or an upset stomach. In my 2020 post most of the animal’s body was concealed by vegetation. This week I happened to see another squirrel squeaking in full view. I’m now convinced that this is a case of squirrel hiccups. The animal’s abdomen, really its whole body, goes into a spasm, and the squeak follows with the forcible expulsion of air at the end of the convulsion.

Science is on my side here. It’s long been known that other mammals besides humans suffer from hiccups: horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels. Source. And not only mammals. Tadpoles get them, too. Source. Reptiles, amphibians, and birds haven’t been observed with hiccups. With humans, hiccups start early — the fetus in utero can get hiccups that mothers can feel. Although they’re common and widespread, the exact reason why hiccups occur continues to elude researchers. Source.

Ground Squirrel with hiccups (Otospermophilus beecheyi)

Excellent Newsletter

P.S. I just received the excellent newsletter put out by Susan Schwartz, head of the Friends of Five Creeks organization. This issue, plus the group’s website, contains material of interest with a far larger scope than our local creeks. Volunteer opportunities and educational events by scores of other organizations are listed. Regional and statewide planning and funding issues are covered. There’s nothing else out there with the range and depth of this online publication. Check it out: http://www.fivecreeks.org/

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