News / Toronto

It's true, Toronto's squirrels are fatter this year

The city's fat-bottomed squirrels are feasting on an unseasonably warm fall season.

A chubby squirrel in Queen's Park.

Twitter/Taralea Cutler

A chubby squirrel in Queen's Park.

It's not your imagination, Toronto's squirrels really are fatter this year.

This fall's lingering mild weather has given the city's ubiquitous tree-dwelling rodents more time to gorge on nuts and seeds, said David Sugarman, a senior researcher at the Ontario Science Centre.

The result: some seriously chubby bellies.

"We have had a really warm November," Sugarman said. "Naturally, if you're an animal that's got to make it through the winter with little or no food, you want to pack in as much as fat as possible," he said.

Squirrels don't hibernate. Instead, they rely on internal fat reserves to survive the cold.

They aren't fussy about what they will eat either. Fatty nuts and seeds are favourites, but the critters will also dine on plant matter, fruit, vegetables, fungi, and even bird eggs in a pinch.

City squirrels also tend to be bigger than their rural counterparts due to the abundance of food and lack of predators, Sugarman said.

Happily, this year's extra layer of fat isn't going to hurt Toronto's squirrels, though it might make some a little slower and less agile.

"If the squirrel were able to stay chubby all year round, it might decrease its longevity," Sugarman said.

"But eventually the snow is going to come, the cold weather will increase and they're going to burn off some of that extra fat."

More on