If you see a squirrel lying down like this, don't worry; it's just fine. On hot days, squirrels keep cool by splooting (stretching out) on cool surfaces to reduce body heat. It is sometimes referred to as heat dumping. pic.twitter.com/pD1T3lPbBH— NYC Parks (@NYCParks) August 9, 2022
It has been one hot summer in New York City, and the continued heat has impacted more than just the behavior of humans.
Squirrels in New York City parks have been spotted sprawled out on their stomachs with their arms and legs stretched out during very warm days, or splooting, as it's less commonly known.
Those catching a glimpse of the squirrels in this peculiar position have posted photos online. More than 40,000 posts on Instagram have been tagged with the word "splooting," with posts showing squirrels, dogs and even cats in the position. As it turns out, the activity is actually healthy for animals and is one way that helps them cool down amid extreme summer heat.
Many mammals have less fur on their bellies compared to the rest of their body, so on hot days the animals will lie flat on their stomach against cooler surfaces, such as rocks or cooler ground, to shed some heat and keep cool, according to Dan Blumstein, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The New York City Parks Department took to Twitter to let others know this activity is perfectly normal and healthy for mammals. "If you see a squirrel lying down like this, don't worry it's just fine. On hot days, squirrels keep cool by splooting," the department said in a viral tweet.
Central Park, a popular place to spot squirrels, has recorded many warmer than average days this summer. The park even came just a few degrees shy of 100 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday and recorded above-average high temperatures for 11 of the first 12 days of August.
Blumstein said he first heard the term "splooting" to describe how corgis would lie flat on their stomach and put their hind legs straight out behind them. However, the professor told AccuWeather that he used a different term to refer to the way squirrels do it.
"I always referred to this as 'doing the rug' because the animals looked like bear or lion rugs...the ones where the head was still attached!" Blumstein told AccuWeather.
Many other animals also sploot or "do the rug" to stay cool, such as chipmunks, rabbits, foxes, raccoons and many others, according to PennLive. But for New York City, spotting these mammals splooting will be difficult in the coming days as rain and cooler weather are expected to encompass much of the Northeast this week.