Squirrel Skull?

I went for a walk this evening in the extra hour of daylight, and while I was in the dunes something white half-buried in the sand caught my eye.  It’s common to find fragments of bleached-white shells back in the swale, but this wasn’t a shell – it was a bone!  Digging in the sand gently with my fingers yielded what appeared to be most of a complete skeleton, and while some of the pieces, like the vertebrae, were so fragile that they fell apart when I tried to pick them up (they must have been exposed to the elements for quite a while), I managed to find all the pieces of the skull – the cranium with the upper jaw, and both halves of the mandible.  (Bones are not something I know a lot about, so I apologize if I have the terminology wonky.)

Definitely a rodent with those incisors, right?  And too big for a mouse or shrew or something?  So that leaves squirrels.  If someone who knows skulls wants to confirm or correct this ID I’d love that.  I can’t remember whether I’ve ever actually seen a squirrel down in the dunes – I feel like I mostly see them at the edge of the woods.  Of course, a hawk could have killed it further up and then carried it down into the dunes to eat…?

(Updated: Bruce Neill of the Sanibel Sea School was kind enough to solve the mystery – it’s not a squirrel, but a young rabbit.  I see marsh rabbits in the dunes all the time so this makes perfect sense.)

Also: completely unrelated, but I just have to share the fact that there are currently SEVERAL Chuck-will’s-widows calling outside! Maybe to people who live around here they’re old hat, but to me they’re incredibly exciting.  Life bird #553!

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6 thoughts on “Squirrel Skull?

  1. Rebecca,

    This looks like a rabbit. The fenestrated sides of the skull indicate a rabbit and it looks too big. Does it have a small pair of teeth inside the incisors (the front teeth)?

    But in all likelihood, it is a rabbit.

    Enjoy your posts.

    Bruce

    Bruce

    • Aha! Thank you! After doing a quick Google image search for “rabbit skull” I see what you mean about the fenestrated sides (what a great word, “fenestrated”) and, while I didn’t keep the skull and don’t have it to look at again, in the second photo you can see the second set of incisors. There are a lot of marsh rabbits in the area where I found it, so this makes sense. I’m surprised a rabbit skull would be so small (my hand in the photos gives a sense of the scale) but I suppose it could have been not fully grown.

      P.S. Your outdoor education program at Sanibel sounds really cool, and somewhat similar to where I work now.

    • Everything starts out small – maybe a young rabbit. Unless you have very small hands, the skull looks much too large to be a squirrel. Skulls are smaller than we tend to think.

      If you are ever on Sanibel, come see us.

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