We’ve noticed that the squirrels this year are very, very fat. I don’t remember ever seeing them this fat before and I am wondering if this is a sign of a harsh winter to come.
Michelle Dunn, Villa Park
A version of your question arrives here frequently in the autumn or early winter. The answer is a resounding “no!” Animals (and even plants), when they thrive, are responding to favorable conditions from the past, not from a response to predictive abilities. It’s as simple as that. In the autumn, animals know instinctively that harsh winter conditions lie ahead and their reaction is to prepare for it. One way to do this is to fatten up. That is what you have observed with the squirrels. To repeat: animals possess instinctive abilities but not predictive talents.