Acrobats of the forest, squirrels are known for their ability to zip up trees and raid bird feeders. Still, wildlife enthusiast Richard Spinney was surprised and amused when he spotted a squirrel executing somersaults in his yard on the morning of Sept. 8 in Brewer.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Spinney said.

Spinney had just laid fresh mulch around several plants in his yard. This new material — specifically Scotts Nature Scapes Triple Shred Black Mulch — seemed to be the cause of the squirrel’s rambunctious behavior.

Traveling from one plant to the next, the gray squirrel rolled and thrashed about, Spinney said. It kicked its paws up into the air, waved its long, luxurious tail and burrowed down into the soft wood chips, scattering them all over his lawn.

“I just happened to look out the window,” he said. “[The squirrel] was going from one to the next to the next. I got him on video around this blueberry bush, and he was really going at it.”

A lifelong photographer, Spinney almost always has a camera on hand. Using his Kodak Pixpro AZ901 camera, he recorded the squirrel in a slow motion setting.

“It adds a bit more drama, I think,” he said.

A few days later, Spinney shared the short video on Facebook, where he received numerous comments, including speculation about what exactly the squirrel was doing. Did the animal enjoy the scent or texture of the mulch? Was there a practical reason for the behavior? Or was it simply playing?

A few commenters stated that they’d witnessed squirrels behaving similarly in their yards.

“[I’ve seen it] on several occasions, especially when the new fresh mulch was laid down,” said Rhyanna Larose of Auburn. “Numerous squirrels were rolling around in it — also digging and burying fresh acorns.”

Larose has wondered if the squirrels are using the woody aroma of the mulch to mask their scent from predators or repel pests such as mites or fleas. Another commenter speculated that the squirrel might be rolling in the mulch to repel ticks, especially if it contains cedar, since cedar oil is often used as a natural repellent for ticks and other pests.

Whatever its reason for acting so — well, squirrely — the squirrel brightened Spinney’s morning with a little bit of laughter.

“After he left, I went out and kind of put [the mulch] all back in place and tapped it down with my foot,” he said.

Spinney has yet to see the squirrel return, but if he notices any misplaced mulch, he’ll know at least one likely culprit.

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Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is a Maine outdoors writer and the author of three Maine hiking guidebooks including “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine.” Find her on Twitter and Facebook @1minhikegirl. You can also...