IN AN AUSTRIAN MEADOW AGLOW with summer sunlight, a European ground squirrel stretches to sniff a wild aster before nibbling the tender blooms. Hiding in a photo blind, Julian Rad was thrilled to capture this ethereal portrait of a rare creature, listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Adapted to treeless grasslands with low vegetation, these squirrels “need the short grass to be able to see enemies,” says Rad, who has spent a decade photographing small mammals in his native Austria. By some measures, numbers of European ground squirrels have fallen 30 percent during the past 10 years or so as grasslands have been transformed by agriculture and forestry, shrub incursion and urban development.
Concerned about human impacts on habitat, Rad hopes “to open people’s eyes to nature with the emotion in my images, showing these adorable creatures in splendid detail while bringing to life rare and unique moments.” Capturing those moments, he adds, requires “empathy, knowledge of the species, patience, endurance—and a pinch of luck.” European ground squirrels and other dwindling species will need more than a pinch of luck if they are to survive and thrive.
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