An Alberta ground squirrel is poised to become Canadas most famous animal at least for a week or two after the creature inserted itself hilariously into a timed photo being taken by an American couple at a lake in Banff National Park.
The resulting image, which features the upright squirrel staring boldly into the camera while the couple laughs in the background, is getting a lot of Internet attention after it was splashed on a host of media websites and newspapers around the world this week.
We had our camera set up on some rocks and were getting ready to take the picture when this curious little ground squirrel appeared, became intrigued with the sound of the focusing camera and popped right into our shot, Minnesota resident Melissa Brandts told National Geographic, which selected the shot as its photo of the day on its nationalgeographic.com website Thursday.
A once-in-a-lifetime moment! We were laughing about this little guy for days!
Melissa and her husband, Jackson, were hiking around Banffs Lake Minnewanka when they paused for a photo at the waters edge.
With the timer ticking down, the rodent skittered into the frame. The cameras autofocus shifted to the furry figure at the centre of the scene, still capturing the chuckling Brandts and the picturesque lake and mountain peaks in behind.
By noon Thursday, the spotlight-hogging Lake Minnewanka ground squirrel was popping up in just about every corner of cyberspace.
The picture has made the websites of the Daily Mail and the Telegraph in Britain, and is the photo of the day on a South Korean news website.
Doctored versions of the crasher squirrel have begun to spring up across the web in some very un-squirrel-like situations.
The squirrel can be seen sitting in the Queens hat, standing in front of former U.S. president Bill Clinton and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, and posing during the moon landing.
Ellen Stanley, vice-president of communications for National Geographic, said the magazine got a laugh from the submitted photo.
Its such a great picture that we love it and were excited they posted it up. Its getting lots of viral pickup, she said. Hilarious.
But in the age of digital photography, questions arise about the authenticity of photographs. A policy statement supplied by National Geographic said the company does not encourage the manipulation of photographs, and while it carefully checks all pictures that run in the magazine, not all online shots are vetted.
Calgary graphic designer Teak Sato looked at the photo on Wednesday and said it would be very difficult to fake a photo of this quality, noting the ground squirrels hair.
Hair, in general, when it sticks out like that, to clip the hair out and then put it on something is basically the Holy Grail of Photoshop work, he said. Zooming in on it, it looks authentic. If it is fake, its totally professional.
Melissa said shes also heard people say it looks too good to be true. Its real, its a real picture, she said.
Banff field unit spokesman Mark Merchant said theyre pretty sure the animal is a golden mantled ground squirrel, which are known for being bold.
Merchant also said the photo is a perfect example of human interaction with wildlife.
You could be a professional photographer and try to set this shot up the rest of your life and never get it, he said.
As for the squirrel, he has yet to be located.
No, the squirrel is unavailable for comment, Merchant said.
Hes had his 15 minutes of fame, hes moving on.
With files from the Calgary Herald
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