How to Squirrel
We all know how useful squirrels are, but have you ever wondered where they store their nuts? How do they remember where to bury their nuts? Or how to organize their caches so they can be easily located? Or maybe you just want to help them avoid being picked off by a predator. Whatever the reason, squirrels are a wonderful and fascinating creature. Whether it’s to survive the harsh winters or avoid getting picked off by a predator, learning how to squirrel will teach you the basics of squirrel survival.
Remembering where they buried their nuts
If you ever wondered how squirrels store food, you may be surprised to learn that they bury their nuts. Depending on the species, they may cache thousands of nuts per year, or more. And they may even scatter their caches throughout a forest, requiring them to dig up the same spots over again for up to 9 months to find all of their buried nuts. In any case, squirrels are masters of the strategy.
Unlike human beings, squirrels do not bury their nuts randomly. They follow a predetermined pattern. While some species may bury all of their food in a single location, they are more likely to be found. Most species bury food in several locations within the same general area, demonstrating a sophisticated memory. It appears that squirrels have an innate memory that enables them to find a location quickly.
In addition to storing their food, squirrels bury specific types of nuts in the same spot to avoid losing them. They do this in order to maintain a steady supply of food during the coldest months of winter. The practice of burying nuts helps them to build a cognitive map of their caches. However, scientists are not sure what happens in the squirrel’s brain during the autumn months, when their brain grows.
Organizing their caches
If you have ever observed a squirrel hauling nuts, you probably understand the importance of properly organizing squirrel caches. Generally, squirrels group their nuts in neat groupings in a neat pattern, and they also remember where they hid certain nuts. But how do you organize their caches in such a way that they avoid overlap? There are several ways to organize your squirrel caches. Read on to learn more about some strategies you can use.
The first method is to group nut caches in the same location. Interestingly, the same strategy can be used to organize squirrel caches. Researchers from UC Berkley studied squirrels foraging at several locations. They found little overlap between caches, and the locations of each were organized by nut type. Perhaps they are using a simpler heuristic to avoid overlaps. If so, they may have a mental structure that makes locating the same nuts easy, even without a cognitive anchor.
Another method involves chunking. A squirrel’s memory is so good that they can group similar objects into groups. They can remember different kinds of nuts by their size, weight, or species. Moreover, they may group items into groups based on their value. So, a squirrel’s caches could consist of a combination of small, medium, and large nuts. This is a way of organizing squirrel caches by subtle hierarchical structures.
Getting picked off by predators
If you’re squirreling, chances are you’re also encountering chipmunks and timber rattlesnakes. While not predatory, they are actively foraging. If you’re a squirrel enthusiast, you’ve probably noticed the difference between a chipmunk’s snout and a rattlesnake’s sharp claws. The sharpness of a squirrel’s claws can determine its level of vigilance.
Jessica Watson is a PHD holder from the University of Washington. She studied behavior and interaction between squirrels and has presented her research in several wildlife conferences including TWS Annual Conference in Winnipeg.