How Does a Squirrel Store Nuts?
You can also consider the way that wildcats and foxes store their food. They bury small prey, foxes store eggs in shallow holes, and mice scatter seeds and nuts in underground nests. Whether or not an animal’s memory of hiding places is accurate is up for debate, but it’s clear that they use landmarks and their sense of smell to remember where they buried their food.
When squirrels gather food, they use several factors to determine the quality of each seed. These factors include perishability and handling time. For example, red acorns are highly digestible, while white ones are quickly decomposed into protein by excising their embryo. However, squirrels are not able to discern whether acorns have been infested with insect larvae, so they may eat them just to gain extra protein.
In order to avoid being caught by hunters, squirrels sometimes create a false cache, or a fake location. They bury their nuts in muddy areas, under bushes, and other areas where they cannot be easily spotted. This tactic fools them into thinking that the nuts are hidden in a convenient location. If they were to find the hidden nuts, they would have to remember their hiding spots for years.
It is possible that a squirrel’s logical thinking may help it remember where it last hid the nuts, but there are no reliable studies to prove this theory. Researchers have observed that squirrels often use deceptive caching, and in some cases, they pretend to put an acorn into a hole before covering it and running off to another hiding spot. In other cases, a squirrel may even rebury a nut that is hidden in a hidden location to protect it from thievery.
Research by Baniel Brazeau and Mark Spritzer shows that squirrels store food in specific areas. For example, they store nuts under big oak trees. Their paws can detect and move them to the next location, if necessary. But they may also pilfer other squirrels’ nuts. Their mental map of where to find a nut is crucial to their survival.
When the squirrel is collecting, he or she will use a method to mark out nuts that are higher in quality than others. In this case, the squirrel may use a head flick and paw manipulation to determine the quality of the nut. The squirrel will probably dig up several nuts in the first day before eating the ones that are lower in quality. This method is a way for the squirrel to store nuts, but it can also help scientists understand economic decision-making.
Squirrels’ caching behavior may be based on memory. One study published in Animal Cognition showed that squirrels can recall a difficult task two years after learning it. This suggests that the brain plays a significant role in caching decisions. In a recent study, biologists in Japan found that squirrels cached nuts that were highly perishable and easily spoilt by damp soil.
The truck in which Fischer hid the walnuts was full of them. Apparently, the squirrel was storing its harvest during winter months. Fischer’s truck holds 42 gallons of black walnuts. “I don’t think he was worried about space in his truck,” Fischer told NBC. The truck’s owner, Bill Fischer, has been waging a war on the furry neighbor since 2013.
A squirrel’s mental map of its winter pantry is built through interaction with a variety of nut sources. It may be buried in acorns or pine cones. It may also burrow bones in high places. In addition to storing nuts, squirrels also bury other foods, such as fruits and fungi. During winter, this mental map becomes extremely important.
Despite this theory, it has not been proven conclusively. It remains a theory, however, as squirrels may also store nuts by type, making it easier for them to remember where they hid them. And, as Jacobs points out, there is little data about the squirrels’ burrowing habits. But this does suggest that the squirrels may use a systematic system to categorize their nut caches.
In order to find a nut cache, squirrels use multi-sensations to locate a suitable spot. Their eyesight and smells alert them to a specific nut patch. Some squirrels even bury their nuts in a patch of ground several times. The nutty scent helps them identify these spots by sniffing and peeping. This allows the squirrel to find the most likely nut source.
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.