How a Squirrel Forgets Where It Hided a Nut
When a squirrel is out foraging, it may be easy to lose track of its stash. This isn’t uncommon, as gray squirrels often store their food in holes or burrows, but it’s possible to help them remember where they buried a particular nut. To do this, they must have an excellent memory, which means they’re able to fake-hide their hide. However, they’re not the only animals that forget where they hid a nut.
Table of Contents
Gray squirrels are “scatter hoarders”
Eastern gray squirrels are prolific scatter hoarders. Their behavior involves making many small burrows and filling them with food, and storing it for later. Their home ranges can be anywhere from half to 10 hectares, with older males having the most territorial homes. They also have an excellent spatial memory, and the same behavior can be observed in backyard bird feeders. Here’s a look at this fascinating behavior.
Eastern gray squirrels are notorious scatter hoarders. They tend to accumulate thousands of nuts at a time. The squirrels protect their caches from other gray squirrels and birds, chipmunks, and other critters. They may even live in a single home for 7 acres! Researchers say that these habits could help protect their food from theft. The animal’s behavior can help protect the property of other homeowners in their area.
They store food in holes or buried in the ground
It has long been thought that squirrels use smell to remember where they put their food. However, recent research indicates that memory may play a more significant role in food retrieval. Squirrels can remember where they buried food without a map. Similarly, we have placed things in specific places, only to forget where we put them again. This can lead to frustration. Fortunately, a squirrel’s memory may be just as impressive as ours.
They have superb memories
One of the most fascinating facts about squirrels is their remarkable ability to remember things for which they have not been exposed for a long time. In one experiment, researchers found that squirrels took approximately 20 seconds to learn how to crack open a hazelnut and got it within three seconds on average. They also discovered that squirrels retain the techniques they use to solve problems. And they can recall them even when they’ve been away for several months or more!
The researchers at the University of Exeter used gray squirrels to solve a complex puzzle. The objective was to lure them to a nut that is edible, and the animals were able to remember the solution even after 22 months. This discovery is astounding, as it shows that the animals’ excellent memories allow them to remember the location of a safe, healthy person, and a reliable source of food. This amazing ability to remember things is why squirrels are able to perform complex tasks.
It is believed that the way squirrels store their food helps them remember where to find it later. Squirrels select the location of their cache carefully, considering the landscape, the type of food, and whether other squirrels are nearby. They often make false caches when they suspect they are being watched. In such situations, they use scent and memory to guide themselves to the nut. This behavior makes it difficult for the squirrel to find all of its food storage for the winter.
This behavior is similar to how humans store food. Squirrels use their memory to locate the cache, which is why they take the nut farther away when there are competitors nearby. However, there is another angle to this behavior. Researchers believe the distance between two caches may affect the amount of time that it takes to retrieve the nut. The time that the squirrel has to retrieve the nut may affect its perishability.
They plan for the future
Did you know that squirrels are very good at planning for the future? Squirrels plan their diets for the future by gathering food that they can use later on. A good example of a food tree for squirrels is the oak. Despite being a threatened species, the Mt. Graham red squirrel is a popular tourist destination. In addition to the oaks, squirrels also collect nuts, acorns, and other fruits and nuts.
While it’s largely unknown whether squirrels plan for the future, scientists have found other examples of animal behavior that demonstrates planning. Some animals, such as monkeys, will sometimes stockpile food in advance to eat. Others will hide food to avoid being caught by rivals. These animals may even plan for their future by hiding it where they’ll be less vulnerable. In addition to squirrels, other animals, such as birds, can think ahead.
How many squirrels are there in the world?
There are an estimated 22 million squirrels in the world.
What is the smallest squirrel in the world?
The smallest squirrel is the African pygmy squirrel.
What is the largest squirrel in the world?
The largest squirrel is the Indian giant squirrel.
How many different squirrel species are there in the world?
There are around 280 different squirrel species in the world.
Where do most squirrels live?
Most squirrels live in North America.
What is the natural predators of squirrels?
The natural predators of squirrels are snakes weasels hawks and owls.
What do squirrels eat?
Squirrels are mostly herbivores and their diet consists of nuts seeds fruits and fungi.
Do all squirrels hoard their food?
No not all squirrels hoard their food.
Some squirrels live in areas with a consistent food supply and don’t need to hoard.
How do squirrels hide their food?
Some squirrels will bury their food while others will build a cache which is a food storage place usually in a tree.
How do squirrels remember where they hide their food?
Scientists aren’t exactly sure how squirrels remember where they hide their food.
It is thought that they use their sense of smell.
What is the average lifespan of a squirrel?
The average lifespan of a squirrel is 9-10 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity.
Do all squirrels hibernate?
No not all squirrels hibernate.
Hibernation is usually only seen in squirrels that live in colder climates.
Do all squirrels mate for life?
No not all squirrels mate for life.
Some squirrels will have multiple mates throughout their lifetime.
How many offspring do squirrels have?
On average squirrels will have 2-5 offspring at a time.
What is the average gestation period for a squirrel?
The average gestation period for a squirrel is 38-45 days.
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.