A Red Squirrel Stole 50 Pounds of Pine Cones in a Car
This video shows the discovery of 50 pounds of pinecones stuffed inside a car hood by a driver. The car owner suspected a squirrel had left the pinecones in his vehicle, and he opened the hood to find them. Unfortunately, an earlier version of the video misidentified the animal as a squirrel. Fortunately, the video has now been corrected.
Red squirrels are a food hoarder
Although red squirrels consume a diverse variety of foods, their favorite source of winter sustenance is conifer cones. Because most predators do not consume conifer cones, red squirrels often cache them for winter sustenance. This behavior may also help red squirrels defend themselves from other red squirrels and reduce their chances of becoming victims of human-caused food poisoning. Whether or not red squirrels are food hoarders remains to be determined.
While some species of red squirrels are known to be hoarders, they aren’t the only animal species to practice the behavior. Some species, like gray squirrels, are known to scatter hoards of individual nuts or other foods. Some red squirrels clip hundreds of cones from trees and store them in their larders for future use. These cones are not available for several months, but they can last for years without consuming them.
They hide acorns, nuts, and pine cones in cars
Squirrels are often resourceful when it comes to hiding their food, and sometimes they’ll even use objects like cars as a hiding place. This is why a squirrel in Gaylord, Michigan, recently hid 50 pounds of pine cones and acorns under the hood of his friend’s Dodge Journey. The pair was able to clear the engine bay in 45 minutes.
While the fact that squirrels often leave their droppings in cars is annoying for human drivers, their dropping of acorns and nuts is beneficial to other organisms. According to a study from the University of Richmond, 74% of buried nuts by squirrels are never recovered. This practice helps to maintain the regeneration of oak forests, and it allows genetic information to spread far and wide.
Researchers have found that squirrels are very strategic about where they hide their food. Squirrels use their keen sense of smell to locate hidden nuts. They also use “deceptive caching,” whereby they pretend to throw an acorn into a hole, cover the hole, and then run off to another secret-stash location. Awrey’s post has received over a thousand shares on Facebook and is inspiring other Facebook users to share their own wildlife encounters.
They breed twice a year
It’s easy to see why squirrels would want to stow away 50 pounds of pine cones in a vehicle. One example is the car of Gabe Awrey, a car mechanic in Gaylord, Michigan. The car owner invited him to look under the hood of his vehicle, which was filled with the shady objects. As he surveyed the car’s engine bay, he found a pile of pine cones that weighed 50 pounds.
Moore found the pile in the hood of his car after noticing the odd noise his air conditioner was making. The heat from the engine caused the pine cones to swell, causing the pile to grow significantly. Moore had purchased the car a month ago, but still holds the squirrel responsible for his prank. What a weird and hilarious sight. Awrey posted the photo to Facebook, where it has been shared more than 300 times. The prank took two people about 45 minutes to remove the pile from Moore’s car. Fortunately, his car still runs perfectly.
They stockpile food
Throughout their lives, many animals must store food for the winter. Some are well-known for their stockpiling habits, while others live in relative obscurity. Some animals capture live prey, store it in a nest or burrow, or turn their bodies into storage kegs. Humans are often unaware of the complexity of these hoarders. But the following are just some of the reasons why squirrels stockpile food.
In the summer and early fall, squirrels start to prepare for winter. While we may think of hibernating, squirrels cannot, so they must prepare themselves by stockpiling food that won’t perish. They eat more to fatten up for the cold, and store their food in scattered hoards around their territories. They return to these hoards when they need food, but they usually store enough for the winter.
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.