Why Would a Ground Squirrel Not Respond to Human Touch?
The first question that comes to mind when we touch a ground squirrel is: why? Interestingly, a ground squirrel’s tail is infrared, and if it’s really that sensitive, it would respond to human touch. In fact, this trait is more prominent in ground squirrels that live in towns and cities than in those in nature. Perhaps this is because ground squirrels in urban areas have learned that humans are not going to bother them.
Infrared component in tail flagging by ground squirrels
Scientists have discovered that California ground squirrels increase their infrared emission from their tails when they come into contact with rattlesnakes. Despite this, the animals did not vary in their activity level, tail-flagging bouts, or body temperatures. This suggests that the ground squirrels are able to control their infrared release with precision. This is a significant advancement in the field of nocturnal animal behavior, and may ultimately lead to more accurate tracking of rattlesnakes and other predators.
The use of infrared signals by ground squirrels is a common feature of their social interactions with snakes. These animals use visual signals to communicate with each other, but they may also have infrared signals that are more effective in deterring snakes. The use of infrared radiation in California ground squirrels’ tail-flagging displays may exploit the snakes’ infrared sensitivity.
The temperature of each squirrel’s tail is determined from a series of instantaneous samples taken every 20 seconds. The average temperature of each individual squirrel was calculated using image-j software, version 1.29, provided by the National Institute of Health. To test the validity of the data, nine trials were randomly selected and rescored by two independent observers. Interobserver agreement was high and the data were compared in six regions using repeated measures ANOVA. Bonferroni correction was used when 0.05 was the significant level.
Color vision of ground squirrels
Researchers have found that ground squirrels exhibit dichromatic color vision and have an identical visual sensitivity to humans. In addition, they have similar cone pigments with peaks at 440, 435, and 520 nm. They have also conducted ERG studies that suggest that ground squirrels have dichromatic color vision. According to their results, the S-cones of ground squirrels have a sensitivity of about 20 ms slower than those of the M-cones.
The differences between human and squirrel vision may also be due to the animals’ differing retinas. Ground squirrels have higher numbers of rods than cones in their retinas. While this may not make them as sensitive to human touch as a cat or dog, they can detect potential predators despite being motionless. Their color vision is similar to humans because they have a higher density of cones compared to rods.
The ability to recognize colors in the environment is important in maintaining the circadian rhythm of the ground squirrels. Researchers in the Arctic region have been able to study this fascinating animal’s visual system. They have the ability to use minute differences in light color to keep their internal clock on track. For example, the sun appears blue during midday but becomes red at sunset. The ability to discern these subtle differences in color may be essential for ground squirrels to maintain an upright posture during long periods of time.
It has long been thought that the presence of human touch reduces the appeal of ground squirrels to predators. But is this really the case? Sherman’s team of scientists conducted three summers of observation and used human hair dye and ear tags to label the squirrels and their burrows. They observed 102 incidents of predatory behavior and nine kills. The results are revealing. In addition to the obvious benefits of human touch, it is important to know the reasons behind the ground squirrel’s non-response to humans.
Using a novel approach, we studied the behavior of 60 ground squirrels as they approached two people and four trees. The distance between humans and squirrels was measured from one of the locations of the trees. We found that the squirrels chose the Tree 1 when the angle of human touch was greater than 65 degrees. This result was consistent in both groups. When humans approached the squirrels, they chose to flee or alert the predators with flat rocks.
Scientists confirmed that the duration of the intermittent arousal periods in ground squirrels are vital for their health and survival. The absence of this period would result in a ground squirrel withering and dying. In order to avoid this, scientists developed infrared cameras and used these to study the behaviour of ground squirrels. We also recorded their tail movements and compared them to human movements to see whether or not they responded to human touch.
Ground squirrels are timid animals and may perceive humans as a threat.
Ground squirrels are also known to be very quick and agile so they may simply be too difficult for a human to catch.
A ground squirrel’s natural instinct is to flee when confronted with a predator and they may see humans as a potential predator.
Ground squirrels have a strong sense of self-preservation and will not take any risks that could jeopardize their safety.
If a ground squirrel has never been around humans before they may be fearful and hesitant of approaching them.
Ground squirrels are wild animals and are not used to being touched by humans.
Ground squirrels have sensitive whiskers on their face and body which help them to identify predators.
They may feel threatened if a human tries to touch them.
Ground squirrels have a very keen sense of smell and may be able to smell the fear or danger in a human.
Ground squirrels are very aware of their surroundings and may be able to sense the intentions of a human.
If a human seems threatening the ground squirrel will not respond positively to their touch.
Ground squirrels are prey animals and have a natural instinct to avoid contact with predators.
The fur of a ground squirrel is very thick and dense which helps to insulate them from the cold.
They may not enjoy the sensation of a human touch because it is not familiar to them.
Ground squirrels are very social animals and live in colonies.
They may not respond well to human touch because they are not used to being around humans.
Ground squirrels have a lot of energy and are constantly on the move.
They may not want to be held or touched by a human because they want to keep moving.
Ground squirrels are very active during the day and sleep at night.
If a human tries to touch them during their sleep they may be startled and react negatively.
Ground squirrels are wild animals and should not be touched by humans.
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.