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Squirrel Hoarding

November 22, 2013

A listener inquires about the lengths squirrels will go to to hide their nuts.



Insincere squirrels. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Photo: William Sutherland/Wikipedia

Today, I’m in my backyard to answer a Science Update listener’s question, which is: do squirrels steal nuts buried by other squirrels. Well, researchers have long known that squirrels do indeed rob their fellow rodents. As a result, squirrels have to be ever vigilant. In fact, right now, I’m pretending be a foreign squirrel digging around the yard…

[Squirrel call]

Hear that? That’s the warning call of a big squirrel who’s claimed this territory. He’s not at all happy about my poking around here. Studies have shown that now that I’ve shown interest in this squirrel’s food, he’ll dig up his less secure nuts and bury them elsewhere. Other studies have shown that if squirrels think they’re being watched, they’ll pretend to bury a nut while actually hiding it against their fur. Then they’ll nonchalantly hop behind a bush and quickly bury it away from prying eyes. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.