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Do Squirrels Remember Where They Bury Nuts?

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Although predominantly herbivorous, the squirrel’s diet varies among species and common foods include fruits, nuts, apricots, black walnuts, acorns, insects, seeds, roots, dried corn, fungi, and mushroom.

Squirrels are particularly good at planning for the future. It is common for them to store food in holes or buried in the ground for the winter, when food is scarce. They often collect more nuts than can be consumed at a time, which they store up for future use. They dig holes with their fore limbs and often hide their extra food in different spots all over the place. This practice goes on all year long.

But do squirrels actually remember all the spots that they buried their nuts in for subsequent retrieval? The answer is not totally clear as there are differing beliefs as to this among researchers.

Some people believe that unearthed nuts that were kept by squirrels are responsible for a lot of oak trees that grew without anybody being responsible for their planting. Many a squirrel would forget their buried nuts in random holes, partly because of their fast paced life of scurrying around. It is thought that after these nuts get buried by a squirrel, there are times in early spring, when those buried nuts begin to sprout and the furry mammal is forced to find other food sources like tree buds.

This is not wholly true. In most cases, squirrels store their cache of nuts according to their taste and odor. This odor makes it easy for the animal to locate and retrieve its stored nuts at will and with ease. Not only are the squirrels capable of locating food and nuts stored inside the grounds, they can locate those that they independently kept.

The empirical facts deducted by two university researchers Lucia Jacobs and Emily Liman of the department of Biology Princeton University Princeton USA also explains this phenomenon. They tested the accuracy of the cache retrieved by squirrels using captive gray squirrels – the Sciurus carolinensis. Each animal was allowed access to hazel nuts which they independently buried.

Few days later, the captive squirrels were returned to the open field where they had buried their cache of nuts. Although the group of squirrels buried their nuts in the same field and close to each other, they were able to identify and retrieve more nuts that they kept themselves when compared to those kept by others.

Go back to the Squirrel Removal page or the How to Get Rid of Squirrels page.

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