February 22, 2016

What's Been Here?

Gray Squirrel visited its acorn cache.
By Margaret Gillespie, Naturalist

My dog Mica is especially curious about holes in the snow like this one. Maybe there is a lingering smell of the digger. Do you see any hints of what has been here? It’s definitely a creature that relishes acorns – it left only scraps behind.

Gray squirrels cache acorns in the fall in various locations and return to retrieve them during the winter. Most of the acorns will be those from red oaks which don’t germinate until spring. White oak acorns germinate in the fall soon after they hit the ground. If gray squirrels cache those acorns, they nip the tip off first, destroying the tree embryo. Do they remember where they cache their food supply? If their memory fails them and it often does, they can always use their sense of smell to find theirs or another squirrel’s bounty. What’s the fate of those acorns never found? You guessed it. They sprout and proceed with life as oak trees.

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