April 2, 2018

What is this squirrel doing?

By Eric D'Aleo

Gray squirrels are ubiquitous and sometimes downright annoying to homeowners. Raiding birdfeeders, chewing on siding, or getting into an attic, give these tree-loving rodents some bad publicity. Aside from frustrating humans, squirrels are intelligent, curious, resourceful, and have some interesting behaviors. One common behavior is their seasonal hoarding or burying of nuts and seeds. This allows squirrels to survive through winter, since they feed on nuts hidden earlier in the year. Look at the video below and notice this industrious behavior occurs from spring through fall. Bu watch carefully, squirrels may sometimes fake bury a nut to fool other squirrels or birds from locating the food.

Along with storing food to eat at a later time, squirrels are interesting to watch feed. They eat a variety of food items, including nuts, seeds, fruit, mushrooms (fungi), tree buds, an occasional insect, and even bird nestlings. However, the majority of their food is nuts. What two food items can you see the squirrel eating in the video below?

Some behaviors squirrels engage in leave us scratching our heads in wonder. Take a look at the final video and see if you can determine what the gray squirrel is doing.

Squirrels are territorial animals and mark their territories to let other squirrels know an area is “occupied.” This behavior benefits both the intruding animal and the resident squirrel as it sets a boundary and reduces potential conflict. Squirrels mark areas in their territories by urinating on objects or by rubbing scent on logs or other objects from glands located near the mouth. Squirrels may also mark their territory by gnawing vertical strips in a large tree to provide a visual and olfactory cue to other squirrels in the area.

These are only three squirrel behaviors caught by the trail cameras, but many of us see squirrels engaging in other behaviors around bird feeders, scolding predators from a tree, or chasing each other through the branches. Who knew that squirrels led such busy lives?

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