Squirrel reaching for bird seed

Squirrel reaching for bird seedSquirrels are so common in our everyday lives that we don’t usually think about how remarkable their survival abilities are. These small creatures survive frigid weather and predators like cats, birds, dogs, and more. One of the key factors to their ability to persevere and thrive is their small but nimble brains.

How Do Squirrels Learn?

According to a research study from the University of Exeter, squirrels can learn quickly – if it’s food-related. The observers discovered that squirrels learn best by watching other squirrels, especially in relation to food or stealing food.

Grey squirrels were set up to see another squirrel remove a nut from one of two pots. One set of squirrels was rewarded for picking the same pot as the squirrel they observed. Another group was rewarded for reaching into the second pot. The squirrels that chose the second pot learned faster than those that chose the first pot. Researchers believe grey squirrels learn faster to recognize when food is scarce.

When the test was repeated with options to select a card instead of a pot, the squirrels in both groups learned at the same pace. Scientists believe this indicates that squirrels learn best when food is involved because it enhances their odds for survival.

How Long Does a Squirrel Memory Last?

Squirrels have surprisingly good memories. It’s often said that squirrels “forget” where they buried some of their nuts, which then sprout and become trees. However, research indicates that it’s less about memory and more about squirrels burying far more nuts than what they need as an insurance policy for survival. Since a squirrel can lose up to 25% of its food stores to thieves – which are generally other squirrels – such planning and caution is smart.

Another University of Exeter study (this one led by Pizza Ka Yee Chow), tested both squirrels’ problem-solving capabilities and their memories. Chow’s 2016 published study featured a special puzzle box baited with hazelnuts. Squirrels had to push or pull the end of a lever (the box had 10) to force the hazelnut to fall out. The squirrels learned quickly how to manipulate the levers to get the nuts.

Chow then used the same boxes to test the memory and retention of squirrels. The squirrels that remembered the box immediately made the correct choices to get the nuts. Squirrels that had forgotten needed to make a few attempts before successful. It was also found that squirrels remembered the puzzle box up to two years later.

If that doesn’t sound impressive, consider the results other species had with puzzle boxes. Lions remembered the solution to a puzzle box seven months after they first solved it. Goats were able to do the same 10 months later. So, squirrels have better memories than both goats and lions.

What Abilities Do Squirrels Have?

  • Squirrels can smell food buried under a foot of snow.
  • They run in a zigzag pattern to evade predators.
  • Deceptive Caching” is when squirrels make a big show of digging a hole and covering it up without placing food in it (generally to trick other squirrels watching who might try to raid their cache).

What Does a Squirrel Do to Survive?

In addition to the tactics listed above to evade predators and prepare for winter, squirrels make it through the colder months in much the same way that humans do – they stay inside and put on layers. In the case of squirrels, the layers are of fat (not sweaters) and their “inside” are generally dens in trees – unless they got into your home, which is an outcome no homeowner wants.

Gray squirrels can even generate heat by shivering. This tactic works best when a group of squirrels are huddled together.

Let Arrow Solve Your Squirrel Problem

If squirrels are causing problems on your property, you don’t have to struggle. Squirrel removal can be difficult, so it’s best to call the professionals at Arrow Exterminating. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can help you live in a critter-free environment. To get started, contact us today.

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