Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Squirrels Play Shell Game With Their Nuts

Are you thinking you might just get a free tasty snack by stealing a few acorns from a neighborhood stash? There's a good chance that you'll go nuts trying to outwit your local gray squirrels. This article shows how tricky squirrels can be when it comes to protecting their winter food stores.

Scientists watched gray squirrels while they collected and stored nuts for their winter stash. They found that around one-fifth of the "nuts" that they hid were really decoys, non-existent food burials to confuse other animals that might try to steal their cached nuts and seeds. The squirrels made an elaborate show of digging a hole, pushing a nut into the cavity, and covering it up... but there was nothing in the hole!

What's more impressive is that when the squirrels noticed that they were being watched, the percentage of decoy burials that the squirrels made went up.

The scientists concluded that the squirrels were learning this behavior through a processes of trial and error, indicating that they were capable of "a far more advanced thought process" than was previously believed. Of course, we don't need any scientists to tell us that squirrels are capable of advanced thought and behavior such as hiding food, raiding bird feeders, and blogging.

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