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Gray Squirrels Caching Nuts

9-26-14 gray squirrel with nuts 015Many species of squirrels, including the red squirrel, are “larder hoarders.” Each individual stores its food in one central area that it defends aggressively against invaders. Eastern gray squirrels, however, are “scatter hoarders,” collecting and burying one nut at a time throughout home ranges up to 7 acres in size. It has been estimated that up to 25 percent of the nuts that gray squirrels cache are stolen by other gray squirrels. Researchers have found that gray squirrels engage in “deceptive caching.” Carrying a nut, a squirrel will repeatedly dig a hole and then fill it in, without depositing the nut. They also will cover a spot with leaves, even though they have not buried anything in this location. Where gray squirrel densities are high, the squirrels often keep a cache in its original location for only about three days before moving it to a new location.

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5 responses

  1. dellwvt

    Pretty amazing behavioral adaptations!
    I’ve also heard that, between spring and late summer, the cells in the part of a gray squirrel’s brain where these cache memories are stored are all replaced, so that the squirrel is working with new memory cells as it buries this winter’s nuts. Do you know anything about this, Mary? – Dell

    September 29, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    • No, but I’ll look into it!

      October 2, 2014 at 1:01 am

    • p.s. I know they have extraordinary spacial memory, but not sure about the new cells!

      October 2, 2014 at 1:04 am

  2. Sarah Putnam

    I feel a certain kinship with the squirrels 🙂

    October 2, 2014 at 12:42 am

  3. Sounds like a lot of work! it is amazing they remember cache locations. It always seems so random. I’ve seen bluejays burying acorns, complete with leaf on top. That would be a good subject for a post! Why do they do it and do they remember where they put them? They must eat acorns, I presume, though I’ve never seen them eat anything except suet and sunflower seeds that I put out.

    October 2, 2014 at 11:37 pm

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