All of us experience the fearless, foraging squirrels on a nearly daily basis, but these squirrels are a lot smarter than we might think. Maybe the atmosphere of academia is rubbing off on them? … Or maybe the squirrels are rubbing off on Berkeley?
Researchers have been observing how the squirrels here actually save food for the future. They either eat the nuts they find or look for places to bury them, sometimes travelling as far as 100 meters. This behavior is called “cacheing.” Who knew these fox squirrels were so forward-thinking? Every nut is precious, especially in this economy.
The focus of the research has been to find out what cues the traditionally solitary squirrels use to keep track of their caches. Previous hypotheses attributed it to their sense of smell, but the researchers are testing whether they are using techniques of their own. They use GPS technology to keep track of the caches and mark the squirrels by using fur dye.
As diurnal creatures, squirrels are much more familiar to us than other rodents. And all the better – they are just so darn cute! Using those little hands like they’re people … it’s no wonder we can’t get enough of the rascals. And they care little about the presence of humans – as everyone is bound to notice – presumably because everyone here is so nice to them. Who could be mean to a cute little squirrel?
Rodents are generally pretty smart, so it’s no surprise to find that squirrels are no exception. Perhaps their resource conservation behavior is something we could learn from?
The researchers have set up a website dedicated to these furry cuties called Cal Squirrels. Make sure to watch the video of the baby squirrel.
For more details and a video of the squirrels cacheing, visit this article in the Berkeley Newscenter.
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