Scatterbrained Squirrels

Scatterbrained Squirrels

Come this time of year squirrels are busy collecting and storing food for the winter. Grey squirrels compete with many other animals for food and habitat, so they normally bury a lot of their forage in ground. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for the forests, they often forget where they have stashed their various prizes or another animal could have gotten to the nuts first. Forests benefit from forgotten buried nuts or acorns when they germinate and develop into new trees; animal assisted revegetation. New trees, especially those which produce high-value mast, are very valuable to the forest and the wildlife inhabitants.

The habits of red squirrels differ slightly and do not affect deciduous forests like those of grey squirrels; they gather and store their forage in a large pile, rather than burying individual meals. When inhabiting coniferous forests, these food piles can still be beneficial, seeds of the cones can remain viable for a long time. However, red squirrels’ foraging habits are not equally as constructive in deciduous forests, nuts and acorns tend to dry out when stored in that manner. When nuts dry out, they die, meaning they can’t sprout in new trees and decreases the diversity and health of forests.

Although the grey squirrel memory is not entirely reliable, if or when they do remember where they have buried their cache, they usually can remember how much is there, according to the Princeton University’s journal of Animal Behavior. Additionally, research indicates that squirrels will return to spots with larger pots first.