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The Professional Cachers

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How do squirrels locate their caches?


Last year was a Beechmast year and I have several mature Beeches which have been shedding prodigious quantities of Beechnuts onto one of the lawns just outside my office window at Forester Towers.


I've noticed that when the squirrels bury a cache, they sit bolt upright for a couple of seconds just after the cache-placement, apparently studying the local features and nearby landmarks to 'fix' the position in their memory.

When we had a cold snap a month or two ago, the squirrels' caching activities went into reverse and they howked nuts out of their caches with speed and efficiency. They clearly knew exactly where to go, despite the snow cover.


Perhaps they do it by scent? Perhaps by using position-fixing techniques which Surveyors call transit fixing?; So I thought until I witnessed a very strange bit of squirrel behaviour.


As well as squirrels, I also have several rabbits who like to feed on that lawn. One day I noticed that one of the squirrels was doing the alarm/threat gesture, whereby they quiver and flick their tail to indicate fear or anger. It was clearly watching a rabbit, from halfway up a nearby tree, and was getting very anxious and angry when the rabbit was on top of one the caches. When the rabbit moved just one foot away from the cache, the squirrel relaxed. When the rabbit hopped over to one of the other caches, the squirrel started the threat display again. On a couple of occasions I've seen the squirrel chasing off a wood pigeon which was pecking the ground at one of the caches. The squirrel raced to the position from about 20 metres away. to cahse the brid away from the cache


Now, here's my question: how did the squirrel know that the rabbit was on top of the cache? It couldn't have been by scent because the squirrel was upwind of the cache(s). It couldn't have been by transit fixing because you have to be in direct line of sight of the noted bearings for that to work. How does the squirrel perform what amounts to offset fixing? How do they 'map' their caches?


Any ideas?


Cheers, The Forester

The first person to say that the squirrels use GPS goes straight to the back of the class!

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All mamalls have an area of the body that contains polarized magnetic particles (humans them in the nose strangely enough) the exact use of these particles has not yet been discovered until now.............. :D


Other than that it must have a great memory for certain facts

just like lynn

wonder how far id get if i called her memory "squirell like" :ph34r:

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How do squirrels locate their caches?


(vast snip)

It's known that squirrels have excellent spatial awareness and (despite having eyes on the sides of their heads) very keen depth perception.


These abilities, combined with an instinctive "mental map" of their local area, mean that they can leap from tree to tree in relative safety - and the same instinctive recognition of nearby landmarks may aid them in finding hidden food stores.


This could be confirmed by a simple experiment: where some artificial features (vertical poles, for example) would be placed in a study area, and then moved around before the onset of winter, to see if the animals can still find their nuts.


Edited by Lactodorum to remove unnecessary comments........



Edited by Lactodorum
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This could be confirmed by a simple experiment: where some artificial features (vertical poles, for example) would be placed in a study area, and then moved around before the onset of winter, to see if the animals can still find their nuts.


our house backs onto a cemetry and there's a tree which local squirels come down to jump onto our back wall and then into our garden to feed from the bird table.


every couple of years or so i prune a few of the lower branches of the tree, and thereafter for several days, if not a week or two, all the squirels coming down the tree pause at the points where i've removed branches. prior to the branch removal they come straight down the tree and jump onto our wall without hesitation.


i presume they have a very good mental 3d map of the branches (which i suppose are paths to them) and that my removing branches makes them have to think. a bit like driving somewhere you know and then hitting unexpected roadworks.

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