Even if you may not think of brains when you think of a squirrel, they are actually smart creatures. When it comes to the intelligence of the animal, they should not be judged based on human standards. The right way to judge the intelligence of the animal is by knowing how they are able to adapt and take advantage of their environment. A squirrel is good when it comes to adapting, and it is capable to live in any place. This is why in some places they are called pests. Their abstract thinking and memory are other indications that squirrels are smart.
A squirrel learns easily through observation. In a study conducted a squirrel saw another squirrel taking a nut from one pot, and when it was its turn, it went to the other pot, taking into account that the first pot was empty since the nut was taken by the first squirrel. This learning through observation indicates abstract thinking.
A squirrel will bury nuts so that it can eat them after some time. This will not be helpful for them when it is not capable of knowing where it had buried such nuts. Squirrels showed that they are able to remember the places where they buried the nuts. Squirrels use spatial memory when they want to retrieve the nuts that they buried. They are able to remember where they can get food from one year to another. A squirrel can also learn what the easier route to go up a tree is as well as the best way to come back from the nest.
When a squirrel sees another squirrel while hiding the nuts, it can take them away. In order to avoid robbers, the squirrels like to rebury the cache of nuts from time to time. When the food has been moved around many times, it is hard for another squirrel to get to them. A squirrel pretends that it is burying the nuts if they know that another squirrel is watching, and they will try to be alone in order to hide it. Being capable of deceiving other squirrels is a form of tactical deception, and this is a skill that was thought to be known by primates alone.
The squirrels plan ahead of time and they can survive the winter months by storing seeds and nuts in different locations, and they return to get them during the winter period.
Go back to the Squirrels in the Attic home page.