Cached Nuts

People often wonder if squirrels remember where they bury the nuts they collect throughout the season. Many animals bury a stash of food in hopes of retrieving it when they need to feed during harsh months. Sometimes, though, that does not happen and the nuts or seeds they have buried become seedlings; sprouting out of the ground. According to recent research, squirrels have a particular way of assembling their stash. There are typically two strategies that animals employ when it comes to stashing, one big hoard or a scatter hoard. Most squirrel species are scatter hoarders. The reason for this behavior is to not put all their food, or “eggs”, into one basket. If the stash were to be compromised by a competitor, the squirrel would lose their entire stash. By placing multiple stashes in varying locations, the squirrel has a higher success of its stash not being completely depleted when it is required the most. According to the study, some squirrels organize their hoard. The terminology for this behavior is “chunking”. Chunking might help the animal storing the food remember where it is. This study shows that squirrels are not randomly burying food, but strategic to better their chances of survival. Squirrels even pretend to bury nuts when other squirrel are watching to confuse them while they go to their actual stash. Depending on the squirrel species and composition of the stash, 95% of the time the squirrel will find their buried food. While squirrels may use some olfactory memory to locate their stash, the majority of recovering comes from their memory. Isn’t that cool?!

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