Observing Squirrel Behavior
by Ron Kurtus (revised 7 May 2005)
Squirrels are clever animals. In observing these rodents, I have seen one tease a cat and another groom its mate. I've also noticed the difference between city and suburban squirrel behavior.
Questions you may have include:
- How did the squirrel tease the cat?
- What happened when the squirrel groomed its mate?
- How are city squirrels different?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Squirrel teases cat
In the summertime, a neighbor kept their cat on the front porch, tied to a 10-foot rope. That probably wasn't a good idea, if there was a loose dog around. Anyway, one day I noticed a squirrel hopping across their lawn. The cat also saw the squirrel, and I watched to see what would happen.
The cat suddenly dashed toward the squirrel, but unfortunately ran out of rope and was rudely stopped halfway down the sidewalk. The squirrel dashed up a nearby tree. Wondering why the cat did not really give chase the squirrel proceeded down the tree, moved toward the cat, and then ran up the tree again.
The squirrel realized that the cat could not or for some reason would not try to get him. So he hopped back and forth across the lawn to torment the cat. Then, when the game became boring, he went off about his duties.
Now, you could say I am humanizing the squirrel, but that is a description of what I observed. I have seen other animals tempt and tease their opponents, so why not a squirrel?
Squirrel grooming mate
Once I saw two squirrels hopping along the power lines until they got to the telephone pole. One of the squirrels went on the crossbar, flopped down, and straddled the bar, with her feet hanging down.
I got out my binoculars to get a closer view. I could tell it was a female that had straddled the crossbar, because I could see she had been nursing baby squirrels.
Her mate then started to groom and preen the female. From the expression on her face, as seen through the binoculars, I could see she was in ecstasy with the special treatment she was getting.
We live in a suburban area. Squirrels in our area are quick to run away when a human comes near. They react that way even more so when our dog is present.
Once, when we brought our dog with us to Chicago, we saw a lady feeding some squirrels on the sidewalk. She had a dog with her. When we got close to the squirrels with our dog, they paid no attention and went about their business. Certainly, they didn't go next to the dog, but they weren't afraid of us as are the suburban squirrels.
By observing squirrels, I've seen some unusual behavior traits. Obviously, there are many more characteristics and behaviors than mentioned here.
Learn about life from the squirrels
Resources and references
Science News - Squirrel Uses IR to Escape from Rattlesnake
California Ground Squirrel Control - Information from University of California-Davis
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Observing Squirrel Behavior