Tag Archives: memory

Companion squirrels

Disclaimer: I’m not a fan of keeping wildlife as pets. I just report the squirrel news…but sometimes I disagree with it!

A man rescued a squirrel during Hurricane Matthew, and has since kept the squirrel as a pet. His landlord wants to evict him for keeping an exotic animal. The tenant is now claiming the squirrel is an emotional support animal.

In Auburn, WA, a young squirrel was found in a high school student’s locker. Apparently the squirrel was the student’s pet, and students were reminded not to bring pets with them to school. Perhaps the student should have claimed it was an emotional support squirrel.

Other interspecific interactions

The stories I report are often focused on squirrel-human interactions. But sometimes other species get involved too!

This squirrel wasn’t going to let some little chipmunk walk all over his food source. Apparently if you provide a squirrel with a weapon, they will use it. Check out the video.

Squirrels seem to know how to stay just out of the reach of their predators. This squirrel gives a kitty a run for his money, and escapes unscathed.

After an uptick in grizzly bears killed by trains in Canada, researchers looked for the culprit and found – squirrels were responsible. High populations of red squirrels near train tracks leave “middens,” or piles of food. Given that the bears’ natural food sources have been less plentiful, they’ve been increasingly attracted to the tracks – at their peril.

Pig meets squirrel – so what?
These two buds enjoy a meal together at the Animal Place Sanctuary in Grass Valley, CA.

A dog had to be rescued by firefighters after chasing a squirrel up a tree, and getting stuck.

A face-off between bird and squirrel – all over a snowball with a nut inside. Bird 1, squirrel 0.

Science corner

My friend Pizza Chow recently published her study looking at how well squirrels could remember a puzzle – two years after they had first encountered it. Lo and behold, the squirrels were almost as good at problem-solving as they were when they had last solved the puzzle!

Ground squirrels hibernate, and when they do, changes in their brain allow them to survive long-term despite low blood flow. Scientists are trying to apply these changes to stroke patients – as a short-term “hibernation” could provide brains with protection while they recover.

The Kluane Red Squirrel Project, lovingly known as "squirrel camp," is a laboratory studying a multitude of interesting questions about squirrels – such as where they are burying their food and who is having sex with whom. They’re also using cool technology – like accelerometers, to track the squirrels’ activity. They recently found that momma squirrels who can anticipate a bumper year of nuts before the trees actually produce that abundance have more surviving offspring.

Finally, I published a little squirrel research of my own this year, exploring the decisions squirrels make when they are given “mixed nuts” – and interestingly, they cached nuts in a manner that suggested they were organizing nuts by type, even when they received the nuts in random order! You can read about it here!

 

 

Glamping -- it's not just for humans

People went "nuts" when they saw this squirrel stealing toilet paper at a campsite. Glamping? Or just fluffing up her nest?

Squirrel and cars -- Can they be friends?

A man in Michigan heard a strange clicking coming from the hood of his car…and pulled over to investigate. Inside were…hundreds of pine cones. He was pissed, but imagine how the squirrel feels.

If you’ve ever run over a squirrel with your car, or like me, have come close to a squirrel-disaster while on a bicycle – you might wonder – why do squirrel seem to hedge when they’re trying to cross the road? Rather than darting back and forth, why can’t they just commit and make a run for it??

Well, a likely explanation is that this zig-zag behavior is helpful when avoiding most of their predators, such as owls. It doesn’t work so well with cars, but hey, squirrels didn’t do most of their evolving around automobiles.

Tomorrow: Bringing in the New Year with my fifth and final installment of the squirrel roundup! It will feature the CUTE CORNER and squirrels in history!

Yet another klepto-kitty

Are cats becoming more likely to steal or is the internet just making us more aware of these thieving felines?  Yet another cat wandering the neighborhood and bringing goodies back home, such as undies and even a bag of weed. This kitty seems to have a preference for My Little Pony. Some cat experts have weighed in on this behavior before.  Read veterinary behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman's take here.

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Bird feeders spread avian "pink eye"

birddiseaseAs sad as this makes me to say, there is yet more evidence that bird feeders can do more harm than good (aside from attracting more squirrels than birds). A new study showed that birds who prefer feeders over foraging are major players in the spread of disease to other birds in their flock. If you feed birds, clean and disinfect your feeder every time you fill it please!!

 

 

 

What kind of movies do chimps want to see?

My undergrad advisor, who worked with Kanzi the chimp, told me that the chimps he worked with loved to watch football games and videos of chimps fighting. A new study, using non-invasive eye tracking, looked at what chimps look at when watching a video of humans, including one wearing a gorilla suit. By changing some features of the video on second viewing, the scientists could see what the chimps remembered, and what they expected to see.

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