Another CO3 (Comparative Cognition Conference) has come and gone. Every year, a small (250-ish) group of scientists who study animals (from bees to humans) gathers on the beach in Melbourne, Florida to share snippets of research and make friends with others who share the same fascination with how animals think, solve problems, and perceive the world.
First, throw back time! Here's an interview with California magazine that I did almost two years ago...about....squirrel hunting? And other squirrelly things.
Squirrels and pumpkins
Too lazy to carve a Halloween pumpkin this year? Let a squirrel do it for you!
One academic conference is enough to exhaust your brain. Two might fry it. I'm currently at the Animal Behavior Society Meeting in Princeton, NJ (more on that later). Last week I was at the International Society for Behavioral Ecology meeting in NYC.
For your reading pleasure, I have storified my tweets from the presentations that I attended - Now you can see what kind of cool, amazing science got reported there!
I also spent a few lovely days in Brooklyn, where I got to hang out with DogSpies. I also checked out the Ai Weiwei exhibit at the Brooklyn museum, ate some serious pizza, met with a fellow cat behavior consultant and hung with some friends. I have to love a place that has THIS mural!!
You really can't make this stuff up...here's what's been putting squirrels in the headlines lately...
Squirrel cook off
Squirrels Unlimited isn't a support group for squirrel lovers, or a source of all things squirrels, it's a hunting club. They just announced the details for September's Squirrel Cook-Off. In case you need some time to perfect your recipes, you can read more here.
Can a cat teach a squirrel to purr? Don't get too excited.
This video shows a very cute mama cat who is nursing an orphaned squirrel:
The story received over six million hits on Youtube, and there are lots of reasons we may find it irresistible: the cuteness of the animals involved; the “surprise” of a cat taking care of what would normally be potential prey – a baby squirrel; and the exotic-ness of raising a wild animal.
Squirrel hunting...reason for concern?
Police in Carboro, NC were concerned when there were reports of drive-by squirrel hunting within city limits. The hunters couldn't be bothered to get out of their car to take a shot at the rodents, and hunting in the city is illegal.
A man in Milford, CT who shot a squirrel in his yard was charged with unlawful discharge of a firearm. An unregistered assault rifle was seized (although that's not what he shot the squirrel with), as well as several large-capacity magazines.
Squirrels cause problems
A dog was impaled on a post after he got distracted and chased a squirrel. Luckily he's okay!
A woman flipped her car to avoid hitting a squirrel. The car hit a telephone pole, but the driver only suffered minor injuries.
A little shameless self-promotion
My research examining how fox squirrels assess food and how these behaviors are influenced by factors such as season, food type and competition was recently published in PLOS|ONE, and thanks to open access, you can read it here; or you can read the abridged version at PLOS|ONE's blog, EveryONE.
Regardless, I encourage you to check out our video of these squirrel assessment behaviors:
Squirrels cause power problems...
A squirrel also caused a power outage in Anderson, Indiana.
A squirrel nested in a North Carolina attic, but then set its nest on fire after chewing on electrical cords. The second story of the home was damaged, but no humans were injured.