RED SQUIRREL CACHEING
1 WHEN DO RED SQUIRRELS BURY THEIR NUTS?
Red squirrels start cacheing in autumn, taking advantage of the seasonal glut of nuts, seeds and cones. They forage in the trees, on open ground and among the leaf-litter, burying their loot in a series of small, freshly-dug holes just an inch or so deep (squirrels only have little arms, after all). Youngsters instinctively know how to cache, and second-litter kits, born in late summer, will be creating their own winter larders just a month after reaching independence.
2 WHAT MAKES A GOOD CACHEING SITE?
A squirrel can cache a huge amount of food across its patch. Individuals don’t have distinct territories, so two squirrels will often be burying in the same area. The animals seek out nice, soft ground that isn't too difficult to excavate, and may also stash food in garden plant pots and along the bases of hedgerows. Last year’s holes will have disintegrated, owing to their small size, so the squirrels must dig new ones each year.
3 HOW ARE CACHES RELOCATED?
Red squirrels tap into their excellent special memory to find the majority of their caches, even if there’s snow on the ground. They also have a great sense of smell, which helps them pinpoint not only their own stores, but also those of their peers. Thievery is rife, which is why squirrels opt for numerous caches over one large nutty stockpile. They are wary when creating their larders for the same reason: if an individual thinks it’s being watched, it pretends to bury an item, then quickly buries it elsewhere. Sarah Purdon