RED SQUIR­REL CACHEING

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Q & A -

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

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