Myth: Do squirrels forget their nut hiding spots?

For a long time, squirrels were said to be forgetful and unable to remember where they hid nuts. If they find their supplies again in winter, it’s just a coincidence, they said. The cute little animals are much smarter than expected.

This squirrel is happy about the recovered nut - Shutterstock / Jarry

This squirrel is happy about the recovered nut – Shutterstock / Jarry

Watching squirrels gathering supplies before winter always seems very bustling and haphazard from a human perspective. It also seems that the cute pom-poms forget most of their nut hiding places. However, that is not true.

Squirrels have a keen sense of smell

While squirrels don’t recover all of their nut stashes, they do discover enough of their stash to keep them from starving in the winter. This is thanks in large part to their delicate noses. The rodents sniff out nuts buried up to 30 centimeters deep under the snow. Thanks to their whiskers (vibrissae), squirrels can find their way around in the dark and then dig up their supplies.

Squirrel found a nut: "Yummyrrrr!" – Image: Shutterstock / Neil Burton
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11/26/2014 – 5:20 p.m

Funny squirrels: “Not without my nut!”

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Forgot nut hiding places? Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that!

Now it could be argued that squirrels forget their own hiding places for nuts and only do not starve to death because they also sniff out and eat the supplies of their conspecifics. However, a study by Princeton University has disproved these prejudices. They gave eight squirrels ten hazelnuts each. Each squirrel was allowed to hide its nuts alone in the garden, with the scientists noting down exactly which rodent had buried its supplies and where.

After up to twelve days, the squirrels returned to the garden and were allowed to dig up their nuts again. It turned out that the Puschel mostly found food from their own hiding places. Pretty clever, these squirrels!

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