Squirrels are very intelligent creatures, given that they use evolved behavior to ensure their survival, as you might have seen in our recent article as well. They can hide their food and remember its location even after a long time, as well as deceive any spies by pretending to bury it, but instead simply misleading those who might steal it.
We are all quite familiar with squirrels and most of us have seen at least one sometime during our lifetime, but there are many particularities these tiny creatures have that makes them a very interesting type of animal to observe. One of the first thing that comes to mind when we think about squirrels is their bushy tail.
You may also notice that their adaptability made them able to inhabit a wide range of environments, so they can be found pretty much all around the world. Squirrels are also known for their chewing habits, given that they belong to what is known as the Sciuridae family, alongside other well-known animals, such as marmots and chipmunks.
A few words about squirrels
Even though there are over 200 species living around the world, in the United States we can find five main types of squirrels, namely the gray, red, fox, flying, and ground ones. Of course, each of these types can further be broken down into several sub-categories, but you get the point.
The interesting thing is that even if certain categories live in specific areas, such as the western coast, a type of squirrel can be found in pretty much any area around the United States, which means that they covered everything.
While some people think about these interesting animals as something that needs to be dealt with, given that they can cause some serious damages through their chewing habits, the truth is that squirrels play a very important role in the ecosystem.
You may not be aware, but these little guys are crucial to the health of forests, given that they hide seeds in the ground, which translates into trees having more chances to survive and thrive. Furthermore, this small habit that squirrels have in order to survive can even change a forest’s composition in the long run.
With this being said, it goes without saying that squirrels should be respected and protected for the role they play in maintaining a natural balance, so keep this in mind next time you want to get rid of them. If they do damage your property, you may be able to find a friendly way of relocating them.
Where do they live?
If you’ve ever wondered where do these little guys live, the answer is that it depends on what type of squirrel we’re talking about. In terms of continents on which they can be found, you may find it quite interesting to know that they live on every continent, except for Antarctica and Australia.
Taking things to a smaller scale, when it comes to individuals, squirrels usually choose wooded areas as their homes, given that most species prefer spending their time in trees. Ground squirrels, on the other hand, go for open areas, such as prairies, in which they can easily dig burrows, as well as a system of underground tunnels.
There’s another particular type of squirrels, namely flying ones. These don’t exactly fly, but they do have the ability to glide between trees, given that their bodies feature a membrane that goes from their bodies to their legs. In fact, these creatures can glide for impressive lengths that go as high as 160 feet, so it certainly resembles flying.
Going back to where they live, of course, flying squirrels prefer to build nests in tree holes or into crooks on branches, given that this is the habitat they are most comfortable in.
So how intelligent are squirrels?
Now that we’ve covered some general facts about squirrels so that we have a better understanding of their behavior, we can get to our article’s main topic, namely their intelligence. Even though many people might not be aware of this fact, squirrels are highly intelligent animals, which is one of the attributes that allowed them to adapt to various environments.
It’s true that their intelligence is what makes them good thieves as well, and this might not always be so fun for those of us who would like to be able to hand a bird feeder without worrying about these furry animals. On the other hand, they are certainly going to steal something they can eat whenever the opportunity presents itself.
When it comes to animals, the fact that they are intelligent certainly doesn’t mean that they are going to be able to ace tests. This quality is determined by how well an animal can adapt to certain conditions and make the most out of them in order to thrive. With this in mind, it’s good to know that squirrels are doing a great job at adapting and turning things in their favor.
One of the first things that we can say about squirrels when we are discussing their intelligence is that they are very quick learners, and they do this by simply observing the world around them. Studies have demonstrated this and, according to scientists, the ability to learn through observation is actually an indicator of what is known as abstract thought.
This shows that there is much more to these tiny creatures than one might think at first. Furthermore, there’s another aspect related to intelligence that squirrels use extensively in order to survive, namely memory. We’ve already mentioned that they bury seeds in the ground, and the reason they do this is to be able to eat them later.
On the other hand, this also means that squirrels need to remember when they left the buried goodies in order to have access to them. Granted, this is not something that always happens, which means that new trees can emerge far away from their parent-trees, but that’s what makes this habit beneficial for the environment.
Going back to the squirrels and their memory, studies have shown that these little fellows are able to use spatial memory to remember where the seeds are hidden and retrieve them.
Moreover, this is not short-term memory, given that they can retrieve food even after a year. To make matters more efficient and safer, they can also memorize the fastest and easiest way to go back and forth to the nest.
If squirrels find another individual’s hidden seeds, they are happily going to take them. After all, it’s a matter of survival. On the other hand, this habit also makes them rebury their own cache of seeds and nuts multiple times, in different locations, in order to prevent others from finding them.
To make matters even more interesting from the point of view of their intelligence, squirrels can sense when they are being watched. In this case, they pretend to bury their goodies and then wait for the moment in which they are truly alone to change the hiding place and get the real job done. This ability to use deceiving behavior was once thought as being exclusive to primates.
Other fun facts about squirrels
These interesting animals come in a wide range of sizes. The smallest squirrel can be as small as 4 inches, while the largest one can be 3 feet long. Moreover, they have developed various protective behaviors, which is only natural given that they also have predators.
For example, if a squirrel senses that there’s an immediate danger, the first reaction will be to remain completely motionless and then find the right moment to run into the ground or to the nearest tree for safety.
On the other hand, squirrels are also very trusting animals, compared to other wild ones. If they have enough time to learn and get used to human presence, they can even end up eating out of a person’s hand, which is not something that can be said about other types of creatures living in the wild.
Squirrels have also developed various ways in which they communicate with each other, including through scent marking and vocalizations, while the tail is a very useful signaling device.
This works especially when they need to alert the others of potential danger. You may also find it interesting to know that in Native American symbolism, squirrels represent trust, preparation, and thriftiness.