Where do squirrels hide nuts

Squirrels, the hardworking gatherers

Harvest, hide and find again

Squirrels do not hibernate and so have to prepare for the winter. That is why they set up many small food depots as a reserve for hard times.

Squirrel - Photo: Frank Derer

When the fruits and seeds ripen in autumn, it is harvest time for many animals. Squirrels are already very active from late summer and tirelessly “harvest” nut trees. Squirrels especially like to hide whale and hazelnuts in their food depots for the winter.

However, the harvest of nuts, acorns, beechnuts and other tree seeds is seasonally limited. The main food of the "coniferous forest specialist" squirrels is therefore composed of the seeds of conifers such as spruce, pine and larch. These hang "packed in cones" in the forest trees from late summer and are used regularly by the croissants throughout the winter.

Prevention is better than aftercare

Cones are one of the main sources of food for squirrels. - Photo: NABU / Stefan Bosch

Squirrels do not hibernate and have to leave their kobel every day to go to eat. However, even the most reliable of all food sources is subject to drastic fluctuations. So there are good and bad years or good and bad harvests. This, in turn, has a direct impact on the squirrel population: after good years there are many squirrels after bad years, few squirrels. Late spring can also be a food shortage when the tree seeds are running out and there are no new fruits and cones. Then squirrels also eat buds and tree blossoms or even umbrella mushrooms, which they hang in forks of branches to dry.
Squirrels collect their food supplies in many small, scattered depots so that the possible loss of individual stores is not so serious. Typical storage locations are tree stumps, stumps or roots. If there is a shortage of food in winter, these depots are found and excavated even under snow. Such supplies are life insurance for bad times. They last for a period of about a month. The many depots are therefore not a warehouse for the whole winter, but only for bad weather days when it is not possible to forage in the treetops due to wind or snowfall.

He who seeks finds

Tree stumps are used by squirrels to hide their food. - Photo: NABU / Stefan Bosch

But whoever hides has to find it again. This is why certain areas of the brain are particularly pronounced in animal species that create hiding places for food in order to store the hiding places. It is estimated that the North American red squirrel hides around 10,000 nuts per season and finds most of them again! Some depots are even excavated, the quality checked and then buried again. The sense of smell also plays a role in finding. Even through the blanket of snow, the animals can sniff their stores. Seeds that are not found do not fill the croissant's stomach, but they also serve their purpose: New trees can sprout from them and add to the forest! Squirrels build their own habitat to a certain extent.

Master in cracking and chewing

A squirrel while eating. - Photo: NABU / Stefan Bosch

Squirrels are rodents and have sharp incisors that they use to work hard shells and cones. The sharp incisors sharpen themselves and constantly grow back due to the heavy use. The hand-like front paws, with which pieces of food are cleverly held in front of the mouth opening and processed, play an important role. Squirrels open nuts by gnawing a notch into the shell at one end and using the muscle-movable incisors to crack open the nut. Cones are broken up, scale by scale, in order to get to the seeds underneath. To do this, the sitting animal turns the cone in its hand and tears off the scales with its incisors. Piles full of scales and gnawed tenon spindles on tree stumps in the forest often testify to this type of processing.

In gardens and parks you can offer squirrels food such as whale and hazelnuts, sunflower seeds and corn or special food mixes. Automatic feeders with a window and a flap are suitable for this. The squirrels can see what's on offer through the window and the self-closing flap, which the squirrel can easily open itself, prevents other interested parties from fetching the food. However, it has been shown in large studies that the squirrel population does not benefit even from massive additional feeding. And feeding places always carry the risk of disease transmission between the animals.

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