Squirrel News

Gray Squirrels' Faulty Memories Help Forests
Nov 26, 8:07 am ET
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Gray squirrels' faulty memories turn out to be good for forests, but the nut-hoarding habits of their red cousins are not, U.S. scientists said on Tuesday. The bane of suburban gardeners and backyard bird feeders, the ubiquitous gray squirrel buries walnuts, acorns and other nuts across the landscape in a pattern called "scatter hoarding," a Purdue University scientist said.
Some nuts are forgotten and have a chance to germinate and sprout into black walnut, oak and hickory trees needed to regenerate steadily retreating hardwood forests.
The red squirrel, which invaded the U.S. Midwest from higher altitudes within the past century, usually piles nuts in a few above-ground caches, where the seeds dry out or are eaten.
Seven times as many walnuts gathered by gray squirrels germinate compared with walnuts hoarded by red squirrels, ecologist Rob Swihart said in a statement released by the West Lafayette, Indiana, university. His findings were published in the latest issue of the Canadian Journal of Zoology.
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I hate to think that the public is paying some squirrely academic for something that is common knowledge ;) Frank
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That would be kinda wasteful & weird. But presumedly this was just a side-editorial for larger, more credible forest studies.
-paggers
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"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
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findings
Geeze, am I in trouble!! The squirrels have been having a banquet raiding my bags of hazel nut shells I use for pathways. While they are mostly broken shells, there are enough whole nuts in there to have kept them occupied for the last month or so. I've been watching them bury them everywhere. I figured I was just getting my lawn aerated, but I could have a hazel nut forest sprouting in my backyard!
pam - gardengal
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I wish their memories weren't so short. It would save me a lot of time if they'd reclaim all the hickory nuts and black walnuts those beasts insist on hauling in from the surrounding woods and burying in my flower beds. It's a weekly chore removing all the seedling trees sprouting in them.
John
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I had a walnut start growing underneath a stone bench & wondered if one of the crows tossed it there (they drop walnuts from on high to break them & many end up in the garden), but on reflection it is likely a squirrel buried it. At the time when I spotted the little tree poking out of the ground, I dug it out & put in a pot, but it died. :Later a hazel sprang up in one of the gardens far from the Turkish hazel, & I transplanted that to container but then failed to water it, I just can't do containers unless something like horehound that doesn't mind if I don't get it watered enough. This morning I went out to dig some worms for the salamanders on the roadside so they could have a thanksgiving feast too, & I upturned about five whole walnuts in a three foot radius of upturned turf, inserted into fairly hard earth too. Not far from where the walnuts were buried is a tulip bed, & there was one tulip bulb laying on the surface -- I've not had problems with the squirrels digging up bulbs, & maybe I somehow dropped that bulb myself & never noticed, but it was suspicious.
-paghat the ratgirl
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SAY NO TO SQUIRREL RACISM
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Heh -- send some of those red squirrels my way. I haven't been able to harvest walnuts from my tree in years. :-P It was kind of funny -- last year or year before (can't recall which offhand), the squirrels were MUCH later harvesting the tree in the front yard. At the time, this was the only walnut tree we were aware of on our lot (only 50'x200') and every year they had it stripped bare before the walnuts started dropping.
We were doing some late yard work in the back yard that year and found a few walnuts. Figuring they were taking around back and forgotten by the squirrels, we thought nothing of them...that is, until a walnut dropped out of the sky. At first I thought the squirrels were protecting their stash -- you know, targetting me with a walnut or two to save the larger batch. :) Then I looked up and realized that over the years some of the buried walnuts had taken hold and that the trees had matured enough to start fruiting. <Grin>
We now have 2 or 3 additional black walnut trees along the fenceline in back. They're not as nicely shaped and such as the one out front (fairly dense thicket of trees in the back) but they're pretty good sized and already dropping walnuts by the bazillion. For the first time, we've actually had to clean up the sidewalk/street in the front -- I put all of the walnuts into a plastic bin (about 10 gallon I suppose) and set them around back -- the squirrels had it mostly empty in about a week. :)
Now they're hitting the birdfeeders -- as if they don't already have enough stored away for winter!
James
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Get rid of 'em while you can. Aside from shade and quickly decaying leaves, they are nuisance tree. I wish I had squirrels as meticulous as yours. As it is, my problem has been reduced by having 3 out of 4 trees felled (not without considerable cost) by Isabel. The nuts dropped like bombs on my (and my neighbor's roof), Decaying in the lawn, they provide nasty lawnmower and bare-foot surprises. The roots spread for *miles* laterally. Well, a very long way. If you have 2 or 3 additional now, you may have 20 or 30 in a few years.
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Nah -- they're no problem. They're in the far back of the yard, nowhere near the house, and the nuts do not make it to the ground for long. :)
James
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Nuts to that!
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