May 26, 2015

What you know about squirrels might be wrong

Kathleen Vincenz

We like the trees, but squirrels like the food

Although many scientists believe that America’s original oak forests are here because of squirrels burying acorns, squirrels really don’t want their buried acorns to grow into trees—they want to eat them!

If a squirrel notices that an acorn is beginning to sprout or germinate, the squirrel doesn’t bury it but eats it right away. Squirrels, however, may accidentally help trees grow. Often, squirrels only eat the top half of a red oak acorn, leaving the most important part—the part of the seed that develops into a plant, called the embryo. Leaving the embryo means the red oak acorn can still grow into a seedling and hopefully into a mighty oak. Squirrels also forget about 74 percent of their buried acorns.

Don’t feed peanuts to squirrels–even though they love them

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When a squirrel works its way into a vending machine, it always comes out with candy filled with peanuts, but don’t feed peanuts to squirrels.

  • They aren’t even nuts—they’re beans.
  • They don’t store well in a nest—the shell isn’t sturdy.
  • They lack certain nutrients that squirrels need. Squirrels that eat mostly peanuts can have poor eyesight and missing fur.

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