I have a blast watching the antics of the squirrels in my yard. I keep my squirrel feeders filled with peanuts and enjoy seeing them eat a few at the feeder and then grab one to stash for later.
For a long time I was feeding raw peanuts but ended up switching over to roasted and unsalted because the squirrels kept burying peanuts in my flower pots and the dang things would spout and turn into peanut plants!
After watching theses critters cache food in my flowerpots and garden beds it made me wonder about squirrels in the wild. Specifically I was wondering , “Where do squirrels hide their nuts?” It turns out that there are several answers to the question depending upon the type of squirrel.
Three Ways Squirrels Hide Nuts and Other Food
The storage of nuts by squirrels falls into three categories:
- Scatter Hoarders
- Midden Creation
- Burrow Stashing
The type of nut hiding behavior is dependent upon the species of squirrels.
- The most common squirrels (Grey and Fox) are “scatter hoarders” and will stash a nut anywhere they can.
- Red squirrels such as the Pine and Douglas create a giant central storage unit called a midden which they fiercely defend.
- Ground squirrels like the California Ground squirrel that stash their nuts inside their underground burrows.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these food caching behaviors.
Scatter Hoarder Nut Caching
The most common tree squirrels, the Grey and Fox, demonstrate classic “Scatter Hoarder” behavior. These squirrels will create hundreds of nut stashes of varying sizes across their territories. Sometimes they will bury the nuts directly under the tree where they found them, sometimes they will stash the nuts in the cavity of a tree. But really, these squirrels are not overly picky about where they do the hiding.
To demonstrate just how random Gray and Fox squirrels are when they bury the nuts I included a few of the more humorous examples below.
First up is the squirrel that stashed over 200 walnuts inside the engine bay of a car.
Next up in the silly squirrel department are the antics of a pet squirrel named Wally that likes to bury his nuts in the fur coat of the family’s St Bernard. That is one seriously patient dog!!
And then we get to this nut job of a squirrel who takes peanuts from a guy at the park and then stashes them right back in the same person’s clothes.
One fascinating aspect of the caching behavior of these squirrels is that they will take the time to create fake nut storage locations if they think they are being watched by other squirrels! Similarly, they will reduce their caching activity if they think they are being watched by other species that raid food caches such as blue jays.
A massive benefit from the scatter hoarder behavior of squirrels is that it is impossible for them to locate all of their food storage during the winter. As a result, many of the nuts that they buried will germinate, sprout and then become new trees!
Midden Nut Caching
On the complete other end of the nut storage spectrum from Grey squirrels are the red squirrels such as the Pine and Douglas squirrels. These squirrels create a MASSIVE central stash called a midden.
The video below shows what a Pine squirrel midden looks like. Look at how massive these things can be!!
A large midden can store enough food to last several winters. As a result, Pine squirrels are highly territorial and will fight to protect their massive food stores from intruders. So, while these nuts are not hidden they are well defended.
Burrow Nut Caching
Last up on the list of nut hiding behaviors are the ground squirrels. Ground squirrels are burrowing animals that live in complex underground tunnels.
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