Witty Squirrels Practice Tactical Deception

Posted by: on July 15, 2010

Squirrels may bury and re-bury their food up to 5 times, in an attempt to throw off their competition — who may be watching where the squirrel is digging. Sometimes a squirrel will even fake burying a nut, and then cover over the hole as it holds the nut in its mouth.

According to an article in the NY Times, a recent report in the journal Animal Behaviour showed that…

when squirrels are certain that they are being watched, they will actively seek to deceive the would-be thieves. They’ll dig a hole, pretend to push an acorn in, and then cover it over, all the while keeping the prized seed hidden in their mouth. “Deceptive caching involves some pretty serious decision making,” Dr. Steele said. “It meets the criteria of tactical deception, which previously was thought to only occur in primates.”


NY Times illustration by Serge Bloch

Filed Under: Fun


  1. Ashley says:

    I went to college on a campus with LOTS of squirrels. They weren’t tame (we didn’t feed them), but since there were plenty of people and no one threatened them, they weren’t scared either. One day I was sitting on a bench watching a squirrel with his nut. He kept digging a hole, then looking at me, and abandoning his hole to go dig a new one. Definitely wasn’t happy with me knowing where his nut was!