Hoarding: The top two ways to hoard

eastern gray squirrel eating bird seed
Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

Squirrels have been frantically gathering nuts and seeds for the past few weeks.

I noticed the hurried actions of the squirrels that visit my garden.

I decided to do a little research.

It seems there are two kinds of storing food for the winter. Scatter-hoarding and larder-hoarding.

Scatter-hoarding involves spreading food items in numerous hiding places. We see this when we watch quarrels bury nuts in many different locations. I see it when forgotten or ignored sunflower seeds pop up in odd places in my garden.

Blue Jays also scatter-hoard small acorns in a wide area up to one mile away.

Then there is larder-hoarding

Larder-hoarding is placing all the food items in one place. Chipmunks do this. Chipmunks must be able to defend or hide their food store so others can’t find them.

eastern chipmunk burying food
Eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus)

Nuts such as hickory nuts and red-oak acorns are good for stored food because they are dormant seeds. Just by their genetic makeup these large seeds aren’t scheduled to germinate until the following spring. But, by that time, the animal has eaten what it needs.

When I watch squirrels collecting sunflower seeds to bury, I notice that the squirrel removes the shells first. I thought this was odd. Wouldn’t the seed keep better if the protective coating was on it?

squirrels cracking sunflower seeds
Squirrels enjoy sunflowers seeds, too.

What I have since learned about squirrel nut-burying behavior, is squirrels also remove the fragrant husks from hickory nuts before burying them. I guess this is to keep nut-stealing animals from sniffing out fragrant sunflowers and eating the squirrel’s store.

eastern gray squirrel coming toward you
So, you want a piece of me?

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